Water the odds this is a scam?

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January 26, 2017 12:00 AM

NOT FALLING FOR IT Kelly Combs had two men show up at his Lloydminster door claiming to be subcontractors for the Alberta Government, asking to test his tap water following some nearby construction work on municipal waterlines. After turning the clear water orange with an electrode, they told him the water failed the test and tried to sell him water filters. Combs immediately thought he was being scammed and wanted to share his story as a warning to others. Please turn to page 4 for the story. MIKE D'AMOUR LLS PHOTO

There may be some grifters at large, and this time they’re targeting the water market.
Border City homeowner Kelly Combs was home sick Sunday, when he heard a knock at the door.
“The guy was outside on my step and he said he was here on behalf of the (Alberta) government to do a water test, seeing as there was construction on our waterline a little while ago,” said Combs.
“They were doing quality testing and if I didn’t pass, then I was eligible—if I was the home owner—to be provided with a free water softening kit subsidized by the Province of Alberta.”
The suspected scammer produced a form for Combs to sign, explaining renters were trying to take advantage of the situation, so a signature proving ownership of the residence was required.
“He had this little electrode machine that he brought in, he put that in (a glass of water), a couple minutes later the water turned all gross,” Combs said. 
“He explained to me this is taking all the heavy elements out of the water,.”
The man then summoned his “supervisor” who was waiting in a vehicle outside, the three of them spoke for a bit, and Combs figured they must have done some homework, because they knew about the recent waterline construction in the neighbourhood, around 51 St. and 55 Ave.
Combs finally asked what company they worked for, and that’s when red flags began popping up.
He said he noticed the insignias on the men’s jackets didn’t match and the vehicle they arrived in, a white Ford Escape, had no logos.
The kicker for Combs, though, came when they said they needed a void cheque to pay the plumbers, who would be by in a few days to install a water softening kit.
“So, they can take out the installation fee, which should be about $120, and he said, ‘You can make it in two payments if that’s easier for you,’” Combs said.
“We just need a void cheque, and I was like, ‘Okay guys, you don’t have insignias on your jackets, you haven’t given me a (business) card or an ID and it’s Sunday, and you’re asking me for a void cheque.’”
Needless to say, he doesn’t expect any plumbers on his door step any time soon.
“They had planned this out and done it before; every time I’d come up to a question that I wanted answered they’d switch the subject, and it kind of got annoying right away,” Combs said.
“As soon as you start asking specific questions, they’d lead you onto another vague answer.”
The Minister of Service Alberta said the whole campaign is a scam.
“We’ve heard about that,” Stephanie McLean told the Source.
“We had about 12 inquiries and complaints about this water filtration thing,” she said.
“The thing is ... we’re not conducting tests of home water filtration systems, and a salesperson cannot misrepresent themselves as conducting a test when they want to sell you a product and that actually violates our consumer protection laws, which are pretty severe.”
Shawn Kaschl, general manager at Culligan Lloydminster, said his company tests the city’s water on a weekly basis, and upon seeing post-electrode photos of the dirty water Combs posted to social media, he thought it was a scam right away.
Kaschl noted the mode of testing was wrong, though it’s not uncommon to use an electrode for water testing, but no device like that should turn the water’s colour or produce sediment.
“I don’t even know what they would have that would do that, but for it to turn orange and have flakes, I think they have some type of mechanism that would make it turn orange and look like there’s iron and rust, and just plain bad water,” said Kaschl.
“When I saw it, right away I knew it was going to be a scam, because usually when you’re testing for irons, PH, things like that, you’re going to be adding chemicals to react to whatever is in the water, then that’s how you’re going to get your reading—that’s why when I looked at it, I said, ‘Lloyd tap water shouldn’t turn orange like that for any reason, if you’re testing for iron or bacteria or anything like that.’”
Kaschl also agreed the lack of company logos and identification was fishy, adding all Culligan’s sales people have a badge, company insignias, business cards and sales certificates.
Ken Urban, general manager of water services for Lloydminster, said he’s knows about the situation.
“The City of Lloydminster’s Water Services team is aware of individuals going door-to-door talking to residents about water quality in an effort to market household filtration systems,” he said.
“While this is not an unlawful practice, it is important for residents to note that these individuals do not represent the City of Lloydminster in any capacity; the city also advises residents that Lloydminster’s water surpasses all provincial standards for municipal water quality.”
The minister said if you are approached by the scammers, help is available.
“I would absolutely recommend folks call our consumer protection line 1-877-427-4088,” said McLean.
“In this particular situation I’d recommend not handing over a void cheque immediately, but to shop around prices and look into legitimacy to whoever is at your door and whatever you’re selling—unless it’s Girl Guide cookies, in which case you should buy those right away.”

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