If you aren’t familiar with the duct cleaning scams that abound on Facebook, I recommend you first check out my 2021 post on this matter. Once you’re up to speed on the basics, it’s time to discuss the new-and-improved duct cleaning scams. Duct Cleaning Scams v2.0 are beginning to spread throughout Facebook. Don’t fall for them and be ready to report them.
Duct cleaning scams are the same as before: People located in Pakistan are posting in American Facebook Groups, trying to sell duct cleaning services.
They use sock puppet accounts that make them look American. Posing as “local companies”, they are really just looking to schedule appointments, which they then resell to unlicensed people near you. The folks in Pakistan collect referral fees for each job s/he schedules. The people in America get suspicious cleaners at their door. Whoever arrives to clean ducts is not connected to any real company, and may overcharge for their service or commit other crimes.
But they’ve upped their game for 2024. The scammers are trying to appear more professional now. Their latest posts show a classy flyer with pricing, a business card, and a real website.
The wording of their posts is much improved, too. Gone are the copy-and-paste phrases that we rolled our eyes at, like “Believe our Work not Words!” Now they present more detailed and personalized posts that closely resemble everyday small businesses in our country.
Their sock puppet accounts are looking better, too. They’ve got dozens of them now, all sporting American names and stolen photos. They’re using the accounts to click Like on each other’s posts and photos, which makes them look active and more legitimate.
Same Tells and Giveaways
I am sure this is still a scam. First, I chat with these people. It’s the same ol’ schtick with them, but I still like to get proof when I can. I ask them where they’re from (Washington!) and then I send them a link to my address. (Oops, that wasn’t a link to my address, it tells me the location of the clicker:)
But there are other hints. Sometimes, I click the poster’s name to view their Facebook profile. And it catches my eye when their profile name doesn’t match with the name hiding in their Facebook URL:
I’ve tried calling some of their numbers (Houston TX area code, probably purchased through Ring Central), and no one ever picks up. But they answer texts and Facebook messages immediately. And they block me quickly, if I mention their home country:
And then there’s their website. The Titan website looks fine, but the devil is in the details. Looking up the domain name, I can see it was registered just 2 months ago, through a Czechoslovakian company. And while the images on the site looks crisp and pleasant, every single one of them tracks back to other, older, legitimate HVAC companies throughout the USA. Google Lens is really nice for doing a quick reverse image search, and it shows that these schemers just lifted their images from real duct cleaning websites.
- If you recognize a duct cleaning scam, report it to Facebook, and then also report it to the admin of the group where it was posted. Facebook won’t do anything, but hopefully the group’s moderator will remove the post and/or block the sock puppet account.
- Verify a service company’s identity with a simple phone call, or getting a referral from a true local. Make sure they have a contact number and address that makes sense for your location. Avoid contracting with any service provider that insists on texts or private messaging only.
- If someone claims they have a license with the local county or NADCA, get that license number from them and check it out! Scammers will boast about having all their licenses, but won’t give them when asked.