'Storm swindlers': Public warned of bogus tree surgeon scam

Members of the Irish Defence Forces clearing fallen trees at Burke’s Hill in Cork. Photo: Mark Condren
Members of the Irish Defence Forces clearing fallen trees at Burke’s Hill in Cork. Photo: Mark Condren

Tom Shiel

AS the country continues to be battered by regular high winds, gardaí have issued an alert to the public to beware of 'storm swindlers'.

This follows an incident near Claremorris in which an elderly couple were conned out of €900 by a mobile gang pretending to be tree surgeons.

Earlier this month, in the aftermath of Storm Fionn, four males in a white Transit van with 'Tree Surgeons' printed on the sides called to a farmhouse offering to make safe overhanging trees which they claimed posed a danger.

As an inducement the men offered a €500 discount if the couple paid in cash.

After a deal was agreed the men began trimming overhanging boughs but then asked for an extra €400 in cash so they could hire heavier equipment as the sale of the task was greater than anticipated.

Having secure the exta cash the men left but failed to honour a promise to return and finish their work the next day.

With no sign of the 'work team' returning in subsequent days the couple involved notified gardaí in Claremorris.

Now the public have been warned to be cautious of anyone offering door to door services of any type and certainly not to pay out any monies in advance to people who claim to be contractors.

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Gardaí in various parts of the country say they are aware of tree removal scams in a number of areas in recent months.

"If you need a professional to carry our tree removal avoid door-to- door operators",  a garda source said.

Firm advice has been issued by officers to never pre-pay for services and to only hire known, local, tradesmen with good reputations who can furnish proof they are insured to carry out contract work.

The van involved in the Claremorris tree scam carried out Wicklow number plates but it is not known if these plates are authentic.

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