The truth about chimney repair and cleaning: Internet ScamBusters #151
The #1 Publication on Internet Fraud
By Audri and Jim Lanford
Copyright © Audri and Jim Lanford
All rights reserved.
Today we’ll discuss three Snippets:
- Chimney Repair and Cleaning Scams
- Internet Use and Concerns About Online Dangers Both Up
- More on Online Surveys
First, we have another new Christmas website we thought you might enjoy. It’s
called ChristmasMusings.com, and it offers practical advice, interesting thoughts
and fun ideas to help you get ready for the Christmas
season. Visit now.
We also thought you might enjoy last week’s most popular page: Is the email about
getting a $25 gift certificate from the founder of Old
Navy true — or is it an urban legend or hoax?
On to today’s Snippets…
Chimney Repair and Cleaning Scams
Chimney repair and chimney cleaning scams are on the rise. Since most people know
nothing about chimneys, this is a particularly easy way for scammers to cheat
Here’s how chimney repair and cleaning scams work:
The scammer contacts you (via email, phone, etc.) and offers you a special on
chimney cleaning for a ridiculously low price, such as $39.95. If you’ve just
moved into a new home, they may say that the previous residents (and mention their
names to add credibility) used their company.
Once they get to your home, they inspect your chimney and tell you that there
is structural damage, or that you need new chimney caps (also known as spark arresters).
They may even bring in dead birds or pieces of concrete that they claim fell down
These con artists usually focus on concerns about carbon monoxide poisoning. They
often claim that it’s really lucky you caught the leak now, since it could be
In fact, carbon monoxide leakage in chimneys is quite rare. There are instruments
that prove carbon monoxide leakage — if you hear this claim, make sure they prove
it to you.
Another common scam is for the con artists to claim you need a new liner. Liners
are made of clay, cast concrete or metal to contain the fire and direct it upwards
– and they are expensive.
Unfortunately, these scammers often claim good liners need to be replaced. Or
even worse, they install new liners in the wrong size or only line part of the
chimney, which can be very dangerous.
Perhaps the icing on the cake for scammers is that many people are predisposed
to trust chimney sweeps because people loved the the Dick Van Dyke character in
"Mary Poppins." This may make it even easier for scammers to con unsuspecting
How do you protect yourself? Here are some tips from the National Chimney Sweep
Guild and the Chimney Safety Institute of America:
- Don’t fall for low prices. A legitimate company probably won’t take a ladder
off the truck for $39. An inspection will probably cost about $75, and a chimney
cleaning should go for at least $150 and take at least an hour.
- Always ask for — and check — references.
- Don’t let anyone pressure you into fast action. Shop around and get two or three
bids before you make your decision regarding which company to use.
- Check to make sure the company is licensed and doesn’t have a lot of complaints.
Not all areas require licensing, but many do. It may be worthwhile to consider
if the chimney sweep is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
- Make sure the company has up-to-date liability insurance.
- In some localities, the fire department may inspect chimneys for free. It never
hurts to find out.
How often does your chimney actually need to be cleaned?
This depends on many factors, including how much you use your fireplace. Experts
say that if you only use your fireplace once a week or for a few hours at a time
during the winter, you can go two or three years without a cleaning. The Chimney
Safety Institute of America recommends annual inspections.
One way to tell that your chimney needs cleaning is if soot rains down when you
open or close your damper. You can also measure to see if you have one-eighth
of an inch of creosote buildup.
For more info on chimney cleaning and repair,
Internet Use and Concerns About Online Dangers Both Up
According to a new report from the Census Bureau, 55% of American households had
access to the Internet in 2003, which is up more than 300% from 1997. Other studies
suggest the numbers may be even higher.
However, concerns about identity theft, online privacy and other dangers have
also increased. According to a study released last week by Consumer Reports Watchweb,
86% of computer users have made at least one change in their behavior because
of these concerns. For more, see:
More on Online Surveys
We’ve gotten some great subscriber feedback to last week’s issue on online
surveys. If you haven’t yet seen that article, you can find it here.
We’ve created a new page and posted some of the best tips and info about online
surveys from subscribers here.
That’s it for today. Wishing you a great week.