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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > November 2013 > Don’t Get Scammed Preparing for Colder Weather

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Don’t Get Scammed Preparing for Colder Weather

When the temperature begins to drop, some scams begin to heat up. Before cold weather arrives, many homeowners consider steps to prepare for winter, including getting their furnaces inspected, chimneys swept, and air ducts cleaned. Follow these tips to avoid wintertime home improvement scams:
  • Use trade associations’ resources to search for a professional. For example, before having your chimney cleaned, you can search through the Chimney Safety Institute of America for a list of certified professionals. For air duct cleaning, look for professionals in your area through the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.
  • Check the reputation of a business before work begins. Ask for several references from prior customers and contact them to see if they were satisfied with the company’s performance. Research previous complaints with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau and consider performing a simple Internet search of the company.
  • Get multiple estimates. If expensive repairs are recommended during an inspection, do not feel pressured to act immediately. Consult with additional companies to obtain second and third opinions along with competitive estimates for the recommended work. By law, you are entitled to a written or oral estimate if the repair or service exceeds $25.
  • Receive a written, detailed contract. Make sure the contract includes all important details such as when the work will begin and end and who will be performing the work. If a promise is not included in the contract, it is not guaranteed. Be sure to keep a copy of all estimates, contracts, and receipts.
  • Ensure companies comply with Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act. The law protects you from many kinds of home improvement fraud and applies to purchases of $25 or more made via door-to-door sales or outside of a company’s regular place of business. For these purchases, consumers have three days to cancel a contract. The cancellation must be made in writing and sent through the postal mail or hand-delivered.
  • Do not pay for an entire project up front. Be especially cautious when an individual or company requires the full payment up front. Consider paying one-third of the total cost as a down payment. Next, pay one-third when half of the work is completed to your satisfaction. Finally, pay the remaining third once the project is successfully completed.
If you suspect a scam or an unfair business practice, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.