Google LSAs Supercharge Duct Cleaning Scam

Google's brand credibility and its 'Google Guarantee' are enabling LSA scammers. And neither the police nor Google seem to care. Hear a victim’s account.

Google LSAs Supercharge Duct Cleaning Scam
What starts as a $99 quote quickly becomes $620.

Listen to Charles' condensed 5 minute telling of his dryer duct cleaning experience. You can listen to the unedited version here.

Charles Kayat's Monday started as a typical Monday. He was taking some time off work to get a few things done and was looking for someone to get his dryer working again. Like many people, he went to Google to search for dryer duct cleaning, chose the first listing at the top of search results and scheduled an appointment for later that afternoon. After all, it had over 2000+ reviews, a 4.8 rating and the Google Guarantee.

Nothing suspicious about this ad, supported by the Google Guarantee

At 4:15 that afternoon, a dryer technician, with a heavy Middle Eastern* accent, showed up at his house driving a plain van, carrying tools and a shop vac. Charles escorted him to the small laundry area but was soon called back by the technician who had removed the duct and exclaimed, "This isn't going to be a typical $99 cleaning!" He told Charles that it would cost $620 to get everything working. Charles agreed to the work, given all that was promised. If he was being taken advantage of on the price, at least the dryer would be like new once again.

Loud noises and lint

The technician closed the door, produced some loud noises and soon brought Charles back to show him the lint removed both inside and out. The outside lint was puzzling to Charles as the duct was on the roof and the technician did not have a ladder. Charles offered a credit card but the technician insisted on cash, check or Zelle for payment. When Charles wrote out their full Local Service Ad Profile name on a check, the tech insisted that it be rewritten as "Freshly." The technician left Charles' house around 5:15 PM, spending an hour total on site. That evening, the dryer was still not working.

Concerned that the work was shoddy and the price extremely high, Charles decided to check more deeply into Freshly Air Duct & Dryer Vent Cleaning, call the business back and ask for a redo. In doing so he realized that the many reviews were not for the business itself but related to a state park.

When Charles looked at the negative reviews he realized that he had been severely overcharged and perhaps scammed.

Police: Google apologists

He found a business license number associated with the listing and decided to call the person he felt was directly responsible. When he did, however, he learned that the actual licensee was also dismayed by the unapproved misuse of its business license by Freshly.

Realizing that it was indeed a scam, Charles called his bank and was able to cancel his check. He also called the police, who proceeded to tell him that not only was there nothing they could do but that it wasn't fraud and he might owe money to the contractor. According to the police, Google had likely just misaligned a license number and he should worry about the contractor coming back on him for his cancelling of the check. And after all he had the Google guarantee to fall back on.

Totally on his own

Feeling totally on his own, he grew concerned that the scammer had his checking account details. So he canceled his bank account, moved his funds to a new account and changed over his direct payroll deposit and direct withdrawals. He was out his time and the cost to cancel the check. He also had lost faith in both the police and Google.

But he is still concerned. He's concerned that the scammers might come pounding on his door, concerned the police won’t help the next victims, concerned about elderly people, who could lose money, and concerned that Google is enabling all this with its brand and reputation.

When asked about what someone should do different in the future to avoid being scammed he noted that they should ask a friend or a trusted professional about who to use and to not rely on Google:

"That was one of the driving factors that made me go with them. If they were two stars or something or one star and just a random listing, but no, they came up the first listing. Google verified, Google recommended, Google guaranteed. If they don't do their job right, Google gives you back the money..... But yeah, if it wasn't for the Google guarantee, I would have just really brushed right past it. I mean, the 2000 reviews, 4.8 stars and stuff, plus a Google guarantee. Those are the two reasons why I went to them. Never heard of that company before."

To hear Charles in his own voice, watch the edited version or full videos of his story. To learn more about the Google LSA Duct Cleaning scam read LSA Spam Scam - It's Deja Vu All Over Again.

*Previously, our secret shopper reported that he engaged with an Israeli national while requesting duct cleaning. We think that is likely the case here as well.