13 Common Plumbing Scams To Spot And Avoid

Gary Johnson
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13 Common Plumbing Scams & Tips To Avoid Them

There is a popular segment on late-night TV of showing how easy it is to scam people in everyday situations. In the following segment, you can see how easily you can forget the important details about your plumbing problems, and end up with more problems than you initially had, or end up paying much more than you expected.

Many times the people that you have do your plumbing work for you are aware of the fact that you are not really knowledgeable about plumbing problems. Here are some of the common complaints you may hear from your plumber after the job is done.

“That isn’t how we do it.”

“This is what we usually do.”

“We’ll have to charge an increased rate for the additional work.”

“It’s not our fault, the previous plumber did it incorrectly.”

“That part is on warranty.”

“The part is not warrantied.”

“The part that needs to be replaced is more expensive than you thought.”

“I don’t have the proof of license handy, now.”

This one’s another version of the faulty/busted equipment scam. Only difference is they don’t bust their own equipment to gain access to your home. They pull a quick sleight-of-hand and switch their tags with the actual licensed plumber’s.

This scam often takes places when you’re home, and the scammer asks for access to your bathroom. When you clear the room, he quickly switches tags with the real licensed plumber.

“Bait-and-switch” plumbing repair scams

There’s a nasty way to do business that plumbers tend to get away with. If you find a plumber on Google or another major search engine with decent reviews, chances are high that you’re on the right track.

But then when you call, the plumber asks to come out and evaluate the plumbing.

If you say yes, he shows up at your house when nobody’s home and gives you a huge bill for several hours of work or thousands of dollars of repairs.

When you question the bill, the plumber points out that he’s already done work and you’re on a spot where it’s hard for him to do without charging you.

That’s a common, inexpensive scam that’s hard to prove.

However, the local plumber you hired could be a totally different person from the one who shows up. Find out if that’s the case when speaking to the plumber for the first time and make sure you know his full name and license number.

When the plumber shows up he should have the same ID on him as he does on his truck.

Your Expensive-Looking Home is a Magnet To Scams

The number of scammers has only increased, especially in expensive looking regions, like Silicon Valley and Seattle. In an environment designed for privacy, you don’t know who to trust. A lot of people will tell you they can fix your septic tanks, repair your plumbing or even enhance your skylight for a lot less than the going rate.

Don’t Be Fooled

Instead of doing work for cheap, these people will scare customers into doing thousands of dollars of unnecessary, overpriced work. In a few cases, they will just take the money and run. In the worst case scenario, the scammer returns faulty goods that will ultimately break down again.

“Replace Pipes” Plumbing Scam

If you’ve got a leak in the pipes, you are going to need a plumber.

Sometimes plumbers will take the lead and tell potential clients that all their pipes need to be replaced when in fact the plumbing is fine.

There isn’t much you can do to avoid this scam unless you have the pipes checked before going to a plumber.

That means calling your local plumber’s referral board or state licensing board to see if there have been any complaints lodged.

Talk to neighbors and friends who have used that plumber to see if they were happy with them.

By talking to your neighbors and friends, you can help yourself avoid the fear and panic that often comes with trying to correct a plumbing problem.

Just taking the time to do the proper research will help you steer clear of a bad plumber.

RIDICULOUSLY Too Many Alternatives

One of the ways that the contractors out there take advantage of unknowing homeowners is by coming into the home and providing an array of unsatisfactory alternatives and packages.

Desperate homeowners who are probably already stressed out about the problems they had are more likely to put their trust in someone who offers them a variety of di ¬fferent alternatives. That person also is more likely to take advantage of their desperation.

Contractors know that the contract will just be a matter of paperwork, and they will be able to collect at least a couple of pay checks. It also helps them avoid the potential for a lawsuit, because they aren’t really agreeing to anything.

In addition to that, the contractors tend to add in certain fees or extra services in the quote to make more money.

At the end of the day, when the contractor leaves, he will be long gone with your money, but the work that he promised to do won’t be done.

The Low-balling Scam Technique

Instead of quoting an initial price for a job, the plumber or handyman will give an estimate that is unrealistically low. If the customer agrees to it, the plumber will then perform the job and at the end, the customer will get a higher bill because the actual cost is not in line with their initial quote.

Recommendation of Unexpected Services:

A plumber may recommend a number of services and products that the customer does not need for the repair of a plumbing problem. This is especially true when the customer only calls for a minor repair job.

Made-to-Order Parts:

A plumber may recommend replacement parts that are made to order. The replacement part becomes an "unavoidable" – and costly – necessity, as it takes at least one day to order each.

Parts Don’t Match:

After the plumber has cemented, fixed or installed a new part, he might declare that the old part does not match the new one he installed. The plumber then replaces the old part to avoid future problems.

Fitting Extension:

Plumber may recommend that the drain pipe of a sink or the stub of a pipe be extended. This is done even if it is costly and unnecessary. This is always used to cover the cost of labor.

