When something goes wrong with one of your household appliances, your first reaction might be to call customer service or a warranty provider.
However, the Better Business Bureau is seeing increasing reports of scammers fooling consumers with fake customer service phone numbers.
The scam follows a similar pattern. Your washing machine, refrigerator, or other household appliance breaks, so you do a quick online search for the customer service or warranty center’s phone number.
You dial one of the top results, and a “representative” answers. They listen to your problem and assure you that the company will take care of the repairs.
All you have to do is give your name, home address, and credit or debit card information.
You’ll be charged a small service fee, so they can set up an appointment with the repair person. Often, the representative will promise you “next-day service” and fast repair times, as long as you pay the fee up front.
When your appointment time arrives, no one shows up. The charge is on your bank or credit card statement, but when you call the support number again, the representative claims to have no record of your previous call. In other cases, they simply don’t answer.
However, according to one report to the BBB, some scammers are even posing as fake repair professionals. When a phony repair person showed up at one consumer’s house, the homeowner called the real appliance manufacturer, who confirmed that they had not sent anyone to the residence.
When asked to leave, the imposter demanded the consumer pay a trip fee of $39. Feeling threatened and wanting to be rid of the fake repair person, the consumer paid up.
The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas offers the following tips to avoid this scam:
Do your research before hiring any appliance repair business. Be sure to learn more about the business and check with the BBB at BBBHouston.org to read any possible complaints or customer reviews. Also, check references.
Doublecheck the customer service number. Scammers make fake ads with fake customer service numbers. Instead of trusting the first search result that pops up in your search engine, get your information from the official company website or warranty paperwork that came with your appliance.
Find out how warranties and repairs work when you buy. When you purchase a household appliance, find out what is included in the warranty, how long the warranty lasts, what fees you will still be responsible for, and who makes the repairs. Armed with this knowledge, it will be harder for scammers to trick you.
Make payments with your credit card. Any payment you make with your credit card can be disputed. Paying by wire transfer or prepaid debit card is like using cash. There is almost nothing you can do to get the money back.
The Better Business Bureau is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Visit www.bbbhouston.org or call 713-868-9500. Leah Napoliello is senior director of Investigative Services with the BBB of Greater Houston and South Texas. Send questions to Leah Napoliello, Better Business Bureau, 1333 West Loop South, Suite 1200, Houston, TX 77027, or e-mail [email protected] Include your mailing address and phone number.