ATLANTA — BBB of Metro Atlanta is warning consumers of AC and home appliance warranty scams. As the National Center for Environmental Information records the hottest month ever in June, with the heat index rising into the 100s, they also see an increase in the number of broken air conditioning units. This is a scammer’s paradise.

Taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers, scammers follow seasonal trends and create elaborate scams to match. Most recently, BBB Scam Tracker is seeing an increase in reports of scammers fooling consumers with fake air conditioning customer service phone numbers.

“Keep your cool this summer if you need your air conditioner repaired, and make sure to research warranty details before contacting your warranty department,” said Brian Catania, President of BBB Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens and North East Georgia.

The scam

After an AC unit, washing machine, refrigerator, or other household appliance breaks, consumers search the customer service or warranty center’s phone number. Dialing the top result, a “representative” answers and takes note of the problem, assuring that the company will take care of the repairs. After the consumer’s name, home address, and credit or debit card information are collected, a small service fee is charged to set up an appointment with the repair person. Often, the representative will promise “next-day service” and fast repair times if the fee is paid up front.

When the appointment time arrives, no one shows up. The charge appears on the consumer’s bank or credit card statement, but when calling the warranty support number again, the representative claims to have no record of the previous call. In other cases, they simply don’t answer.

According to one BBB Scam Tracker report, some scammers are even posing as fake repair professionals. After a phony repair person arrives at a 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” they pay a trip fee of $39. Feeling threatened and wanting to be rid of the fake repairperson, the consumer paid.

How to avoid

♦ Double check 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 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.

To stay alert and avoid falling for scams, read BBB.org/ScamTips. Stay one step ahead of scammers by subscribing to BBB’s weekly Scam Alert emails.

If you’ve been the victim of a phishing scam like this one, report it on the BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others protect themselves from similar schemes.

Senior Reporter

Born and raised in Decatur, Ga. Graduated from Shorter College in Rome, Ga. in 1979 with B.A. in Communications. Worked in community newspapers for 26 years. Started at Rockdale Citizen/Newton Citizen in January 2016.

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