Avoiding Work:

The “Bundle” Offer

Always verify how many items are in the bundle you are getting. Sometimes the advertisement may show you a discount on the merchandise, but bundle a service that you may not want. Talk to the company to make sure that the service is one that you want.

Door-to-Door Plumbing Scams

Most plumbing contractors work on an appointment basis. If you're solicited by someone making a door-to-door sales pitch, immediately ask the contractor if you can get their business card and make an appointment to contact them during business hours. NEVER allow a repairman into your home if he or she is not on your appointment calendar.

Faking the Repair to Overcharge

Another common plumbing scam involves a contractor who offers the following scenario: You notice water on your floor after you flushed your toilet, but can't identify what caused it. The contractor arrives and offers one of several bogus solutions.

The contractor advises you that your toilet tank is overflowing, but it's something that he can easily check by simply looking at it from underneath the tank. While he is looking, he unplugs the water supply to your toilet and then, while the tank is on the floor, turns the water back on to refill the toilet bowl. The toilet tank refills, but now it's overflowing onto the floor instead of into the bowl.

Cold Callers

They ask for money before they’ll honor their service agreement.

They’re not licensed or are using a phony number.

They ask for more than the usual deposit.

The charge is for more than it would normally cost, and long distance rates apply if the work is beyond a certain distance from the initial call.

Trap Lines

The line is clogged.

It takes hours to fix a leak.

He can repair your toilet, but he’s got to clean out your septic tank first.

He runs a snake through the line.

Plumber’s Crack

The plumber walks around the house with his pants sagging to show you his big wallet.

The plumber drives a fancy car.

The plumber drives a fancy truck.

The plumber shows up in overalls instead of work clothes.

The plumber drives a big truck and has his own uniform and name.

The plumber shows up with a helper and tells you one of the jobs has to wait until the helper leaves.

He takes a quick look at the job and says he’ll be back with supplies.

He brings a tool kit in his pickup truck.

The plumber discards his tools in your garbage can.

“Just sign this, we will complete the document later.”

This is a common plumber’s scam. Don’t be lured into paying upfront. You want to negotiate a detailed contract that mentions the date for completion of the work, name of the plumber and the fee. And you should really be paying after the work is done.

Self-Appraising Plumbers – “Believe Me, I’m The Best”

The first tipoff is plumbers that make a big deal about the fact that they have been doing the job for 20 years or more and have lots of experience. Or they claim they can find leaks in underground piping by "listening" for them. In fact, no professional plumber makes such claims. No matter how good a plumber may be, no one can pinpoint a plumbing leak by "listening", because the sounds of water running through pipes is the same all over a house.

Remember also that sewers belong to the municipal authorities. They are not within the jurisdiction of the plumber. Therefore there is no warranty whatsoever that any private individual causing damage in the sewers would not be held responsible.

“The Busy Beaver”

This scam plays on the fact that most peoples, even plumbers, don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Or care to learn.

Basically, the busy beaver is used to describe the way a toilet flapper opens and closes. You know, that plastic thing under your toilet that you have to remove and clean about every six months.

The toilet flapper goes up and down and around in a circle. It is possible for the flapper to go in a circle and around. It is not possible for it to make a square shape, or the shape of a beaver chewing a log, as most unscrupulous plumbing companies would like you to believe. If you ask them to inspect the beaver butt, chances are they’ll be checking your toilet. And probably charging you for it.

Not all plumbers are bad. The fact that a plumber is licensed doesn’t guarantee they’re not a crook. You need to keep your eyes open and follow the advice in this book. But here are some of the obvious tells that someone is beyond a criminal in the plumber‒s trade:

Plumbing Scams with Disposals

Avoid plumbing contractors that solicit you and charge a large fee in advance for big jobs.

There have been a number of complaints filed with local government agencies against these plumbers. Some of them may have cheated customers through using other plumbers’ names.

No Obligation Estimate

The intimidating plumber will knock on your door and quote a certain price. Avoid contractors quoting a job over the phone. Ask for an estimate in writing.

Some plumbers will ask for a deposit, or part payment for the job.

Never Under Any Circumstance Pay Any Money Until You’re Absolutely Sure The Plumbing Contractor Will Do A Good Job For The Price Quoted.

The Competitive Disposal Installer

The competitive disposal installer will quote a price that is so low that you begin to wonder if there’s a catch. As with any other low-priced plumber, check them out and make sure there are no hidden fees.

The Plumber as an Abused Part of Your Family

Cheaper plumbers may treat you and your family like second class citizens rather than valuable customers.

You want to make sure that the plumbers are as clean and professional as possible.

How to Avoid Plumbing Scams Before They Happen & Find a Good Plumber?

The Average Joe Homeowner usually doesn’t know what he’s doing or how much it will cost them. So, even though they are willing to help the less experienced, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions!

I recommend every homeowner install plumbing cam and security system before the plumber shows up.

So, In order to help you here are 5 most common scams and security tips to avoid each of them.


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