A long-established local business has called in the police to help protect its reputation from a fraudulent duct cleaning scam that has apparently conned dozens of people in the Ottawa area.
Advanced Air Quality Duct Cleaning, which has been in business for more than two decades, is being misrepresented by another company that claims to be Advanced Air Quality and offers to do duct cleaning at a cut rate price of about $150 when, in reality, the average cost for these jobs is between $350 and $500.
“We have become aware of another company pretending to be Advanced Air Quality,” company chief executive Rick Wiles said Monday. “Consumers are being harassed by telemarketers using aggressive and vulgar tactics.”
Ottawa police have begun a fraud investigation, but in the meantime, they’ve issued a public warning against Ottawa-area residents being taken in by the fraudulent company.
“Clients are solicited through telemarketing efforts and appear to be spoofing the phone numbers, as if they were calling as Advanced Air Quality Duct Cleaning,” police said. So-called spoofed numbers conceal their real calling location.
With a resident’s agreement to have the service done the callers come to the home — apparently they are using an unmarked white cube van with Ontario plates — and go to the basement and pretend to do the work, police said. A short time later they claim to be finished, collect their fee, and leave. The resident soon finds out the work wasn’t done.
“They (the scammers) are doing virtually no work. They are simply taking people’s money,” said Wiles, who became aware of the scam when his firm started receiving complaints about poor service. People are understandably upset, but since his firm had no record of the client’s ostensible contract, there was nothing he could do.
Wiles is concerned the scam could affect Advanced Air Quality’s business.
“We’ve worked hard to build our reputation and it can be very quickly destroyed over a couple of months if this isn’t stopped. People are mad because the job has been done poorly and they think it is us. This comes back on us, on our reputation.”
Wiles figures he knows who’s behind the scam, and he’s filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Consumer Protection Ontario, and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
The CRTC is familiar with the issue. In late March, the CRTC issued $149,000 in fines against nine companies linked to illegal telemarketing calls about duct cleaning services. The companies, all based in the Greater Toronto Area, used foreign call centres in Pakistan, India and the United States that disregard the national do-not-call list for the telemarketing.
The companies identified by the CRTC included, among others, Toronto Breeze Air Duct Cleaning Services and Aqua Duct Cleaning Services. The CRTC issued a “notice of violation” and a $40,000 penalty against Ali Tariq and Toronto Breeze Air Duct Cleaning Service. Tariq was also named in another notice of violation — and penalized another $9000 — against Aqua Duct.
Wiles, meanwhile, has his own public warning. Noting that Advance Air Quality never uses telemarketers, its trucks carry the company name, and employees wear uniforms, he says: “If you have unknowingly booked a duct cleaning appointment with these fraudsters we recommend you not let them into your residence.”
And then, police say, call the organized fraud squad at 613-236-1222, ext. 5433.