by Anna Giles

SACRAMENTO (CBS13)  — A Sacramento woman in need of home repairs tried to contact a company through Yelp and ended up with imposters at her door.

Local police said this is an elaborate scheme they’ve never dealt with before. The woman looked up Elite Heating and Air Conditioning on Yelp and tried to contact them using the “call” option on the app.

Instead, the call was somehow intercepted by tricksters, who pretended to be the business and showed up at her front door.

Jason Richardson is the owner of Elite Heating and Air Conditioning. He said he’s baffled at how someone was able to pull off such a thing.

“It stinks that there are people that are dishonest and there are crooks in this industry,” Richardson said.

Getting to the bottom of what happened was a process.

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“It makes me afraid for the consumers,” Richardson said.

The woman originally thought she was calling Jason. When someone answered the phone using his name, she thought nothing of it.

“Two gentlemen showed up, walked through her house, talked to her about her heating and air conditioning problems and acted as if they were me,” Richardson said.

They left and never returned. Richardson figured out something was going on when the woman called him a couple days later looking for an estimate. He had no clue what she was talking about.

“An innocent request by a homeowner could turn into something that ended up being maybe they get robbed. There’s a whole lot of scenarios that could play out many different ways,” he said.

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Police in Elk Grove and Sacramento said the imposters didn’t take anything or force their way into the home, so technically no crime was committed.

Melissa Williams lives in Sacramento and just had her entire back yard remodeled. She said being taken advantage of is always top of mind.

“We always ask for identification anything to make sure they are legitimately with the business we are trying to get a hold of,” she said.

A spokesperson from Yelp told CBS13 they’ve never dealt with this type of situation and it sounds like something they would not be able to prevent.

In a statement, they said, “It looks like the number the business listed on their Yelp page is the same number listed on their website. If their business phone number was targeted and cloned as part of a potential scam, we would encourage them to contact their local authorities and update the number listed on their Yelp page.”

Comments (4)
  1. All of this phone number spoofing could be stopped if the FTC would order all phone companies to stop allowing phone numbers to be spoofed. Phone number ID is all done with software and the phone companies could easily stop it. The FTC is just another useless government agency that spends a lot of taxpayer money for nothing.

    1. HLM says:

      Buzz Corey: I understand your frustration but the reason spoofing originated and is still needed is because legitimate organizations with limited phone lines often make phone calls from “sister” lines and, in order to make these calls, need multiple numbers at a varying rate (i.e., some days they may need 15 numbers, others days 115 numbers). Spoofing was the most economical solution.
      The solution to spoofing, which has already started implementing and will soon be required (a rule enforced by the FCC, not the FTC which wouldn’t be involved in spoofing so your accusation in this regard is without merit), is to have each call verified by a new software solution called “SHAKEN/STIR”. This is in addition to the current blocking software widely available.
      The incident reported in the article may not be a matter of spoofing though. Apparently law enforcement doesn’t have any experience with this particular issue so, at this point, the article didn’t address what the actual mechanism was that enabled this.

  2. Jay Johnson says:

    Another scam associated with Yelp?! Who would have thunk it?!

  3. Frank Booger says:

    I would never post anything, or accept anything from Yelp, after I had a bad experience with it. I posted a really nice review for a business I used for the first time. Yelp posted it in the ‘Not Recommended’ list. I contacted Yelp and asked why this was. They said it could have been posted by the business. I said I was new to the area and did not know the people personally. Yelp said they can’t move it to the ‘Recommended’ list. I was later told by someone else that Yelp contacts the business involved and offers to move the review to ‘Recommended’ for a fee. I was so angry that I tried to delete my review, but Yelp doesn’t allow that. They do allow edits so I completely erased my review and wrote about my disgust with Yelp, and that I would not trust them ever again. I bet they deleted that!

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