Emerald ash borer treatment -- could this be a scam?

Randy Meier 

We learned in late March, Iowa State University found emerald ash borer in an ash tree in Clinton. 

This pest is fatal to all ash trees, unless the tree is treated continuously for the rest of its life. Does this have anything to do with scams? Well, perhaps. Other jurisdictions report the owners of property on which ash trees grow can become targets for scammers when the pests are found in that area. Scammers go door-to-door offering treatments for ash trees, or offering to cut down and remove ash trees. Frequently these scammers will use high-pressure tactics, and not bother with getting the necessary solicitor’s permits. 

This kind of thing is a variation on “disaster scammers”. These are the kind of crooks who pay attention to the news to learn where the latest natural disaster happened. Then they flock to that area and offer repairs, roofing, clean-up and similar services. They will charge a lot of money, do a lousy job, and disappear.

Clinton County and the cities of Clinton, DeWitt, and Camanche all require door-to-door solicitors to obtain and carry permits. Tree trimmers in Clinton and Camanche also need city licenses to operate. To obtain these permits, the tree trimmers are required to show proof of liability. Dewitt does not require licensing of tree trimmers, but does require anyone selling treatment for emerald ash borer to obtain a license first. The first thing I’d ask to see from anyone coming door-to-door wanting to cut a tree, or treat one, is the city permit or license.

When it comes to ash trees, you don’t need to react to the first person who comes to your door. Do your research before making any decisions. A very good source of information is the Clinton County Extension Service, who can be reached at (563) 659-5125. The Extension Service can give advice on how to detect the borer in your ash trees, how to treat them if you wish, how to remove them, and what to plant to replace these shade trees. You can also find a lot of information at the Iowa State University Extension website, http://www.extension.iastate.edu.

And while I am beating the drum about door-to-door sales, I remind readers this kind of thing picks up with the warming weather. All such solicitors in Clinton County or the cities of the county need to obtain a permit before running out and trying to sell. The only exemptions are for local civic or service clubs, churches, or charities. The sheriff’s office, which issues the county licenses, issued none so far this year, yet we know of some door-to-door sales for Kirby vacuum cleaner in Goose Lake on March 23.

Scam trends

In the last two weeks, I received two complaints from folks who lost a considerable amount of money in Craigslist scams. In one case, a woman lost over $1,500 by accepting a counterfeit check paying her $2,250 as payment for a truck worth $750. She followed the instructions of the “buyer” to send the overage to California via Western Union. When the check came back as fictitious, she was on the hook to her bank for the money.

Another woman thought she had sold some furniture, and agreed to send money to what looked like a PayPal account. She did, but the account was a sham, it did not exist, and her money was gone.

If you want to buy, sell, or trade on Craigslist, get real familiar with their advice on avoiding scams and fraud. In fact, their homepage displays a link titled “Avoid Scams & Fraud”, which set out in great detail the clues to fraud. I will just quote their Rule No. 1: Deal locally – face to face. Follow this one rule and avoid 99 percent of scam attempts

Another scam — on Facebook

A Camanche man reported he saw a Facebook-sponsored ad on his Facebook page. The topic interested him, so he clicked on it. His computer instantly locked up with a “scareware” page showing. The page told him he was in grave danger of contracting a virus, and told him to call a phone number. When he did, the person answering offered to remove the scareware, for a credit card number. He knew better and hung up.

I received a similar report in late March from a Clinton woman who contracted a virus which threw up a scareware page, giving her a phone number to call. She called and the man answering agreed to remove the virus for $329, charged to her credit card. She agreed to it, but soon re-considered and called her credit card company to cancel the transaction.

It is difficult to know with absolute certainty whether a site you never visited before will infect your computer. You are always taking a chance. But if you do contract a virus, don’t ever follow the instructions on the scareware page. It will only cost you more. Take your computer to a local computer tech for their inspection and repair.

Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 242-9211, Ext. 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.

Randy Meier is the director of Seniors Vs. Crime, which operates in conjunction with the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office.

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