ST. LOUIS – Cleaning air ducts is a dirty job, but Mitchell Stonebarger is well-equipped. In addition to dust and debris, Mitchell wants to dispose of deception in the air duct cleaning industry.
“As long as the internet is around, there’s always going to be an issue,” he said.
Stonebarger says this latest issue involves others posing as his company on Facebook Marketplace.
“These people were sending out quotes and when people asked what company they were, they would say HyperAirDuctCleaning.com,” he said.
Stonebarger says he’s caught people in the past using his company’s photos and videos without permission to promote their own businesses.
“But this particular situation was different. So, I decided to set up a sting,” he said.
Mitchell responded to a Facebook ad and booked an appointment for the company to come to his friend’s home. Mitchell showed FOX 2 his exchange with “Alan Ralph” on Facebook Messenger. It details the proposed pricing. When he asks to view the company’s website, the man replies with a link to Mitchell’s company’s site!
“I was kind of shocked they even showed up,” Stonebarger said.
On the day of the job, Stonebarger’s camera was rolling. He shared the video with us. The technician arrived in an unmarked car with Tennessee plates.
“When I walked into the door, I saw her down there picking apart the furnace and talking to Tim. The up sales had already begun. They were talking thousands of dollars,” he said. “Initially they said $199. I just asked her, ‘Where’s Hyper?’ She’s like, ‘We contract for all the air duct companies.’ I’m like, ‘I’m the founder of Hyper. I started it. I don’t know who you are, and we certainly don’t contract with anybody.’”
Stonebarger says the technician put him on the phone with her boss.
“I’m like, ‘What company are you? Who are you with?’ He said he was just a contractor for other duct companies,” he said.
Stonebarger had Chesterfield police on site for safety.
“There wasn’t much (police) could do. He was just talking to her on the side, getting her information,” he said. “There wasn’t anything they could do about it because it’s just a civil situation.”
Stonebarger feels like there’s not much he can do to prevent this from happening again.
“All I can do is just warn the public and let them know that we don’t advertise on Facebook Marketplace. We don’t advertise on places like Craigslist. We’re mostly referral based. Good work and good ethics have kept us in business,” he said.
FOX 2 contacted Facebook to ask how it works to address situations like this when they’re reported to the company. We’ve yet to receive a response.
When hiring someone, recommendations from family and friends, online reviews, and Better Business Bureau ratings, are good starting points. You can always ask workers coming to your home to show you identification proving they are who they say they are. That might be a red flag if they can’t or won’t provide it.