submitted by Michael D. Bannon, Director, Bucks County Consumer Protection / Weights & Measures
It’s almost that time of year!
You and your family plan to spend many evenings sitting around the fireplace. You can’t imagine living without this comfort, especially on those cold nights.
Imagine this: you light up your fireplace and after a few evenings, start to notice that your home smells smokier than usual, and, occasionally, while sitting around the fire some debris has fallen from the chimney.
You realize that it is time for you to get the chimney cleaned, but this is not a job you wish to attempt on your own.
The last thing you probably want to do is climb on top of your roof or inside your soot-filled chimney.
However, you are aware of how costly it may be to you hire someone to do it for you.
While you continue struggling to commit to the cleaning, you receive a phone call or email from a company or individual offering to clean your chimney for you. You think to yourself, “What great timing. I meant to get that done.”
You ask for further information, including price and timing, and everything sounds great.
The contractor offers to come to your house for a nominal fee to determine the scope of work/cleaning that will need to be done.
And he can do this within a day or two!
This sounds great, as you would like to get this done sooner rather than later, so you agree to have him/her come out to check your fireplace and chimney.
The contractor comes out to your house as scheduled and looks over your fireplace and chimney.
During his investigative work, he looks very concerned.
He informs you that your chimney is a “high risk” hazard and that you must stop using it immediately.
He gives you an estimate of repairs that are needed at the cost of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
It is probably a scam.
Many of these scams will start with a solicitation call, which usually seems like a legitimate call.
They will claim to be from a reputable company and say that they are canvassing your area for those who need work done on their fireplace and chimney since they are “working in the area anyway.”
This is not true.
Here is what may happen should you agree to what they are proposing – the telemarketer (salesman) will then sell your chimney cleaning job to the highest bidder, who may not even be qualified to do the work.
Of course, they are not interested in doing a proper job, but rather they are looking to make as much money as possible on each job that they get.
Another way that scammers will try luring you to agree to hire them is to claim that they are from your utility provider.
By claiming that your oil or gas company referred your home for chimney work, they add legitimacy to their call, which can make you think it is a legitimate call.
Once a scammer is in your home, they will lead you to believe that the job is much worse than anticipated.
They will seem very concerned and will appear to be looking out for your best interest.
One of the common ways to boost the cost of the job is by claiming that your chimney is a fire hazard.
They use scare tactics by telling you that you need it fixed immediately or you could lose your home to a fire.
How to Avoid The Chimney Sweep/Repair Scam:
*Make sure that you are hiring a qualified chimney sweep. It’s easier than you think to find reputable companies offering chimney sweep services. You can check them out at http://www.csia.org/search.html.
*Be certain that they are registered with the PA Attorney General’s office as a Home Improvement Contractor: https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/resources/home-improvement-contractor-registration/.
*Go online and look for reviews of the company you are considering;
*Request bids from at least three companies;
*Be aware of unsolicited calls and door-to-door chimney sweep services.
If you are getting unsolicited calls regarding your fireplace and chimney needs, do not get tempted by what they are selling.
Simply hang up.
Legitimate and reputable companies do not make cold calls to gain your service.
Make your family and friends aware of this scam by sharing it on social media.
You can also officially report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission using the link, https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/?OrgCode=SCAMDET#&panel1-1