(WMC TV) - Its principal address is in New Albany, Ohio.
Its crew's van carries a Florida license plate.
It operates out of a cracker-box office in Jackson, Tennessee.
But the people behind Clean Indoor Air, LLC, can't blur the paper trail enough to hide its deceptive trade practices.
The company has posted a full page advertisement in The Commercial Appeal for more than a month. The ad, emblazoned with "MOLD ALERT!" and enlarged pictures of insects and mold spores, offers air duct cleaning and furnace inspections for $99.95.
"We personally do not like scare tactics," said Brian Choate, a certified technician and partner with licensed Choate's HVAC of Cordova, Tennessee.
Neither do we.
So we had an undercover producer pose as a homeowner. She answered Clean Indoor Air, LLC's ad -- through its 901 area code phone number -- and made an appointment for an air duct cleaning and furnace inspection.
Unknown to the company, the Action News 5 Investigators had both Choate and Ben Shearon -- owner and certified microbial inspector of Southern Microbial Inspections (SMI) in Hernando, Mississippi -- inspect the home. Shearon also took air samples and conducted lab tests.
"No visible signs of mold or moisture," Shearon said.
"There is no mold. Just dust," Choate said.
But not four minutes after Clean Indoor Air, LLC's crew arrived, its crew leader Gregory Brooks told our undercover producer the house had a serious black and green mold infestation that required immediate remediation.
Suddenly, Clean Indoor Air, LLC's "$99.95" offer morphed into three options, ranging from $921 to more than $3,400.
When we confronted Brooks, he admitted to diagnosing mold without any testing or sampling. He said Jeff Van Horn is running the company out of a rented office on Bolivar Highway in Jackson, Tennessee.
"Proper protocol is to have a neutral third-party do testing, and that's what my men are trained to do," said Van Horn in an interview at Action News 5. "I can't speak for why they did what they did."
The credentials of air duct cleaning/mold inspection companies are difficult to verify. The reason is some states, including Tennessee, do not require contractor's licenses for air duct/mold remediation companies who perform jobs below a certain dollar threshold.
For example, Tennessee's threshold is $25,000, according to Christopher Garrett, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance.
So when you consider one of these companies, shop by certification. Shearon recommends air duct/mold companies certified either by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning & Restoration Certification, the National Air Duct Cleaners Association or the American Council of Accredited Certification.
Certified companies should also recommend and allow an independent, third-party mold test in order to maintain neutrality.
"I have always had a problem with companies that conduct mold remediation and provide their own 'clearance' testing," said Mike Tooley, professional engineer and president of Environmental Compliance & Testing in East Memphis. "This is a blatant conflict of interest and needs to be addressed."
Even if your state's contractors board does not require licenses below a specified job threshold, you should still file complaints about air duct/mold companies with your state's board: