July 14, 2016

Consumer Protection Warns Residents to Be Wary of Community Water Testing Scams

The Flint Michigan water crisis sparked concerns about water purity around the nation. Residents should be aware that there are unethical scammers who may attempt to take advantage of these concerns. These cons often go door-to-door and leave water sample bottles with testing instructions behind. Residents will then fill the bottles and leave them outside to be picked up. Despite the fine print, many residents assume (or are outright told) the testing is conducted by the government. However, the testing is done by companies selling water treatment systems.

The representative may perform the testing in front of the resident by adding tablets or drops of chemicals to the tap water, while explaining that the water will change color or particles will form if it is contaminated. When the water predictably changes, the representative may warn the water is polluted and could cause cancer. If the water is tested offsite, this demonstration is unnecessary and the results are given over the telephone. The best solution, the consumer is told, is to buy the company's water treatment device. These devices and systems can cost upwards of $8000.

Oftentimes, these merchants employ a prize or sweepstakes approach where to qualify for the prize, the consumer has to buy a water purifier, which may later be determined to be of very little value. These consumers may also be pressured into giving away credit card numbers for identification or verification and instead could be slammed with unwanted and unauthorized charges for additional water treatment devices or services.

If you are concerned about your water quality arrange for an independent test, contact the EPA's Safe Water Drinking Hotline. If you have a complaint concerning a water testing scam, file a complaint with the Office of Consumer Protection or call us at (240) 777-3636.

Of note: The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) provides water service to almost all of Montgomery County. WSSC is among the largest water and wastewater utilities in the nation, with a network of nearly 5,600 miles of fresh water pipeline and over 5,400 miles of sewer pipeline. WSSC drinking water has always met or exceeded federal standards.

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