AC Repair Houston Fraud: How It Works
AC Repair Houston is an air conditioning type of scam that is pulled on victims that are not mechanically inclined and need emergency AC repairs. It is a basic 'bait-and-switch' scheme that is operated by deceptive HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) workers. It could happen to you anywhere. How does it work?
Watch the video below to see in action the Air Conditioning Repair Scam exposed on hidden camera:
The AC Repair Houston Scam occurs anywhere, not just in Texas. It has been going on for years, but as temperatures are getting hotter these days, more and more people are exposed, including yourself. It was called AC Repair Houston Scheme by a former HVAC technician, Perry Ewasiuk, who has been residing in Houston for the past 16 years.
"I've lived all over the country, but I've never seen more bait-and-switch scams in the air conditioning niche than there are here. The 24 hour AC repair in Houston is good business". Instead of "Houston, we have a problem", Ewasiuk has a new favorite saying: "Houston, we have another problem."
However, let's focus on a global angle and see how the scam works and how to avoid it.
24 Hour AC Repair: Houston Is Just A Small Pawn
Fraudulent technicians are victimizing homeowners by luring them into believing that their units (air conditioners) need more fixes than necessary. You could be in Florida, North Carolina, California or even Australia or Canada, while the scam is the same. Imagine this scenario:
Let's say your air conditioning unit is not working. You go online and find an offer from someone advertising affordable prices for a '24 hour AC repairs availability', such as $25. It sounds good, right?
You call him and are excited to hear that he could be at your house in 25 minutes. He comes over, takes a look, and then takes another one. After an "in-depth analysis" he tells you that your unit is in a seriously bad condition. Little do you know that it may be just a loose fuse in the system, which could take a second to push back.
What do you do? He is the specialist, isn't he? As a result of his examination, he informs you that he will need to replace the whole air conditioning unit. Talk about a few good hundred dollars.
As you are not entirely sure of his conclusion, you ask for more details. Then he starts throwing around a few key phrases like: "It's leaking freon (the coolant inside the air conditioner)", "It has a locked rotor (meaning the motor not working)" or "the igniter went bad".
Easy to see, in this case, a victim would have to pay a lot of money to the deceiving technician and company for a job that could take a few minutes and under $100 of expenses. Most of these technicians don't even have licenses.
Air Conditioning Repair Service Scam: How To Avoid
In a typical 'Bait and Switch' scheme, a small price is advertised, but an entirely different service and price are requested once the victim is hooked.
Do your homework online if you're about to hire a cheap air conditioning service. Read reviews on specialty websites such as Angie's List. If it's a legitimate business, the quality of work should be quickly noticed. Ask the technician over the phone to bring his business license; there is no shame in that.
The 24-hour air conditioning repairs are excellent when they're done on time and for a price that makes sense, but you need to do your diligence.
According to the Better Business Bureau, you should also consider the following steps:
Check the Thermostat, Electrical Breaker and Filters
Before calling a contractor, check a few basic things first on your unit. Is your thermostat operating properly? Has the electrical breaker that's powering the unit tripped? Does your system have a winter power shut off switch that needs to be flipped? Are the air intake screens or filters on your outside unit dirty or blocked and need to be cleaned?
However, do not take the air conditioner unit apart or try to repair them on your own or you may end up doing more damage which could result in a more expensive repair. Leave the servicing of your air conditioner to a trusted, licensed professional.
Ask For Written Estimates
Do not settle for verbal promises. Make sure you get a written estimate that notes what is wrong with your air conditioner, what the entire cost to repair or replace the unit will be, and the printed and signed name of the repair person. If they are recommending purchasing a new system, also require that the estimate include its make, model, serial number, and system capacity.
Look For Second Opinions
When faced with a pricey repair or new air conditioner purchase, get a few written quotes before you make a final decision. Proposals should include a full description of the services and materials to be used so you can adequately compare them.
This it includes the air conditioners size and units of energy (BTU) as well as the calculated cooling capacity of your home. Also, compare all available warranties. Not all warranties are the same, so they should be included in your evaluation process.
Check Air Conditioning Unit's Warranty
Is your air conditioner still under manufacturers' warranty? Sometimes using unauthorized service companies or replacement parts can void your warranty. Be sure to check your owners' manual or warranty for any special conditions to avoid unnecessarily paying for any future repairs that might otherwise be paid for under warranty.
Have an Annual Inspection for Your AC
Paying for an annual inspection with a qualified repair shop to check the compressor, moving parts, coolant levels, filter, and furnace blower can identify and resolve problems before they become expensive. Having work done before the busy season can be less costly than when air conditioning service technicians are in high demand.
Don't Pay Cash
Try to pay by credit card if you can and avoid paying cash. If paying by check, make it out to the name of the business rather than payable to the employee or another individual. Some unethical employees and subcontractors steal from consumers by convincing them to write checks directly to them rather than the company that was hired.
Consumers are still likely to be held liable to pay the company they hired to do the work. Depending on contract terms, they might also potentially face a lien on their property. A cancelled check is a useful form of evidence to prove you actually paid your bill.
Additionally, check that the company is insured against claims covering worker's compensation, property damage, and personal liability in case an accident occurs on your property. Call to verify the contractor's insurance coverage after obtaining the name of the carrier and agency. Ask the provider to send you proof of coverage for your records."
24 Hour AC Repair Scam: How To Report
Make your family and friends aware of the AC Repair Houston Scam by sharing it on social media using the buttons provided. You can also officially report the questionable air conditioning companies or technicians an to the Federal Trade Commission using the link below:
How to Protect Yourself More:
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