Action 9 hidden camera mold investigation

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ORLANDO,Fla. - In a hidden camera test, some companies wanted to charge thousands for mold cleaning one homeowner didn't need.

After a washing machine flooded Betty Arnett's home, she called a mold contractor for repairs.

"He claimed to find the worst black mold there is," said Arnett.

Arnett was billed $2,000 upfront only to find out there was never any mold.

Some mold contractors can be risky, as Action 9 found out in a test home where mold was behind bedroom wallpaper.

Action 9's expert has a state license and was recommended by National Mold Associations. He found a minor mold problem there but said it could be fixed without testing or remediation.

But when the employee from Protective Solutions arrived, the homeowner was told it was dangerous mold. He wanted to seal the room in plastic, use air cleansing machines and fog mold killers. It would cost at least $1,000.

Channel 9's Todd Ulrich talked to company owner Tom Costa.

"Do you really believe this is a risky mold situation?" asked Ulrich.

"No, it's not risky mold," said Costa.

"I heard you tell her that," said Ulrich.

"Get out of here with that thing," Costa said, referring to Action 9's cameras.

"Don't touch the camera. You look familiar to me?" Ulrich said.

That's because Costa is serving probation because he pleaded guilty to organized fraud after prosecutors said he scammed consumers with fake mold tests.

"Are you doing this all over again?" asked Ulrich.

"No," said Costa.

The man from 911 Restoration also found mold and recommended the homeowner spend at least $1,000 on cleaning and remediation.

"I do question whether we need to spend $1,000 on micro cleaning," said Ulrich.

"I haven't given a quote just yet," the employee said.

Later, the company said its written estimate would have required the owner to have an independent mold test before it did any cleaning.

The employee from Air Spec spent just 35 minutes at the house and said there was no mold, but he still charged $375, and it cost extra for a written report.

Action 9's expert said all three companies failed to discover that a leaky window had triggered that mold, so the homeowner would have spent thousands only to see the mold return.

Air Spec's owner told Action 9 its fee was disclosed upfront.

According to the state, any company that inspects or tests should be independent from a mold remediation contractor.