Change the season, change the scam. Tis the season for chimney sweep scams.
There are plenty of perfectly reputable chimney cleaning companies out there. So, the key is to not get caught up in a sales pitch from some fly-by-night operation only interested in taking your cash.
The Better Business Bureau says it has also received more than 380 complaints against chimney cleaners this year. In all of 2010, the BBB says it received 342.
“Chimney sweeping is not something that homeowners deal with often, so we may lack knowledge of the cleaning process,” Katherine Hutt, spokeswoman for the Council of Better Business Bureaus says. “Many scammers take advantage of this and do shoddy work…or no work at all.”
The BBB says it has heard complaints that someone posing as being with the local fire department calls homes and recommends a specific company. That's just not going to happen. The elderly tend to be targeted.
The BBB says be leery of low-ball pricing. Expect to pay $150-$200 for a legitimate cleaning, according to the BBB.
"Many scam artists use a low price tactic to get in your door, at which point they recommend additional work be done immediately, bullying the consumer into a much more expensive bill," the BBB says.
Be sure to check out any chimney cleaner before you hire one. Check to see how long they've been in business, whether they have liability insurance and whether they're registered as a contractor in Massachusetts.
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About the author
Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com