plumbing scams

The Most Common Plumbing Scams and How to Avoid Them

Plumbing issues are often urgent and can lead to significant stress, making homeowners vulnerable to scams. Unscrupulous individuals in the plumbing industry take advantage of this vulnerability, employing various tactics to swindle unsuspecting customers. Awareness of these common scams can help you avoid falling victim to them.

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“Bait and Switch” – The Most Common Plumbing Scams

A plumber advertises a service at a very low price to attract customers. Once at your home, they claim the problem is more severe than initially thought and significantly increases the cost. Bait-and-switch plumbing scams are particularly effective because they prey on the urgency and lack of knowledge most homeowners have regarding plumbing issues. Initially, the offer seems like a great deal, luring customers in. Once the plumber is in the home, they can use various tactics to justify the increased cost. Sometimes, they show fake damage, use technical jargon to confuse the homeowner, or even create additional problems during the inspection.

In some cases, the plumber may start the work and then halt mid-project, claiming they discovered a critical issue that needs immediate attention and a much higher fee to resolve. This tactic pressures homeowners to agree to the new price, fearing further damage or prolonged inconvenience if they refuse.

Plumbing Scams
Male man worker specialist plumber, engineer or constructor in white dirty old shabby working suit, black t-shirt, gloves with yellow wrench and glasses standing on white background with shadow

How You Can Avoid It

Always get multiple quotes for any plumbing job, and be wary of prices that seem too good to be true. Make sure the plumber provides a detailed estimate in writing before starting any work. Understanding common plumbing problems and their typical costs can help you avoid plumbing scams. It can also help you identify when a price hike is unreasonable.

The “replacement” scam happens when a plumber insists that a part or appliance must be replaced when it could actually be repaired. This scam can be expensive because unnecessary replacements can quickly add up. To steer clear of this scam, seek a second opinion if a plumber recommends a replacement. Additionally, you can research the issue online to see if a repair is possible. For instance, if your water heater stops working, a plumber might suggest replacing the entire unit. However, the issue can often be resolved by fixing or replacing a specific part, such as the heating element or thermostat.

Unnecessary Plumbing Repairs are Among Common Plumbing Scams

Unnecessary plumbing repairs occur when a plumber convinces you that several repairs or replacements are essential. The issue could be resolved in most instances with a simpler and more affordable fix. For example, they might claim that multiple pipes need replacing when a single valve adjustment would suffice. This tactic can lead to inflated costs and wasted resources.

Homeowners should be cautious and seek a second opinion or do some research to determine if the suggested repairs are necessary or if a less complicated solution is available. By doing so, you can avoid these deceptive practices and save time and money. Sometimes, asking a DIY neighbor can help you consider the plumber’s requests.

Upfront Payment Demands, Never Fall for It!

When a plumber demands full payment upfront before starting any work, it raises a significant red flag. In many cases, once the payment is made, the plumber might perform a subpar job or disappear altogether without completing the project. This scenario leaves homeowners with unfinished repairs, additional expenses, and the hassle of finding another reliable plumber. To avoid this situation, it’s crucial to agree on a payment plan that includes paying a portion upfront and the remainder upon satisfactory job completion. Most plumbing companies like Big B’s Plumbing only take payment once the job is complete.  

Sometimes, large jobs require a deposit or partial payment. In those situations, a deposit or partial payment is made, but they will never ask for the full amount before the work is completed. Insist on a written contract outlining the payment schedule and scope of work, and you’ll avoid these common plumbing scams.

Use of Low-Quality Parts, Stay Informed

A plumber who uses inferior materials while charging you for premium-quality parts engages in a deceptive and costly practice. By opting for substandard components to cut costs, the plumber compromises the quality and longevity of the repairs and sets you up for future issues. These inferior parts are more likely to fail, leading to recurrent problems and additional expenses. This unscrupulous tactic undermines your trust and burdens you with the continuous hassle of repairs. To safeguard against such practices, always request detailed invoices and verify the quality of materials used in the repairs.

You Have a Right to Know What They Use

Ask for a list of used parts or appliances such as water heaters, garbage disposals, or pressure regulators. Ask for the brand name; with a couple of clicks, you can verify the quality of these parts. A trustworthy plumber should have no issue providing this information and using parts that meet your standards. However, your plumber is entitled to a mark-up on the product. Sometimes, the plumber or company must pick up and deliver the product.

