Watch Out for Duct Cleaning Scams

Have you seen the fearsome creature called the dust mite? Worried about the microscopic particles of deadly mold spores you could be inhaling right now? Is your family at risk?

Even if you’ve never thought about these issues before, you’re probably concerned right now — and that’s what duct cleaning scammers are hoping for.

How Duct Cleaner Scams Work

Here’s their M.O.: They take out a newspaper ad and send out scary flyers that outline all the terrible things that your air ducts could be harboring. When was the last time your ducts were cleaned? You could be blowing these dangerous impurities throughout your whole house, they say. Luckily, for a low price of, say $59.99, you can get a duct cleaning and inspection. And, oh yes, they can be out this weekend.

There’s just one problem: Ducts don’t really need to be cleaned on a regular basis, because they don’t really get dirty. You have a filter on your intake vents to prevent that sort of thing. You only need to clean your air vents after something like a renovation, where sheetrock dust might sift in the cracks or overpower your filter.

But it’s not really illegal to clean something that isn’t dirty. The problem is when unscrupulous technicians come into your home and use high-pressure tactics and underhanded schemes to try to upsell you to a bigger package. They’ll tell you that your ducts are filthy (they may even add some dirt to “prove” it to you.) They’ll say you tested positive for black mold and that the system will require a thorough disinfection. They may even try to physically intimidate you!

NBC’s Dateline has done and extensive investigation into these firms, and discovered that they’re mostly run by the same handful of disreputable characters, moving from town to town and state to state when the complaints start to stack up.

What If You Really Do Need Your Ducts Cleaned?

If you’ve recently renovated, or if you just like the idea of squeaky clean vents, do your research. Find a company that’s not only got a AAA+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, but also one that’s a member in good standing of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association. You can also insist on proof that your ducts are cleaned, either with a personal visual inspection, or by remote camera, and the company should not balk at the expectation.

Scammy duct cleaners tend to prey on the elderly and the vulnerable, so make sure that your friends and relations all know what to watch out for to avoid being taken advantage of.