Heating and Cooling | July 29, 2021
Scams aren’t a new invention, they’ve been around for decades especially in the HVAC sector. Even more recently in Edmonton and surrounding areas (Sherwood Park, St. Albert, and Fort Saskatchewan), duct cleaning and furnace scams are at an all time high!
Back in September 2020, a local Edmonton plumbing business had their phone lines spoofed. Scammers used their business number to contact homeowners to book service appointments. The plumbing business only found out when customers would call their business and become confused when they heard a different business name than the one the scammers gave. Here are even more examples of online furnace scams across Alberta from October 2020.
Another example from March of this year (2021) happened in Fort Saskatchewan with an air duct cleaning scam on Facebook. Online ads or posts would lure potential customers in with low prices and dramatic before-and-after images of dirty ducts. However, when workers with inadequate training and no proper equipment arrived to provide the service, they often left the homeowner with hundreds of dollars in damages.
Our own business even fell prey to a duct cleaning scam. A company from Ontario was selling leads to another local company with our business name. This company was then reaching out to homeowners on Facebook to book duct cleaning services but stating that they were a sister company to First Call Heating & Air Conditioning.
We wrote this post to help our own customers along with other homeowners in Edmonton and the surrounding area to avoid scams and instead book with the professionals!
What Are The Different Types Of Duct Cleaning & Furnace Scams?
There are a few common duct cleaning and furnace scams homeowners in the Edmonton area need to watch out for, those include:
- Door to door scams
- Online and social media scams
- Phone scams
What is a door-to-door scam?
Door-to-door scams are when scammers will literally knock on your door and offer to sell you a product or service. Door-to-door scams can include HVAC services like duct cleaning, furnace maintenance, and more.
The primary goal behind door-to-door scams is to make you pay money for the service they’re offering. Usual tactics door-to-door scammers might use are fear, concerns about home maintenance, and potential money savings or losses in the future if you don’t get the service.
Don’t say yes to the door-to-door scammer! If someone you don’t know comes to your door and is asking you to give them money for a service on anything heating or cooling related, it’s a very safe bet to assume it’s a scam. We always recommend reaching out to a company you trust and ask them about their services if you’re unsure.
What is an online or social media scam?
An online or social media scam is where scammers use social media sites such as Facebook to either pretend to be another company or portray themselves as a fake company. They get you to send them money for a service that they either don’t follow through on or if they do, they do a poor job or cause costly damages. When scammers use another business name, like when the company in Ontario was using our name on Facebook, it puts a business’ reputation at risk.
Here is an example of what happened to us:
The majority of the time, duct cleaning and furnace scams can be found in online Buy & Sell Groups.
If someone reaches out to you on social media asking to book a service for either duct cleaning, furnace maintenance, or any other heating or cooling service we recommend saying no and doing some research on the company first. A good rule of thumb is, if you can’t find the company on Google, it’s a scam. However, if you can find the business on Google, we recommend reaching out to the company directly. Ask them about your interaction with them on social media and more about their services and experience. As well, watch out for poor reviews to weed out the scammers or fake companies!
What is a phone scam?
Phone scams take place when scammers contact you directly by phone. In most furnace or HVAC scams they are spoofing another local heating and cooling company’s number and offering services. Another sign of a phone scam is persistent calling, sometimes at all hours of the night. A reputable local company would never do this!
The goal behind phone scams are the same as the rest, to get you to spend money and book a service. If someone is calling you about duct cleaning, furnace maintenance, or any other related service, we recommend you ask what their business name is and their phone number so you can write it down, then ask how they got your information. Many homeowners fall prey to phone scams because, like us, many local businesses offer ongoing maintenance services where we will reach out to you in a number of months to book a maintenance appointment. However, any reputable HVAC business will set a schedule for an inspection or service before calling or even showing up on your doorstep.
If you’re ultimately unsure whether or not a phone call for maintenance or cleaning is legitimate or not, reach out to your local heating or cooling company (if you have one) or one a neighbour trusts for advice on services rather than accepting anything over the phone.
10 Warning Signs It’s An HVAC Scam
Unsure whether or not you’re dealing with scammers? Here are a few clear signs it’s a scam:
1. The company in question has very little to no credentials.
Don’t be afraid to ask for credentials. Any qualified tradesperson should be able to show you their pocket certificate, issued by Alberta Advanced Education. You can also check the credentials of a tradesperson here.