Misleading Discounts are Bait and Switch

A plumber might lure you with an attractive discount only to mask hidden fees and extra charges that ultimately negate the initial savings. This tactic can result in a final bill that is higher than expected, as the undisclosed costs add up quickly. For instance, the plumber might offer a discounted rate for labor but then tack on exorbitant fees for materials, travel, or unexpected complications. This deceptive practice can leave you feeling misled and financially strained. To protect yourself, always ask for a detailed written estimate, including all potential costs, before agreeing to discounted services.

The Answer is in the Details

Clarify what the discount covers and confirm that there are no hidden fees. Then, review the final estimate carefully to guarantee that the discount has been applied correctly.

Licensing and Insurance Fraud is More Common than You May Think

When a plumber falsely claims to be licensed and insured, they put you at significant risk. Without the proper credentials, any damage caused or poor workmanship is not covered by insurance, leaving you with no protection or recourse. If issues arise from their work, you may be left to shoulder the cost of additional repairs yourself. This deceitful behavior undermines your trust and can lead to substantial financial and legal troubles. To avoid such situations, always verify a plumber’s license. A plumbing license can be verified in California with a couple of clicks. The California State License Board (CSLB) will provide bond history, ownership, workers’ compensation history, and more. To avoid any issues, verify the plumber’s license and insurance information with the CSLB. Most areas have online resources to check this information easily.

Plumbing Scams Include Fake Plumbing Companies

Scammers often create fake plumbing companies that appear legitimate, complete with professional-looking websites and marketing materials to deceive unsuspecting customers. These fraudulent businesses collect payments upfront for services they never intend to provide. Victims of this scam are left without the promised repairs and have no way to recover their money.

The sophistication of these scams makes them particularly convincing and harmful, eroding trust in genuine service providers. To protect yourself, always research and verify the authenticity of a plumbing company by checking reviews, seeking recommendations, and confirming their physical address and contact information before making any payments.

The Answer’s in the Details

Research the company thoroughly. Look for reviews, check their Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating, and confirm their physical address and contact information. Be cautious of any company that only accepts cash payments or refuses to provide a written contract. At the top of the list, verify their license number with the CSLB.

Tips to Protect Yourself

Ask for Their Contractors License:

Get their contractor’s license and check it so you don’t fall prey to these plumbing scams. This will answer many questions right off the top. For example, you’ll know who the owner is and if they are bonded and insured with workman’s compensation for their employees.

Do Your Research:

Look for reviews and ratings online. Ask friends and family for recommendations.

Get Multiple Quotes:

Don’t settle for the first estimate. Compare prices and services from several plumbers.

Request Documentation:

Always ask for a written estimate, contract, and proof of insurance.

Stay Informed:

Educate yourself about common plumbing issues and solutions to avoid being misled.

Trust Your Instincts:

It probably is if something feels off or too good to be true. Don’t hesitate to walk away and find another plumber. By being aware of these common scams and taking proactive steps to protect yourself, you can guarantee that a reputable and trustworthy professional will meet your plumbing needs.

Brandon and Family, Licensed plumbing contractor

Family Owned & Operated

My name is Brandon Mageno. I'm the founder, President, and CEO of Big B's Plumbing Company. As the founder, I never thought about being average or good. My passion for being the best plumbing company in Southern California has always been the same. Providing plumbing services to this great county is simply in my DNA. Nothing makes me happier than to see a satisfied customer. Learn More About Us

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I called Big B's Plumbing because I the hot water would not turn off in our master bathroom. I tried to turn the valve off under the sink and it broke off, so I had to shut off the main water to the house. It was noticeable the valves were original to the home. When I called, the rep stated that I would be informed about the service tech and their experience along with services offered "On The Spot". I was on a bit of a time crunch...
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Vill M

Found them on Google and they had good quality reviews. Made the call and set up the appointment for same day. Dispatch called me a few hours later to confirm our appointment and let me know that the technician Mathew was on the way. This was supposed to be an easy job once Mathew arrived. But it turned out to be so much more than that. Without hesitation or a sour look on his face, he dove deep into his van...
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Jeremy T

Randy was very knowledgeable and professional. He helped us figure out what we could do with the space given for our bathroom with our remodel. He picked out perfect fixtures and the work he did was beautiful. The cleaned up properly when they were done and everything was handled in one day! I will be calling for Randy anytime we have any plumbing needs. Thank you for doing such a great job!
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