CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Judith Beeler of Cleveland Heights is issuing a warning to all Northeast Ohio consumers who may be looking to hire a snowplowing company to help them through this most recent winter storm.
Beeler said she suffered a back injury last year, so she couldn’t use her snowblower and needed to hire a plowing firm to push the snow out of her narrow driveway. She found a company offer from a friend, signed a contract before the winter started and gave out hundreds in up-front money, only to discover she was left with no service and no answers.
“I contracted with them sometime in October, the cost for the year was $340," Beeler said. “My friend got a notice on her door, she lives in University Heights and handed it off to me...but on Martin Luther King Day I must have tried to call them four times, but their mailbox was full every time. And then next day I tried again until noon, and then finally I decide in my mind they had breached their contract. I feel really frustrated, I figure they should do their work, but I’ve heard of other people who have had similar issues.”
Beeler could not reach the company and they never responded, an issue Cleveland Better Business Bureau Director of Operation Ericka Dilworth said is growing during the aftermath of this winter storm.
Dilworth said opportunistic storm chasers and con artists are using this winter blast to run scams on unsuspecting local consumers. Dilworth explained some of the bogus offers have them posing as gas or electric company workers who threaten to shutdown a homeowners heat and electricity if they don't pay up.
“One local woman took a phone call, they said she had a past due balance and because she was so nervous about getting her utilities turned off, she paid and it was indeed a scam," Dilworth said.
Dilworth provided some tips to help consumers avoid being conned.
“Certainly try to avoid giving money up-front, I know with snow removal companies that’s what they want, but if you can at all pay it with your credit card that is the best. That is the best, you then likely have some fraud protection," Dilworth said. "If a contractor is wanting cash all up-front that may be a red flag. Check with your city, your building department is going to have a list of contractors who are going to be in your area pushing snow.”
Christian Petersen, Owner of Ground Guys of Medina, said consumers need to check snow plowing reviews, ask for references and check them thoroughly before signing a contract.
“Read all the Google reviews about them, there’s other places such as Yelp, we have a Broadly dashboard on our website through Neighborly,” Petersen said. “With up-front money I only ask for a third, that is usually only for materials. But yes, it would be a wise choice to actually check some of those references on the contractor.”
News 5 has decided not reveal the name of the contractor involved in this case at this time as we trying to work out a refund for Judith Beeler in the coming days.