HIGHLAND | Highland police are warning region residents of a duct cleaning scam after a local businessman claimed his customers were being duped by a phony company.
George Siemer of Siemer Heating & Cooling in Highland said he got a call from a regular customer last week telling him she received a call from someone claiming to be from his company and offering a special on duct cleaning.
The woman did not recognize the voice on the phone or the phone number from which the person called and hung up, Siemer said.
The following day, another customer called Siemer's business asking what time they were planning to come by for duct cleaning, saying he was going to have to leave for an appointment. Siemer told the man he did not schedule a cleaning with his company, advised him not to let anyone into his home and went to the man's home to confront the alleged scammers.
Siemer also called Highland police, who documented the incident in a police report.
According to police, Siemer confronted a man who said he was a technician in the 8700 block of Parkway Drive. The man said he received a text from his boss with a work order to come to the home. He arrived in a white Chevrolet cargo van with the words "First Duct Cleaning" on the side.
A Highland police officer confronted the technician, who showed him the text message directing him to the address. The technician called his boss and an officer spoke to the man who denied representing himself as working for or with any other company.
Police advised the man, who gave a business and home address in Skokie, Ill., not to use any other company's name. The man agreed and said he would advise employees to the do the same.
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Cmdr. George Georgeff of the Highland Police Department said further investigation by the city revealed First Duct Cleaning Services is not licensed to do business in Highland. That issue is being reviewed by the city's building inspectors, he said.
The Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana has logged 30 complaints against First Duct Cleaning Services, which has an F rating with the BBB. Of the 30 complaints, 24 were for problems with the product or service, four were for advertising or sales issues, one for billing or collection issues and one for warranty or guarantee issues.
The BBB lists the company as having a Schiller Park, Ill. address, not the Skokie address given to Highland police by the man claiming to be a manager.
Multiple online reviews of the company include complaints of consumers purchasing a duct cleaning deal at a reduced rate through Web-based daily deal companies only to be charged far more for inferior service after the technicians arrived. Several said the name of the company listed on the deal was different than the one that came to do the work.
Similar scams were reported in December in Racine, Wis., where two local heating and air conditioning companies said customers received phony calls from someone claiming to be from the companies asking for money.
Georgeff warned residents to be cautious if they receive solicitation calls from anyone claiming to be a local business, especially if the area code is from outside of the immediate area.
"It's a good idea to look up the number yourself, not just call back on the caller ID, and call the business back to make sure," Georgeff said.