Don't Get Smoked Out of a Chimney Sweep Scam this Winter

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With the chilly weather fast approaching, many consumers are yearning for a toasty fire by the fireplace and looking to have their chimneys cleaned in preparation.

So far this year, the Better Business Bureau System has received more than 380 complaints against chimney cleaners, which is up from the 342 complaints received in all of 2010.

Chimney sweeping is not something that homeowners deal with often, so we might lack knowledge of the cleaning process. Many scammers take full advantage of this and do shoddy work, or no work at all. One case involved a chimney sweep with nothing more than a Shop-Vac.

In other cases, consumers have reported calls stating the town fire department recommends the resident’s chimney be cleaned. The calls go on to recommend a particular chimney sweep and endorse their services on behalf of the fire department. Though fire departments do recommend having chimneys cleaned on an annual basis, they do not endorse any particular company or inspect chimneys. Many scam artists are targeting the elderly, making vague, unclear phone calls claiming they have done business in the past and it is time for their annual sweep.

Scam artists are also advertising at a much lower price than legitimate businesses.

Typically, a professional chimney sweep will charge between $100 and $200 for the cleaning of one chimney shaft, whereas scam artists are charging as little as $50. The BBB advises that if a price sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

The BBB suggests consumers do their homework before hiring a chimney sweep and inviting them into the home.

Check out chimney-sweeping businesses at bbb.org.


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