KPRC 2 Investigates: Woman says worker tricked her out of nearly $800 for air duct cleaning

HUMBLE, Texas – When you hire someone to do a job at your house that you can’t do, you have to trust that they’ll do the job right. A Humble woman says she’s out nearly $800 and has nothing to show for it after she hired someone to clean her air ducts. It’s a common crime that happens in communities all over the country and we want you to know what to look out for.

Would-be air duct cleaners trick homeowners into paying extra money

How many times have you gone into your attic to inspect your air ducts? Not many, right? So, you may not know if someone is telling the truth when they show you pictures of a big problem up there. That’s just one way “air duct scammers” trick you, according to the Better Business Bureau.

“The ducts need to be cleaned. And so, I saw the post, I thought this is an opportune moment,” explained Amber Rentera.

Rentera recently had her floors redone and knew she needed to get things cleaned up before trying to sell her home. She reached out after seeing an ad for air duct cleaning in her neighborhood Facebook group. The tech wanted to get to work fast.

“He said, ‘If you do it tomorrow, I’ll do it all for $199 for a deal,’” she explains.

So, the next day the work began. But about 45 minutes into the job there was trouble.

“He comes back down, claims that there’s mold,” she explains.

The tech showed her pictures of mold pictures and pressured her into paying $760 for deep cleaning.

KPRC 2 Investigates air duct fraud warning (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“He breaks it down to me the prices and I was like, ‘Fine, go ahead,’” said Rentera.

Unfortunately, Rentera paid in cash, so she has no way of getting a refund. She regrets that now, but at the time she thought she was dealing with a neighbor, so she trusted the process. Fraudsters are also known to join private neighborhood social media groups to try and gain trust from people who live in the area.

“So, about a week after they had supposedly cleaned the ducts, I noticed water dripping out of conduit in my closet,” she explained.

When Rentera went into the attic to investigate, she said she could tell the air ducts were not cleaned and seals from the air conditioning unit were removed.

KPRC 2 Investigates air duct fraud scam. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

When she saw the dirty ducts and what the attic area actually looked like, she realized there was trouble.

“The pictures that they showed me were not actually my return,” said Rentera.

She called a friend who knows about the business and had him look into the attic. He confirmed the work was not done and there was some sort of tampering that happened with the HVAC unit. Another common trick is when thieves remove seals or drain the Freon from the HVAC, so you’ll have to call them back to fix that problem.

Rentera called and messaged the person who set up the work and demanded to get her money back. She’s had no luck. Since then, she says that the same company has changed its name and is posting on other neighborhood sites using the same pictures.

The Better Business Bureau says these are all warning signs of air duct cleaning scams

  • You are offered a flat rate. Reputable companies will give you a rate based on the size of your home.
  • The time frame is very fast. A typical job will take at least five hours.
  • The price changes after they arrive.

Rentera says she also thinks the man who came to her home preys on women alone with their children. It’s why she wants to warn others.

“It’s scary to think that I let those people in my house. It’s just that’s what I want people to know,” said Rentera. “You feel violated, really bad. It’s not something anybody should feel like.”

We tried messaging and calling the workers and air duct company Rentera said she worked with. No one ever called or messaged us back.

How do you check on a business before getting work done?

You can look up the business you are considering with the Better Business Bureau or Home Advisor to see if there are any complaints against them. You can also check to see if they’re a member of the National Air Duct Cleaning Association, or NADCA. You should also get any pricing guarantee in writing and make sure to read the fine print of your contract.

UPDATE: We got a call from a legitimate air duct cleaning company after this story aired. They say these scammers are taking their photos and using their name to advertise. So, just because you see an ad and you look up the company and see that it is legit, you may need to do some more homework. It could be the scammers just using the name to get you to schedule a service.

About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.