News

Police Warn F.C. Residents After ‘Woodchuck’ Scam Costs Victim Thousands

A Falls Church resident was scammed out of thousands of dollars in what police are calling a “woodchuck” scam, it was reported today.

City of Falls Church Police are warning residents of the predatory actions which typically target senior citizens who live alone. Police say the scam artists will claim to be contractors and approach the homeowner about tree and house projects. After gaining the victim’s trust, the scammers will come up with a variety of fake repairs that need to be done, such as roof repair, tree removal and landscaping, and then charge the victim thousands of dollars.

“A little bit of education and a healthy dose of skepticism can help a lot when hiring contractors for tree or home services,” said City of F.C .Police Chief Mary Gavin in a press release “We see scammers making the rounds after big storms and high winds, but it can happen any time of year.”

Warning signs for potential scam contractors include:

• Soliciting door-to-door

• Contractors who just so happen to have materials left over from a previous job

• They pressure you to make an immediate decision

• Ask for up-front payment for the entire job

• Only accepts cash

• Ask you to obtain the required building payments

In the City, 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.