While the following incident
took place in San Diego, California, it is a useful warning for homeowners and commercial building managers everywhere. About two weeks ago, two homes in the city of San Diego were burglarized while the owners were distracted by an individual posing as a city pest control worker. Wearing an official-looking shirt with a name tag on it, the suspect requested to see the backyard in order to take measurements for raccoon and possum traps. While the suspect took the victims out in the back, his accomplice got inside the house and took cash and jewelry amounting to several thousand dollars.
This is neither an isolated incident
nor the only way in which property owners can by scammed by con artists or unprofessional pest control companies. The most common tricks in the book include:
- The false license: In their quest to save as much money as possible on pest control, some people hire help off the street and get the service they are paying for. But a great number of homeowners pay for the sometimes higher-priced services of reputable pest control companies and instead get the shabby work of unlicensed professionals. The scam is simple and often tough to detect: the company sends a licensed technician on the initial call to write up the order and then replace him with a different – and unlicensed - technician to perform the actual application.
- The unannounced inspection: A lot of times, scammers show up at people’s houses unannounced and offer them a free, no-obligation inspection. What seems as a routine procedure rapidly turns into a ‘critical’ situation as the false exterminator reports the presence of termites, ants, bed bugs, and other home-destroying insects. It is not uncommon for these swindlers to have a handful of dead termites or bed bugs in their pockets to sprinkle on the kitchen floor, waiting for the owner to discover them and agree to use their services.
- The self-renewal contract: This is another hard-to-detect scam, tricking homeowners into paying for services they don’t need. The pest control professional offers a good estimate and carries out the job on time to try to earn your trust right from the start. But as he’s finished applying the treatment agreed upon, he informs you a one-time application won’t protect your property in the long run and asks you to sign a one-year contract with an automatic renewal clause. Some exterminators claim they must spray your apartment/building every month for the entire duration of a year in order to help you get rid of pests and will intimidate you into signing the contract without much explanation.
- The bed bug scam: Bed bugs are one of homeowners’ worst nightmares. The thought of having insects crawling all over their body and feeding on their blood is psychologically traumatizing for a lot of people, pushing many of them to resort to desperate acts or accept the services of bedbug charlatans. Unscrupulous people capitalizing on people’s fears might offer “effective canine inspection services,” but use dogs that aren’t certified as bedbug sniffing canines. Others may offer to get you rid of the nasty critters by using miracle products that eventually turn out to be agricultural pesticides or bug bombs that pose a greater risk than the bugs themselves.
Use These Simple Steps to Find a Real Pro
Finding a reputable pest control company to handle all your pest problems is sometimes a challenge, but there are certain steps you can take to increase your chances:
1. If you are paying for the services of a licensed pest control professional
, always ask to see the employee’s license before agreeing to their services and
before they start applying the treatment.
2. If you haven’t requested an inspection, don’t hire someone to do it just because they show up at your door. If you do allow them to look inside your house, say you would like to get a second opinion before accepting any treatments.
3. While effective pest control management is an ongoing process
, you should be the one to have control over the services provided. If one application isn’t sufficient for the eradication of your pest problem, ask your pest control pro to explain why additional rounds are necessary and offer guarantee for their work.
4. If you have a bed bug infestation on your hands, hire the services of a pest control company that also offers canine inspection
, as visual inspections alone are not sufficient to detect all life stages of bed bugs. Make sure the dog is certified and his handler has the knowledge and training to handle the inspection effectively.
5. Finally, make sure your pest control expert has access to the least-toxic alternatives to control a certain pest. If toxic pesticides will be used, make sure all products are approved by the Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and do not endanger your family and property.
Being vigilant and responsible about these things will increase your chances of finding a reputable and trustworthy pest control company
and getting your money’s worth.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.