HVAC Scams – How to Spot and Avoid Them!
The HVAC heating season is here, and many customers will be reaching out to an HVAC contractor for system repair, maintenance or replacement. Like many industries, the HVAC industry also has scamming companies that pose as HVAC contractors, who could potentially scam you out of thousands of dollars. America’s Best Mechanical & Electrical would like to share some tips on how to spot an HVAC scam, and how to verify your sources.
They will pretend to work for a well-known community HVAC service company. One of the most popular approaches used by scam artists these days is to call homeowners and act like they represent one of the Greater Philadelphia region HVAC companies that is well-known and respected in the area. Typically, they will attempt to schedule a service call or seasonal tune-up for your heater or air conditioner. Once you agree, and they are on-site, they can diagnose improper and expensive repairs that you don’t even need for your system. They will take your payment, act as if they’ve replaced the part, and leave you with a unit that is not working, on your dime. HVAC contractors will always give you a written estimate, and allow you to see the parts you have purchased, and watch the installation and service as it’s being performed.
To avoid HVAC scams, always check your sources.
First: If you are in doubt, start with checking the HVAC contractor’s phone number. Make sure it is a local number. If it is not, or even if you’re still curious, punch the number into Google. Most professional, licensed and insured HVAC contractors will have Google listings with their website and social media linked to their phone number in a search.
Next: Ask the caller’s name and role in the company. Once you have scheduled the call, look up the name of the business, and call them directly. Confirm the employee that you spoke to works with the company, and ask if your appointment is in their system. If they have no record, or hesitate to confirm the employee works there, report the scam phone number and contact name to the service company, and allow them to handle it with the appropriate authorities.
Lastly: If you decide to schedule the appointment in good faith, check the employee performing the service for branded uniforms and a branded fleet vehicle. A respectable, licensed and insured HVAC contractor will have a properly branded company, for security and professional appearance. You can always refuse service at your door if you suspect you are being scammed. If they refuse to leave until they collect payment, inform them you will be calling the appropriate authority to handle the situation. If they’re scamming you, you’ll see nothing but tail lights!
Grab their license plate! This is the best way to track a scammer, and most people don’t think of it in enough time. You can also verify this license plate number with the staff at the service company, and report it to local authorities if they are indeed impersonating an HVAC contractor with intent to collect fictitious sales dollars.
Know how to spot a scam. Many HVAC contracting scammers, and scammers in other industries, will likely present an offer that sounds too good to be true, and coerce you into accepting the offer by distracting you with benefits that are promised but will never be fulfilled. Here’s some tips on how to spot the scammers:
- They call you first, drop a flyer in your mailbox or go door to door.
- They communicate everything verbally and don’t offer written estimates or contracts.
- They emphasize urgency when describing problems and press to sell.
- They usually don’t have business cards and don’t wear uniforms.
- They request money up-front and demand cash.
- They have little to no presence on the web, including a website.
Remember to always check your contractor’s license before hiring them. A legitimate HVAC contractor will have his license number on each vehicle, and will be able to show you proof of license at any time. You can also use your township’s look-up tool on your township or city website for contractor searches. If you think you may be dealing with an impostor posing as another HVAC company, give that company a call to warn them. Scam artists tend to target single people 65 and older, but in theory anyone could become a victim of a scam! We hope this aids our customers and any potential customers in spotting a fraudulent HVAC contractor.