2. The company in question arrives out of uniform or unmarked vehicles.
Most accredited local HVAC businesses will wear a uniform and have a vehicle marked up with their business name, logo, or contact information.
3. You weren’t expecting a service call and haven’t reached out about the service the company in question is enquiring about.
If you weren’t expecting a service call and you don’t know whether or not you need the service, avoid signing up for anything without researching the service and contacting a professional to answer any questions you have.
4. The company in question posts online from overseas but is claiming they’re local.
Most times you’ll see someone post in a community group on Facebook for example, offering local services but live in a different province or even country. You can usually tell by visiting the person’s profile to see where they’re located, if it’s unclear whether or not they live here, that’s a big red flag.
5. The company in question is using the number of legitimate businesses for their own.
A scammer using another business’ number can be hard, sometimes impossible to spot! If you answer a call from a service technician asking to book you in for a service you knew nothing about, ask what their business name and number is or hang up and call the number they have on their website (if there is one) to see if you were actually talking to the legitimate business or not.
6. The company in question uses images that are always worst case scenarios.
Worst case scenarios are a fear tactic most scammers use! For example, ducts filled to the brim with dust and dirt isn’t actually normal. Scammers use images like the one below to show how bad a problem could be to scare you into booking a service. This usually works on people that don’t know a lot about duct maintenance, but who would!
7. The company in question showcases an unusually low price tag or offers a really big discount for the service.
Cheap usually means poor quality. An unusually low price tag on services that are best done by professionals should be a red flag, especially when seen on social media sites like Facebook! When these jobs are complete, scammers will usually ask for a much higher price after they come across an unprecedented set of “problems”.
8. Zero or poor reviews for the company in question.
When you look up the company in question and they have zero reviews or multiple bad reviews, they’re most likely a scam. Pay close attention to reviews about poor service, overcharging, cancellations, no shows, etc.
9. The company in question is using an unfamiliar phone number.
An unfamiliar phone number could be anything where the number has an unrecognizable service area, a long string of numbers that are longer than an average phone number, or a number that also includes letters (see screenshot below).
However, some credible and legitimate local HVAC and plumbing businesses use call tracking numbers to get better data on which platforms their customers are contacting them from. This data helps them make more informed decisions, but can potentially confuse their customers. Call tracking works by replacing the number on the website with a tracking number, call tracking numbers can also be used on Google My Business listings and Google Ads.
If the number the business contacted you from is still a normal looking number, most likely still with the same or relevant area code, there is a chance they could be using call tracking numbers. We recommend calling them back from the number listed on their website or Google My Business listing to double check the call redirects to their business. If you’re still unsure you can always ask! Scammers would most likely deny using call tracking numbers or refuse to tell you all together.
10. The company in question doesn’t answer your questions or provides really evasive answers.
If a company isn’t willing to provide you contact information, their business name, where they’re located, then it’s most likely a scam.
How To Avoid Falling Prey To An HVAC Scam
The best way to avoid falling prey to an HVAC scam is to do your homework! Don’t accept any offer you receive by phone, online, or from a door-to-door salesman without doing your research first. If a potential scammer contacts you directly at your home, online, or over the phone, start by asking for the following information about their business
- Business name
- Phone number
If they refuse to provide you with this information, it’s safe to assume it’s a scam. Friendly reminder: If you have any elderly relatives or friends we recommend telling them to avoid answering the door unless they are expecting someone.
If the potential scammer does provide you with any business information we recommend researching the company by:
- Googling them to see if they’re real.
- Reviewing their website (if they have one).
- Checking if they have a Better Business Bureau profile.
- Checking reviews for any low reviews mentioning scams, no shows, price hikes, etc.
- Asking friends if they’ve heard of or used the company before.
- Review their pricing for any unrealistic low prices, packages, or discounts.
- Check if they offer a warranty.
If the company does check out, contact them again directly to book a service rather than accepting or paying for a service over the phone, online, or from someone going door-to-door.
Have You Recently Been Targeted By A Duct Cleaning Or Furnace Scam?
If you’ve recently been targeted by a duct cleaning or furnace scam, reach out to your preferred HVAC business (if you have one) or feel free to contact us with any questions you have.