Beware of chimney cleaning scams - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Beware of chimney cleaning scams

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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

Janet Rudolf is going to be 87 years old in July and admits she knows nothing about chimneys, so when someone from Lysco Contracting called her up offering to clean her chimney for just $65 she accepted.

Once the pair of technicians got into her home, she said they convinced her she had major issues like carbon monoxide that could cause serious health problems.

Don Armstrong, who owns Armstrong Chimney in Norwich, is a state-licensed contractor. He's been in the chimney-cleaning business for decades.

He told the I-Team that the company's statements to Rudolf were lies because a year ago he worked on Rudolf's chimney and replaced the liner only after getting the proper permits from the town.

"They scare them with the carbon monoxide and most people will jump for it," Armstrong said.

Rudolf said the $65 fee she discussed with Lysco workers on the phone went up in smoke. She was handed a bill for nearly $6,000 stating technicians had fixed the flue, replaced the liner and did other work Armstrong said he had already done.

Rudolf paid the bill. But she got her money back because after the Lysco team left, she called Armstrong to tell him what had happened and he called police.

The responding officer called the technician back to the home and after hearing both sides to the story, police insisted Lysco return the check.

Rudolf isn't the only elderly woman who was targeted by Lysco.

Gail Fisher, 73,  received a call in February from Lysco sales people at her Stafford Springs home. Lysco technicians came out to do the $65 cleaning but then noted some problems.

"They showed me some cement that looked like it was cracked a little and told me it would be dangerous to leave it that way,"  she said.

And a friend who is a contractor later looked it over and said no work was needed and certainly not $1,800 worth.

State Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein said his agency is  investigating six complaints against Lysco coming from three different areas of the state.

According to the Secretary of the State's office, Lysco is headquartered in Deer Park, NY, and has office space here in East Berlin.

The Better Business Bureau gives the company poor marks, an F rating.

In 2010, the company was sued by the attorney general in Maine for unfair and deceptive trade practices.

In 2009, company president Adam Joyce paid $1,200 after pleading guilty to scamming an elderly woman in New Canaan.

Rubenstein said businesses like Lysco can operate in the state because chimney contractors aren't required to have license.

All that is required in Connecticut is a contractor's registration, which virtually anyone can get for a fee.

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