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Chimney Scams

The con artist’s have been using the old standby of the chimney scam for several reasons:

1.It s an easily executed scam. Most people cannot or will not climb up on the roof to verify the job was completed!

2.When people hire a chimney company to clean and or inspect their chimney they do so for safety reasons out of fear of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. Everyone wants to keep their family safe.

3.The cons artist selects a vulnerable population to victimize. Most victims in these type scams are the elderly who believe they can trust the contractor.
Typically, the scammers call the elderly victim but the most recent trend has involved the scammers actually ringing the doorbell. The scammers usually claim they are at the residence to perform a chimney cleaning, or other such service, "for a special discounted rate”. The scammer then tells the victim their chimney is in disrepair and in need of immediate work to make it safe. Chimney liners are often presented as the cure all for unsafe chimneys.  The homeowner is commonly convinced that these liners are badly needed. Often people are charged for these expensive liners which are never installed. The improper installation of these expensive liners creates a serious or even deadly situation in the chimney. We have seen liners dropped down chimneys with no effort to attach them to boilers, or hot water heaters.  The improperly installed liner then restricts and blocks the exhaust process which may lead to a sickening or possible deadly build up of carbon monoxide within the residence.  Other service’s often offered are chimney waterproofing and chimney caps which often are not required.

Often, the scam artist will during the negotiation phase create some sort of false urgency to the repair being completed right NOW and by their crooked company. The scammers will make all kinds of reason for the urgency and they will always attempt to negotiate a better price for cash.  

What local residents should know to prevent them from falling victim to these type incidents?

1.Do not fall for the telephone solicitors who may be very convincing when they tell you "Its time for your annual chimney cleaning".  It’s best to stay with the many local reputable chimney contractors in the area. Check your local yellow pages or the Better Business Bureau.

2.When a solicitor calls to offer home improvement work; ask for their Connecticut Home Improvement Registration number, ask where they are located and their phone number, ask for references and verify when they were last, or even at your house.

3.Before ANY contractor works on your home, verify that they have a Connecticut Home Improvement Salesman's Registration at the State of Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Website @ www.ct.gov/dcp , or by calling 1-800-842-2649.

4.Always get three separate WRITTEN estimates. CT Law requires that on any written contract or proposal it must include what is known as a 3-day notice of cancellation.  This notice prohibits the work from being conducted and allows the consumer three days in which to cancel the work and obtain a full refund. During those three day it gives you time to think or talk it over with a friend or family member who maybe more knowledgeable about the work proposed. This time is for your protection and allows you to make informed decision.

5.NEVER pay cash.

Not all chimney sweep companies are crooked and many an honest contractor’s good name has been smeared by the bad ones.

However, the licensed contractor knows how often this old scam has been perpetrated and is more than willing to comply with any request to verify their legitimacy.  If the contractor is makes any excuse as to why some part of their operation can not be verified or he seems like sketchy character, we suggest you stay away and contact the police.

For any further question regarding Home Improvement Scams contact Detective Stempien at (203) 622- 8023.

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Peter Tesei
Peter Tesei
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