Tornadoes Can Bring Down Trees, and Bring Out Scammers

May 10, 2017

Tornado season is officially here. Strong winds, flying debris and falling trees have been the new normal for a lot of people in Mississippi. Because we are known as “The Hospitality State”, the generosity of some people can be undermined with a scam.

Recently, BBB serving Mississippi received a report from BBB Scam Tracker that a Greenville man was dealing with a tree cutter that wasn’t as reputable or trustworthy as he seemed. The Greenville man reports that the tree cutter was going door to door soliciting his tree cutting business while asking for money up front before showing any type of credentials or licensing. In some cases, the tree cutter wouldn’t return or finish the job after he received the money for the service. The tree cutter would also cut the tree down and place the wood on the curb knowing that the city waste management system wouldn’t pick it up. Not only did the Greenville man have to track the tree cutter down to finish what he started, but he also had to make sure that he cleaned up the mess that he had made.

“In situations like these, BBB serving Mississippi urges consumers to find insured, bonded and accredited tree service businesses so that you won’t run the risk of being scammed and having to deal with additional clean up or worse damaged property done by a tree service business.” Kourtney Moncure, PR Specialist for Better Business Bureau.

Here are some tips on how to find a reputable tree trimming companies that you can trust:

Track Record.   Before you hire check out the company’s BBB Business Review at BBB.  It’s fast, easy and free.

Cost Comparisons.  Get at least three quotes in writing, compare the quotes based on the same specification and make sure they have proper equipment to perform the job quoted.  Don’t assume that tree stump removal is included if it’s not specified.  Remember, quality of work may be more important than price.

References.  Ask for references from the company’s last three jobs and contact them for testimonial.

Permits.  Obtain applicable permits for the work to be done.

Licensing.  Do your homework.  Licensing may be required at the state, county and/or city levels to perform additional types of service needed in this industry. Example: If company applies any pesticides verify they have proper state pesticide applicator’s license.

Local Business Tax Receipt / Ordinances.  Most communities have safe tree ordinances and require a business to obtain a local business tax receipt.  Check with your local tax collector’s office and know your local ordinances before you have any trees removed.  A reputable tree company will know the local ordinances before starting any project.

Insurance.  Verify the company has personal and property damage liability insurance and workers compensation insurance by getting certificates of insurance with you listed as the certificate holder. Make sure that all workers on the job site are covered and are using hardhats along with other personal protective equipment.

Written Contract.  Do not permit work to start without a signed, written contract that includes start and completion dates, exact costs, specific work to be done, to include protection of your property, clean-up and removal of debris.  Be sure to read the fine print carefully.

Deposits and Payment.  Do not pay large payments up front.  Stagger your payments according to work stages and do not make a final payment until the job is completed to your satisfaction.  Pay by check or credit card for added protection.  Paying by credit card provides some recourse should the job no be completed as stated in the contract.

Criminal History.  Check out anyone you allow onto your property to see if they have a criminal history.  Ask the company: Do they employees undergo a background check?  Are they trained and certified?  Will they be wearing name tags and uniforms on the job?  Are the company vehicles clearly marked?