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CANTON, Ohio — When something goes wrong with one of your household appliances, your first reaction might be to call customer service or your warranty provider. But BBB Scam Tracker is seeing increasing reports of scammers fooling consumers with fake customer service phone numbers.

How the scam works: Your washing machine, refrigerator or other household appliance breaks, so you do a quick online search for the customer service or warranty center's phone number. You dial one of the top results, and a "representative" answers. They listen to your problem and assure you that the company will take care of the repairs. All you have to do is give your name, home address, and credit or debit card information. You'll be charged a small service fee so they can set up an appointment with the repair person. Often, the representative will promise you "next-day service" and fast repair times, as long as you pay the fee up front.

When your appointment time arrives, no one shows up. The charge is on your bank or credit card statement, but when you call again, the representative claims to have no record of your previous call. In other cases, they simply don't answer.

However, according to a BBB Scam Tracker report, some scammers pose as fake repair professionals. When a phony repairperson showed up at a consumer's house, the homeowner called the real appliance manufacturer, who confirmed they hadn't sent anyone. When asked to leave, the imposter "demanded I pay a trip fee of $39." Feeling threatened, the consumer paid.

How to avoid appliance repair scams:

n Double check the customer service number. Scammers make fake ads with fake customer service numbers. Instead of trusting the first search result that pops up in your search engine, get your information from the official company website or warranty paperwork that came with your appliance.

n Find out how warranties and repairs work when you buy. When you purchase a household appliance, find out what is included in the warranty, how long the warranty lasts, what fees you will still be responsible for and who makes the repairs. Armed with this knowledge, it will be harder for scammers to trick you.

n Make payments with your credit card. Any payment you make with your credit card can be disputed. Paying by wire transfer or prepaid debit card is like using cash. There is almost nothing you can do to get the money back.

To stay alert and avoid falling for scams, read BBB.org/ScamTips. If you have been a victim of a scam, report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker.

Visit bbb.org/canton or call 330-454-9401 to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, read tips and more. The Canton Regional and Greater West Virginia Better Business Bureau offers tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices.

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