Falls Church City’s Office of Communications issued a press release today warning residents about a scam that has taken advantage of at least one resident in Falls Church. If you have an elderly neighbor, please share this information with them and tell them to be on the alert for scam artists posing as contractors.
The press release from Falls Church City’s Office of Communications is reprinted below.
Woodchuck Scam Targets Elderly Residents
Know How to Hire Reputable Tree and Home Contractors
Tuesday, April 30, 2019 — The City of Falls Church Police are investigating a “woodchuck” scam that has cost a victim thousands of dollars. Police caution City residents to be aware of predatory services, especially for tree removal, landscaping, roof and chimney work, and other home services. Residents should also help educate neighbors who may fall victim to the scam.
“A little bit of education and a healthy dose of skepticism can help a lot when hiring contractors for tree or home services,” said Police Chief Mary Gavin. “We see scammers making the rounds after big storms and high winds, but it can happen any time of year.”
The current case is under investigation and details are not available, but the typical woodchuck scam usually targets senior citizens who live alone. Scam artists will claim to be contractors and approach the homeowner about tree and house projects. The scammers will gain seniors’ trust and eventually concoct with a variety of fake repairs that need to be done, such as a roof repair. This often results in seniors giving the fake contractors thousands of dollars.
Residents should know how to hire reputable tree and home contractors.
In the City of Falls Church, tree care companies must have an annual license to work for customers, ensuring that they have met the City’s minimum requirements for bonding and insurance. The current list is available at www.fallschurchva.gov/TreeContractors.
The City does not evaluate the quality of private tree work, and does not promote or recommend any particular companies. Homeowners should talk to multiple companies, request references, check for membership in professional organizations, and ask for proof that their insurance and workers’ compensation coverage is current.
Home contractors are required by Virginia law to have a state license for most work or bids over $1,000. The State’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) website offers a way to search for licensed contractors and past disciplinary actions: www.dpor.virginia.gov/Consumers/Guide_Contractor.
DPOR recommends watching out for a contractor who:
- Solicits door-to-door
- “Just happens” to have materials left over from a previous job
- Pressures you into making an immediate decision
- Asks you to pay for the entire job up-front
- Only accepts cash payments
- Asks you to obtain required building permits
For any tree or home contract work, residents are advised to get at least two estimates in writing and to not pay for the job until everything agreed upon is completed.