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Sunday, March 9, 2014

How The Latest Carpet Cleaning Scam Can Lead To Burglary, Home Invasion Or Identity Theft

Just as sure as the sunrise, it’s guaranteed to happen every Spring. They promise  to clean all the carpets in your  house for  $59.00. Sound too good to be true?  It probably is. To make matters worse, they finally show up–three hours late-in a beat up pick-up truck with no company name,  and hop out in torn jeans and a soiled tee-shirt. Then you realize it: you’ve been the victim of a bait -and -switch campaign.   What is bait and switch?

 Bait and switch scams work like this: a company advertises cleaning a roomful of carpet of carpet for a  ridiculously low price. When they arrive, they inform you the price they quoted is only for the traffic lanes and doesn’t include any cleaning chemicals. So you agree to pay extra for  the chemicals  because you are thankful someone  showed up. In the end, the final bill ends up costing you hundreds of dollars.   

 Another typical scam is hearing that a company will clean a set amount of rooms for  a very low price ( like 5 rooms for $49.00). After they begin, you discover a linen closet, hallway, foyer, or regular closet counts as a room, and you wind up paying a lot more than you thought you would. Bait-and-switch scams are especially targeted at the elderly. Seniors are more likely to be intimidated by high pressure tactics and by someone who “promises” to  give then a good deal.   

The latest carpet cleaning ruse  is promoted  through deal-of-the-day websites. That’s where you’re offered 3 rooms  of carpet cleaning for $49.  To take advantage of this offer, you have to prepay for a non-refundable certificate that expires in 90 days. Also, the website that makes the offer  IS NOT responsible for the quality of the work. Plus all sales are final. What you don’t know is that most companies that do this went into business yesterday. 

Then, they have have to give half of the $49 or $24.50 to the deal-of-the-day websites.  Do you really think that they can afford to clean 3 rooms of  carpets in your house for $24.50 and still make a profit? Of course not.  Most of the time, they don’t even show up for appointments. If they do show up, then  they'll tell you that you're going to  get a quick dash and splash job that just uses water. If you want a better job, you'll have to fork up  more money for them to use a cleaning chemical.  Or they get so many calls, they’ll book you out three months in advance and then the certificate expires. If they do show up, the job won't be guaranteed.

If  you complain about them to the BBB, Yelp or Google+, that’s OK. They’ll be in business tomorrow under another name as quick as you can change your socks. Then they’ll do it all over again.               
One  reason why they may clean for such a low price  is because they may be gang bangers or illegal aliens with criminal records or foreign nationals.  And entering your home allows them to "case" your home to plan a future burglary or home invasion. They also may sell your credit card info to an identity theft ring.       
 Professional carpet cleaning technicians will arrive in a company vehicle with company identification on the side. They may also be uniformed, should be well groomed, and should provide some sort of business or certification card.  If they are more like person described at the beginning of this story, then don’t let them in.                                
                     So how can you avoid these latest carpet cleaning  scams?

The best protection against these scams  is to ask some pointed questions before the cleaner arrives at your home. Call several local cleaning companies. If the company cannot answer simple questions, move on to another company. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

                                       Here are  9 questions you should ask:

    1.  Are you certified in carpet cleaning? Do you have any formal training?

    2.    How many years has your company been in business? ( the longer, the better)

    3.   Can you provide a list of references I can call? 

    4.  Is your company  drug, alcohol and criminal free? ( Companies that don’t screen their  employees can put you and your loved ones at risk. To be on the safe side, DO NOT deal with companies or cleaners who don’t pre-screen and drug test  their employees)
     5. Can you provide proof of insurance and a  business license?

     6.  What steps will be included in your cleaning process?

     7.   How long will it take for the carpet to dry?
     8.   Do you offer free, no-obligation, on-site  written quotations?

     9 .  Do you offer a written, satisfaction or money back guarantee?       

   10.   Are your cleaning solutions certified organic and  natural , and do you
           warrant that they are completely safe for my family, my pets and the earth?           
After your questions have been answered, you also may what to check the firm’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau at www. bbb. org . You can also check  the consumer affairs department of your state’s attorney general’s office. “You’d be shocked at the number of well known companies that have lousy reputations  when  it comes to addressing consumer complaints. 

 When you have decided on a cleaner,  make sure  you pay your bill with a major credit card. Sometimes it’s difficult getting a cleaner to  come back to fix a problem after you’ve  paid the bill. Paying by credit card will give you an option to dispute the bill if the problem is not resolved to your satisfaction.

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