How to Identify and Avoid Pest Control Scams

Lawrence Bonk
Written by Lawrence Bonk
Updated July 1, 2021
Exterminator sprays a kitchen to prevent pests
Aleksandar Pirgic via Getty Images

Keep your home pest free and avoid scams with these useful tips

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Pest control is necessary to keep your home clean and comfortable. Luckily, you can contact a local professional exterminator for creepy crawlies such as bed bugs, biting ants, termites, and roaches. Unfortunately, in your search, you could run into some less than reputable companies. 

However, these can be easy to avoid if you know the warning signs. Here are some scam-reduction tips to consider as you shop around to hire a pest control specialist so you can get rid of pesky bugs without breaking a sweat.

Check (and Double Check) the License

Be sure to inquire about a pest control company’s professional license. You can check on the status of a professional license via some easy-to-use web tools. This service will conduct a real-time license verification check and cross-reference it with federal and state regulatory agencies.

To avoid scams, go a step further by contacting your city or municipality’s regulatory agency to inquire about the status of a pest control company’s license. Finally, verify this information with the technician on-site. 

In some states, companies can have a single, licensed professional who "trains" other employees on the job. Scam artists have their single trained employee to sit at the shop, available to "consult" workers in the field who might not know how to properly handle chemicals. Verify that the technician working in your home is the person who carries the license. If not, ask the company to reschedule with the licensed operator.

Verify Your Pest Pro’s Insurance

Pest control companies will usually be required to purchase liability insurance, though the specifics will vary depending on where you live. Reputable pest control agencies will go even further, adding more coverage to their insurance plans. This extra coverage can include general liability, professional liability, crime, property damage, and personal injury. 

Ask your pro to provide you with the relevant documents before you allow them to spray chemicals in your home.

Get a Second Opinion on Pest Control

Many pest control companies will offer free consultations in which they will send a technician to your home. Great news, right? Not always. What starts out innocently enough sometimes turns into a minor emergency where the person finds evidence of termites, ants, or bed bugs. In extreme cases, pest control scammers deposit the corpses of a few dead bugs on your floor while walking around and then "discover" them. 

The solution? Always get a second opinion when it comes to pests in your home. Once another pro verifies the issue, you are free to choose a pest control specialist or exterminator near you.

Read Your Contract Carefully

The self-renewing contract is one of the most insidious pest control scams out there. You’ll contact a pest control pro who provides a solid estimate, shows up on time, and completes the job, so you think you’re in the clear. 

But when they finish spraying, they may tell you a single application won't eliminate all of your pests, urging you to sign a year-long contract to ensure complete eradication. These contracts can auto-renew year after year, whether you use them or not. 

Avoid this scam by refusing to sign any contract that extends beyond the service appointment. A qualified pro can resolve most infestations in a single pesticide application. Reputable companies should be able to explain why a second round of treatment will be necessary and they should never pressure you into signing anything.

Research and Read Reviews

Take some time to research any pest control pros you are thinking of hiring. Reputable exterminators should have an active web presence and may even have social media pages for you to peruse. 

Read reviews and don’t hesitate to ask for and reach out to references to get a feel for the company’s professionalism. If an exterminator engages in shady business practices, it is likely there will be plenty of unhappy customers in their wake.

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