It’s the heat, it’s the humidity, it’s the scammers
Every natural disaster is a double whammy. There’s the immediate destruction, then there’s the vampires that converge to scam the victims with fraudulent offers to repair the damage. The recent tornadoes in Oklahoma are a classic example.
But it doesn’t take 200 mph winds to roust scammers into action. Normal summer weather is enough. While it’s not summertime yet by the calendar, the muggy heat says it already is.
On Tuesday, the National Weather Service recorded humidity of 97 percent at McGhee Tyson Airport. On Wednesday, the temperature reached 91.
If it’s not the humidity it’s the heat, and often both. Air conditioning is no luxury. It’s a necessity.
On Thursday, right on cue, the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs issued a warning: Don’t get burned this summer by air condition repair-scam artists.
The scammers know people are vulnerable this time of year, particularly the elderly, to con artists offering to fix air conditioners. Consumer Affairs offers tips to avoid getting ripped off:
• Check the unit’s warranty before making any repairs.
• Always research the company/contractor before agreeing to have work performed.
• Make sure that the company or contractor lists a physical address.
• Be wary of advertisements whose quoted prices seem too good to be true.
• Get multiple quotes for repairs.
• Be wary if told that the air conditioning unit needs multiple parts replaced.
• Do not accept quotes for repairs over the phone. It is impossible to know how much a new unit or repair will cost without first seeing the problem in person.
• Be wary of advertisements offering free cleanings or tune-ups. These offers may lead to recommendations for costly repairs that are not necessary or for worse: customers being pressured to replace units or pay for overpriced replacement parts.
• Never pay money upfront.
• Ask for written statements.
• Avoid having to pay overtime fees for work done after hours or on weekends.
• Be wary of contractors who suggest adding refrigerant to air conditioning units annually. A reputable contractor will detect a leak through a pressure test or by using dye, and will repair the leak. An air conditioning unit should not leak refrigerant regularly.
• Always check the “Buyer Beware List” (http://tn.gov) /consumer/buyerbeware.shtml) to see if the company being considered has had problems in the past. Companies are typically placed on the list for being unresponsive to complaints filed with Consumer Affairs.
• Always read the fine print of any contract or estimate!
This summer, be smart and stay cool.