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Get the right company to clean chimney

BBB warns of chimney-sweep scams

Cold weather is creeping into Georgia, and some folks may be ready to clean their chimneys so they can enjoy a toasty holiday season.

The Better Business Bureau, however, wants consumers to be cautious about the company they choose to clean their chimney, said Dottie Callina, spokeswoman for the local BBB.

“Chimney sweeping is not something that homeowners deal with often, so we may lack knowledge of the cleaning process,” added Fred Elsberry, Jr., president and CEO of the local BBB. “Many scammers take advantage of this, and do shoddy work ... or no work at all.”

Callina said that, in some instances, consumers have reported to the BBB that they’ve received calls advising them that the local fire department recommends that their chimney be cleaned. The caller then recommends a particular chimney sweep, and endorses the company’s service on behalf of the fire department, she said.

“Though town fire departments do recommend having chimneys cleaned on an annual basis, they don’t endorse any particular company, or inspect chimneys,” explained Callina.

Other scammers, she said, target the elderly by making vague phone calls, in attempts to make them believe they’ve done business in the past with a particular company, and it’s now time for their annual chimney sweep.

Questionable businesses or operations often advertise their services at much cheaper prices than legitimate chimney-cleaning companies, said Callina. On average, a chimney sweep charges between $150 and $200 to clean one chimney shaft, she added. Scam artists typically charge as low as $50.

“BBB advises that if a price sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” she warned.

A scammer may lure victims in by advertising a low price for the service, said Callina. But more work would immediately be recommended as necessary to ensure safety, in an attempt to get the customer committed to a much higher bill.

The Better Business Bureau strongly advises consumers to conduct through research before deciding to do business with any chimney-cleaning company, Callina said. They should check with their local fire department, and with the Chimney Safety Institute of America, at its web site –– www.csia.org.