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  • Live in the Northshore of Chicago? How to Look Out for Chimney Cleaning Scams

    Live in the Northshore of Chicago? How to Look Out for Chimney Cleaning Scams

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    The idea of a poorly-functioning chimney can send Chicago area homeowners into a panic. Whether you live in the Arlington Heights, Lake Zurich, Mundelein or any other part of Chicago’s Northshore, it’s no surprise that the chimney repair industry is rife with scams. Knowing how to spot unscrupulous activity will help you avoid becoming a victim. Here are some things to watch out for that will let you know that something is amiss.

    Beware of “Gloom and Doom” Scenarios

    Fraudsters often prey on people’s fears so they will act with a sense of urgency. For example, they may tell you that your chimney is in imminent danger of collapsing, or that your wood stove is leaking carbon monoxide. They might also advise against getting a second opinion or waiting until later to have repairs done. What they want you to do is act right away so that they can collect their fees and then be gone.

    Chimney repairs are rarely an emergency. If a technician is pressuring you to act right away, this should send up a red flag-particularly if he or she is canvassing door to door.

    Make them Show Proof

    It’s virtually impossible to determine the condition of your chimney without physically performing a chimney cleaning or inspection. Most homeowners are not up to doing that, and rely on the advice of a professional instead. That doesn’t mean you should just take someone’s word that repairs are needed.

    Ask for photographs of the damage, as well as pictures of the completed work. Verify carbon monoxide leaks by having the technician show you readings from a meter. Remember, there is no practical way to measure this gas without using a meter, so anyone who tells you they “just know” is not being totally honest.

    References and Reviews

    Dishonest companies often prey on new homeowners, who may not yet have a preferred chimney sweep. These businesses may say the previous owner used them, or that they are recommended by the local fire department. Always verify any such claims-do not just take someone’s word for it.

    Ask friends and neighbors to recommend a reliable chimney company. Read online reviews to find out what others have to say. Check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any recent complaints. Verify that the company has general liability insurance and covers its employees with a worker’s compensation plan.

    Last but not Least

    A few other things that might indicate a scam include:

    • Price. Scam artists may offer to perform work for a nominal fee. Beware of any offer that appears too good to be true.
    • Asking for a down payment up front. This is something that often happens when major repairs are scheduled for a later date.
    • Technicians that arrive in an unmarked vehicle and do not provide any identification.
    • The lack of a company website and/or blog.
    • Poorly written or designed brochures and business cards.

    Maintaining your chimney in good working order should be a high priority. Keep the above information in mind and you can ensure your chimney is in tip-top shape without falling prey to a scam.

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