Successful scam artists are some of the best actors in town. They are equipped with the props and costumes that a legitimate company would have, and their performance is very convincing. Thousands of homeowners fall victim to their act, and end up handing over hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for services that are illegitimate. The furnace repair industry has its fair share of fraudsters just like any other, but when homeowners know how to protect themselves from their scams, they lose their ability turn a profit. That is why we should all take note of these 3 common furnace repair scams before we have our furnaces serviced this winter season.
- Scam #1: Demanding Upfront Payment- A common scam that many illegitimate contractors will use involves convincing the homeowner to pay in full for services before they are performed. The serviceman may tell you that he needs a certain amount of money right when he walks in the door, and then after tinkering around with the furnace, demand payment for repairs before actually fixing anything. Once payment is received, the serviceman will pretend that they have to order a part or come back later to finish the work. After the serviceman leaves, he is never heard from again.
Many homeowners fall for this scam because it seems to make sense when you do not know any better. An unsuspecting homeowner may assume that the technician needs payment before he orders the part because he needs your money to pay for the part initially.
A legitimate company may ask for a down payment on the part, but that is only done to protect the company from losing money if you suddenly decide you no longer want the part. Warehouses often charge restocking fees when part orders are canceled. If a serviceman is asking for full payment before delivering services, you should ask him to leave your home immediately.
- Scam #2: Diagnosing Several Failed Components- When a furnace breaks, there is usually one, maybe two, problems wrong with the system. Not six or seven! Some scam artists will try to convince you that the furnace has thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damage, but in reality it doesn’t. The scammer is just trying to get as much money out of you as possible or trying to convince you that you are in need of a new furnace.
What you should do in this situation is tell the serviceman that you would like to get a second opinion before you make a decision on repairs. It may cost you another service fee to have a different company out, but it could end up saving you the hundreds of dollars that you would have spent on unnecessary repairs.
- Scam #3: Non-existent Heat Exchanger Crack- A cracked heat exchanger is usually a death sentence for a furnace. The heat exchanger is the barrier between noxious combustion gases like carbon monoxide and the air that circulates through the home. When the integrity this part becomes compromised by a crack, the costly heat exchanger must be replaced or the entire unit will be swapped out. When a scam artist says a heat exchanger is cracked, they know it is almost a guaranteed sale. They take advantage of the fact that no person in their right mind would operate a unit that could be leaking carbon monoxide into the home.
The serviceman may show you prerecorded video of a cracked heat exchanger, and tell you that it is a recording from your furnace. He may even just try to get you to take his word for it that there is indeed a crack, but what you should do is get a second opinion. Find another company that comes highly recommended and have them take a look. You may have to suffer a little while longer without heat, but if the crack doesn’t exist it will be well worth it!
Keep an eye out for these fraudulent tactics, and you will be better protected from scams this winter season. Always remember that if something sounds fishy, it probably is, and when in doubt always get a second opinion. Stay warm this winter, and keep your money where is belongs: in your pocket!