Monday, July 22, 2013

Beware of Water Heater Fraud Artists

A relative of mine and her husband recently moved into a new house.

Within days of moving in a man appeared at their door claiming to own their water heater, that it had been rented to the previous owner, and that he was there to take away their water heater and replace it with a new rented water heater - which the new homeowner would have to pay a monthly fee to use.

Fortunately her husband was a lawyer and she herself a brainiac librarian, so they smelled a scam.

Water heater fraud artists are apparently quite common in Toronto.

They keep track of houses that have been recently sold and then show up at the home of the new owners and try to convince then with phony documents that they own the water heater in the basement.

If they're especially tricky they might even know the brand name and number on the water heater. But don't be fooled just because they know the name and numbers. It is entirely possible they managed to find out the name and number from the previous owners by duping them with a "free inspection".

Companies using such fraudulent tactics include:

National Home Services

They show up, pretend to be working for your current supplier, and then steal your old water heater, replace it with their own water heater, and then start billing you every month. And if you try to cancel, you are locked into a contract and have to pay an outrageous cancellation fee (one more reason why you should never give such companies your banking or credit card info).

Some of them may even tell you such outrageous lies such as:

Telling you that your current provider is no longer in business and that they are taking over the contract and service of your water heater. (And then bully you into signing a new long term contract with a $400 cancellation fee.)

Other tricks include:

Dressing as a technician and saying they're in the neighborhood to schedule water heater replacements.

Showing you fake safety bulletins implying your water heater isn't safe any more and that you have to replace it.

Telling you that your water heater is inefficient if over a certain age, when in reality it can actually work for many years without accumulating rust buildup.

Legitimate companies Direct Energy and Reliance have several websites warning people about these fraud artists. and, both of which explain misleading and fraudulent information being pushed by scam artists.

Similar fraud companies also try to scam people for heating oil, gas and even electricity services. They especially like to target new homeowners because they are more vulnerable to scams of this nature.

Frankly, why would anyone RENT a water heater? Just buy one. They keep working for decades and require almost no maintenance. It is like buying a fridge or a stove. You buy them and then stop worrying about them.

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