Problem Solver: Misleading HVAC advertisements on social media
There are people who look to infiltrate Facebook groups on behalf of questionable businesses.
One local woman discovered a misleading ad, which locked her into a supposedly great deal.
ABC57 did some digging into a Facebook account, which operated on the Michiana Small Business page.
We followed the digital crumbs to Wheaton, Illinois.
It starts with a post. Photos, videos, and a great price.
When you show interest on the post or make a comment, you get messaged with a great price.
The person who just agreed to provide a service for you does not have the proper equipment or the training to properly provide the service you just agreed to.
At the end of the trail, someone is making some easy cash.
Candace Brown believes she fell victim to this unethical practice.
“If it doesn’t have a company name, doesn’t have a phone number, or it doesn’t have an address, something you can look up, even if it looks super professional, it’s probably a scam,” Brown said.
Brown went to the Michiana Small Business page looking for a local company to clean out her heating and air conditioning vents.
She saw a post with a professional looking ad.
“I wanted to support local businesses,” said Brown.
As soon as she showed interest, she received a message via Facebook messenger.
The post clearly stated a price of two hundred and sixty-eight dollars with no hidden charges.
The post also said they were local, insured, and bonded.
What did Brown pay for?
“I knew though right away it wasn’t done. I called and complained to them. I was suckered,” said Brown.
I reviewed the photos Brown sent after the job was done. The photos show the vents full of dust and dirt.
Brown complained via messenger and the problem was never resolved.
The Facebook account which was used to reach out to her has no information or connection to an HVAC service company.
Brown did pay by check, and even provided us a copy.
We used that check to track down who cashed the check. It was Seasonal Homecare, which is located in Wheaton, Illinois.
We did some research and found the owner, Jason Markiewicz.
Yelp had over 30 reviews with most reviewers complaining about the service.
The Better Business Bureau gives it an F grade.
Before visiting Jason, I wanted to learn more about the HVAC service industry and how a service should work.
James Olesen is the operations manager of Home Comfort Experts.
He tells us the average job takes four to six hours, and specialized equipment is necessary.
James also had some guidance on what to look for.
“Take a look at the van that’s in the driveway, well logoed vehicle representing the company, a technician in uniform representing the company, again a call that he’s on the way, the text or email with a bio about that technician matching,” said Olesen.
Brown had a different experience.
“One person with an item that appeared to be the size of an air compressor or a large vacuum,” said Brown.
We took the two hours plus drive to confront Markiewicz.
After identifying myself and confirming he was the owner of the company, Markiewicz asked me to talk out in the hallway.
He confirmed his technician responded to Brown's house.
Then I showed him the account that solicited the service.
“I have a copy of the messages that went back and forth, it was to another account, this account, I don’t know if this name sounds familiar,” I said.
“No see, we use Facebook as a marketing tool, it’s just like a telemarketer, so these people can’t help a situation after the fact once the job is completed,” said Markiewicz.
Then, I asked him about that third-party telemarketer.
“I don’t know who they work for,” said Markiewicz.
“This account, actually the one that was used to reach out to her doesn’t exist,” I said.
“What doesn’t,” asked Markiewicz.
“The account that was used to reach out to her, it doesn’t exist,” I told him.
“The Facebook account?,” Markiewicz asked.
“It’s not a legit Facebook page, a lot of these people you are subcontracting to, just so you know are not using real Facebook accounts,” I said.
“Ok,” replied Markiewicz.
I then asked Markiewicz who verifies the job gets done correctly.
“We just assume the jobs get done correctly,” Markiewicz said.
He told me he has no technicians employed, and that they’re all third party.
When asked to view the equipment he uses, he told me they were all out in the field.
After going over some procedures he had in place, I asked him one last question on behalf of Brown.
“Is there any way she could get her money back?” I asked.
“Of course. I have no Problem with that. I mean were not one and done here. If we were, we’d be out of business. So, I would have to talk to her,” said Markiewicz.
“Do you have a card I can give her?” I asked.
Markiewicz asked, “What News agency are you with?”
“ABC57 out of South Bend,” I said.
“You came all the way out here from Indiana?,” Jason asked.
Markiewicz finished with, “I am not trying to hold her $268 from July of last year. If she can tell me that it wasn’t done properly, I will give her money back. I’ll send her check out today or tomorrow, but I need to talk to her. I got her information, I’ll give her a call."
Brown, to this day, has not yet received a call from Markiewicz or a check in the mail.