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Cold winter weather is a part of life in Virginia. Unfortunately, temperatures forecast to be cold enough to warrant firing up the furnace are an opportunity for scammers to go door-to-door in search of a quick and easy payday. Anyone who has lived through a Virginia winter knows exactly what we’re talking about.

Heating contractor scams are pretty common in cold weather states. We strongly dislike them for a couple of reasons. First, scammers harm our customers by taking their money without providing the promised repairs. Second, those same scammers give a black eye to an entire industry that otherwise looks out for people.

In order to help you prepare yourself for the next round of cold weather, we have put together a list of five signs that suggest you might be the victim of a heating repair scam. If you recognize any of them during your negotiations with a heating contractor, don’t proceed any further. Stop and report the scammer to the authorities.

1. A Lack of Documentation

You can never go wrong by asking a contractor to show proof of licensing and insurance. Licensing is one way to weed out bad actors, and scammers that typically don’t spend money on insurance policies. Any contractor who refuses to show you proper documentation is one you should stay away from.

2. Lowball Estimates

It is common to see some variation in price when you ask for estimates from several contractors. Remember this: there is a general industry price range for typical heating work. If a contractor offers you an extremely low estimate that seems too good to be true, it very well might be. Remain cautious.

Lowball estimates could mean one of two things. First, you might be dealing with a scammer looking only to put some quick cash in his pocket. Second, you might be dealing with a legitimate contractor who, despite not looking to scam you, may still do very shoddy work.

3. Requests for Cash Deposits

One of the biggest red flags signifying a scam is a request for a significant cash deposit. The scammer may claim to need the money to secure the materials necessary to do the work. Don’t fall for it. Reputable contractors work out their own credit plans with suppliers in order to secure what they need for each job.

4. Unwillingness to Provide References

Trustworthy contractors are not afraid to provide references. The scammer won’t offer references for obvious reasons. Always ask for them, and then be sure to follow up on the names and phone numbers you’re given. References can tell you a lot about the quality of work your contractor will provide. In the event that those references are fake then you will know soon enough.

5. Unwillingness to Provide a Contract

Finally, scammers looking to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners are relatively light on the details they are willing to divulge. Ask for a written contract and they are likely to hem and haw. No scammer wants to leave a paper trail behind. If you ask for a contract and then sense unwillingness to provide one, walk away from the deal.

It is unfortunate that cold weather has to bring out scammers more than willing to prey on people who need help. We are proud to say that you don’t have to worry about being scammed when you contact us. M&M Mechanical is a reputable heating and air conditioning company approved as an Angie’s List provider and A+ rated by the BBB.

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