Bed Bug Scams

Scams involving bed bug detection, treatment, and products are on the rise. Unscrupulous sales people are capitalizing on people’s fears about bed bugs by selling unwarranted services or ineffective products. These scams succeed because people feel anxious and helpless and believe that if they don’t buy, doomsday is certain.

Of particular concern are scams involving bed bug sniffing dogs and pest control companies. In Massachusetts, a canine-detection service that partners with pest management companies has widespread inaccuracies–an attribute that’s profitable for the pest management companies. False positives cost property owners and managers tens of thousands of dollars on unnecessary treatments.

Recently, many pest control companies have purchased bed bug sniffing dogs. Aside from the obvious and potential “conflict-of-interest” in having the guy that sells treatments also handle the dogs, there’s much more to be concerned about. Some companies delegate the responsibility of “dog handler” to employees with limited knowledge and training with dogs. Some companies are less concerned with reinforcing training accuracy than others. Some companies lack personnel with knowledge of the environmental factors that are known to throw-off the dogs. Some companies own dogs that alert to other insects such as carpet beetles. Some companies obtained their dogs at local kennels and trained them at questionable dog schools. The bottom line is all the same. False positives are widespread. This is good for the pest control company’s bottom line and bad for the consumer. Many consumers are literally paying the price for a lack of oversight by any governing authority relative to canine inspections and resulting treatments.

Several products sold on the internet claim to prevent, detect, or eliminate bed bugs with miracle results. Consumers are spending good money for these bad products. Often the problem is only exacerbated and inevitably a phone call must be made to a trustworthy professional.

The misuse of pesticides is also on the rise. A Massachusetts pest control company promoting themselves as “bed bug experts” was recently charged with using the agricultural pesticides malathion and carbaryl (which are banned for use indoors) to treat bed bugs in Quincy, Somerville, Malden, and Everett. They were also charged with running a pest control business without licenses or certification.

Please report promptly any scams involving bed bug products and services to the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Affairs in your state. Alternatively, if you believe pesticides were unnecessarily or inappropriately applied in your home, contact the Pesticide Bureau in your state. They employ enforcement inspectors who investigate reports of pesticide misuse. Don’t let scammers prey on the fears of others—many of whom are elderly, unemployed, or disabled.

Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office – 617-727-2200

Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office – 401-274-4400

Connecticut Attorney General’s Office – 860-808-5400

New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office – 888-468-4454

Maine Attorney General’s Office – 207-626-8800