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Watch out for tree removal scams, AG Cooper says

Release date: 9/1/2011

Cooper urges victims of Hurricane Irene to avoid roving scam artists

Raleigh: Consumers cleaning up after Hurricane Irene are reporting that some tree removal services are trying to overcharge them or have taken money upfront and then left the job unfinished, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Thursday. 
 
“We’re hearing from consumers at the coast that tree services are going door-to-door looking for customers,” Cooper said. “If you need help getting a fallen tree off your home or car, make sure you don’t fall for a scam.”
 
A consumer in Greenville reported that she paid $500 to have four trees removed. The company took down two of the trees then left without completing the job, according to the consumer’s complaint. 
 
A woman in New Bern reported that a Florida tree service knocked on her door, offering to remove trees “right now” for a fee of $1,750. A local tree service quoted her $300 for the same work, she said in her complaint.
 
Consumers should report tree removal scams to local law enforcement and to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, Cooper said.
 
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. A reputable company should have no problem getting their insurance company to fax, email or mail a certificate of insurance to you.
 
  • 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.
 

  Contact:  Noelle Talley, (919) 716-6413