Fairfax officials warn of tree trimming scams

Fairfax County officials call the scammers “woodchucks.” They’re crews who travel through neighborhoods looking for unkempt yards, elderly people who are doing yard work and signs, such as ramps or handicapped license plates, that the person living in the home can’t handle working in the yard.

The crews then offer to do the yard work, often at an excessive price. They often don’t have the proper skills to do the work and, police say, sometimes they take a deposit and never return to do the work. Says Fairfax County detective Ryan Young, “I firmly believe that woodchucks are one of the most pervasive criminal problems this county is facing right now. They’re coming in every day, multiple groups, all seasons — and looking to ‘get granny’.” County police point to one case where 10 co-defendants took almost $400,000 from one victim over six years.

It’s not only about the money, it’s about the trees

County urban forestry experts say “woodchucks” often “top” trees, meaning they’re cut improperly by cutting long branches at the top of the tree. Doing that harms the trees by making them subject to insects and wood decay. Their root system may be harmed. The tree limbs will become unsightly and, eventually, the tree may die and become a hazard. Here’s what a “topped” tree may look like:


Guard against “woodchucks”

The experts recommend that you make sure that anyone who you hire to trim trees is a certified arborist. They also suggest that you ask for proof of insurance and then call the insurance company if you are not satisfied.

In addition, in Fairfax County peddlers and solicitors need a license. A peddler or solicitor must show the license upon request and must leave the premises immediately if asked to leave. This is an example of what a Fairfax County license looks like:

solicitor license





About the Author

Ed Tobias
Ed Tobias brings more than four decades of reporting and news management experience to his work at FairfaxNews. Tobias managed news coverage for Associated Press Radio for over twenty years.  This included coverage of the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana, the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters and national election primaries, conventions and campaigns.  He was part of the team that built AP’s on-line video operation. Prior to joining AP, Tobias was News Director at all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C. He has won two Ohio State Awards for his reporting and producing and he led coverage that won an Edward R. Murrow Award.