For millions of Americans, warming weather and longer days mean more than just baseball and allergies. It’s a great time to be rolling up your sleeves, opening up the toolbox and getting started on home improvement projects. With recent crises like the water quality in Flint, Michigan, prominent in headlines across America, many consumers are beginning to pay more attention to their own local water quality.
There are many legitimate ways to improve your home’s value by improving its plumbing. You could add an in-line purifier, a water softener or a tankless water heater. However, not all plumbing improvements are created equal, and many people don’t think about what comes out of the tap unless it’s brown or has a foul odor.
Imagine, then, two men coming to your door wearing navy blue jumpsuits. They say they’re from the water company and they need to do some tests on your tap water for public safety. They pour a small quantity in a beaker and claim to be testing for lead, mercury or some other contaminant. They tell you that, if the substance they add turns red, your water is dangerous and potentially toxic. They add a few drops and swirl it around. Lo and behold, your tap water turns a menacing blood red!
These gentlemen are quick to reassure you that this is not an unsolvable problem. It’ll take them a few days to get the parts together, but they can install a system to treat your water for just a few hundred dollars. If you write them a check now, they can get to work right away and have you and your family safe in minutes!
Of course, there is no real danger… in your water. These men don’t work for the water company and the substance they added to your water was food coloring. They might install a $20 water purifier, which is available at any hardware store, to your kitchen sink, and walk away with hundreds of your dollars. You’ve just been the victim of a water purifier scam.
Now that you know how it works, you can take steps to help keep yourself from being a victim. Like most other scams, the advice is pretty straightforward. Ask for identification, do your own research and be proactive.
Who are you, again?
If your life goes according to plan and you never encounter a major plumbing disaster, you may never see an employee of the water company. Your only interaction with them will be a monthly bill. On that bill, though, is a number you can call to connect with a service manager. A quick phone call to verify the identities of the “workers” who offer to help you out should scare away most scammers.
Don’t be afraid to ask anyone who comes to your door for proper identification and don’t be shy about verifying that information. Anyone who represents a legitimate organization will want you to know they represent someone you trust. That will bolster their credibility and make the rest of their job easier. It’s only people who are trying to deceive you who want to short circuit your research.