Watch out for tree removal scams, AG Cooper warns
Release date: 2/12/2014
Roving scammers could follow winter storm
Raleigh: Snow and ice expected to fall on much of North Carolina today and tomorrow could be followed by scammers seeking to take advantage of consumers who need help removing trees brought down by the storm, Attorney General Roy Cooper warned Wednesday.
“Tree damage from ice storms brings out scammers trying to rip you off,” said Cooper. “After a bad storm, tree services will go door-to-door looking for customers. If you need help getting a fallen tree off your home or car, find someone qualified to do the work instead of falling for a scam.”
While many tree removal companies are reputable, unscrupulous scammers often travel to areas that have been hit by natural disasters to take advantage of consumers. Consumers should report tree removal scams to local law enforcement and to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, Cooper said.
North Carolina residents can report scams and frauds to Cooper’s office by calling toll-free 1-877-5-NO-SCAM within the state or by filing a consumer complaint.
To avoid problems when hiring a tree removal service:
Don’t pay upfront. Be very wary of any request to pay deposits or other fees for tree work in advance. Out-of-state tree cutters have been known to collect deposits from entire neighborhoods and then disappear without performing any work. Only pay when the work is done and you are satisfied.
Avoid fly-by-night companies. Tree services that knock on your door or that just arrived in town from another state may not stick around to finish the job. Choose local companies with good reputations for the best results.
Check out the company. Contact our Consumer Protection Division and the Better Business Bureau to see if they have complaints against the company. Ask the company for local references, and look online for reviews of its work.
Make sure the company is insured. If a tree removal service claims to have insurance, don’t just take their word for it. Contact the insurer directly and ask them to send you a copy of the tree removal service’s certificate of insurance.
Find out a fair price. Be skeptical of any price that seems unusually high or low. To find out the going rate for tree removal, get written estimates from more than one company. Check with friends who’ve had tree work done recently to see what they paid and who they would recommend.
Don’t let anyone rush you. If an offer is only good “now or never,” find someone else to do the job. And if the tree isn’t on your house or blocking your driveway, you may be better off waiting a few days or weeks to have it removed.
Ask about debris removal, too. Will the company remove the tree from your property as well as cut it down? If not, you may wind up having to pay for debris removal.
If you have problems with a tree removal company or want to ask questions before hiring one, contact our Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM. You can also file a consumer complaint or report possible price gouging online at www.ncdoj.gov
. The state’s price gouging law
is currently in effect due to the storm.
Get more consumer tips for disasters
Media contact: Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413