As spring cleaning begins, police are warning of a duct cleaning scam found online.
The scam involves fraudulent ads found on Kijiji and buy and sell groups on Facebook. Often, they’re posted from overseas but will claim to be a local company, despite posting the same ad and phone number throughout the country. Another tactic used by scammers is to spoof numbers of legitimate companies.
They often feature the same pictures or videos showing excessive amounts of dust and hair being blown out of ducts. Detective Jason Lapointe with the Edmonton Police Service’s economic crimes division explained the pictures shown are typically worst-case scenarios.
“That is probably the most excessive type of situation you will ever encounter, and that means a home hasn’t been cleaned in 50 plus years, has 20 dogs, and they don’t dust. That’s the extreme, those pictures that they show. If you talk to a lot of local duct cleaning companies, you don’t need to get it done that often at all.”
The low price advertised is enough to lure victims in, but the workers arrive with improper equipment and zero credentials or training. Some have even reported damage being done to their homes due to faulty work. The scammers then turn around and demand upwards of $900 for the job.
Lapointe said the best thing people can do to prevent falling victim is to do their homework. Credible businesses will never ask for credit card information over the phone before the service is completed.
“Most of these people who actually do this line of work, they’re known. There are companies that operate in and around Edmonton that are known and they’re very easy to look up. They have a website, the reviews are there, those are credible people and they would have no qualms with showing you a business license if you asked for one.”
Lapointe highlighted the importance of speaking to friends and family members who may live alone, or aren’t as tech-savvy about the scams.
“It might be a senior, [or] somebody who’s home alone and now they’ve got these two individuals. They have no idea who they are and they’re showing up, they’re in their home and now they’re refusing to leave until they get the proper payment,” he said. “Even if they’re not looking to get their ducts cleaned; it’s just good to let them know that this a scam that is out there and should they get a phone call, or should they see something pop up, that they can in fact reach out to one of their children or somebody they trust to look into it first before they settle in.”
Anyone who has fallen victim to the scam is encouraged to contact the police.