Spring is here, and lawn-care scams are sprouting like mushrooms after rain. And unlike that brown spot in the grass, they’re not easy to see. Here’s what’s important to know about these scams and how to stay safe.
How the scam plays out
In a typical lawn-care scam, a company will target homeowners with ads, calls and other tactics. They’ll offer to inspect the lawn and provide a free quote for services the lawn requires. When the victim accepts this offer, a date and time will be set for the complimentary inspection.
On the day of the inspection, though, victims arrive home to see a sign posted on their lawn detailing all the work that has already been done on behalf of this company! The victim is billed for the work, and when they protest, the business claims the victim verbally agreed to the services.
This is probably just the beginning of a lawn-care nightmare. The company may continue to send workers to service the victim’s yard, regardless of how many times they say they don’t want or need these services. Failure to pay will prompt the scammer to threaten to call collection agencies. Usually, the victim pays out of fear of having the lawn-care company follow through on their threat.
Sometimes, the scam takes the form of a company doing shoddy work and overcharging for it, not delivering on services or tacking on extra charges and fees without warning.
Avoid getting scammed
Before hiring a lawn-care company, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends taking the following steps:
- Research the company. Look up the business’s profile on the BBB website or search for its name on the bureau’s list of accredited lawn maintenance companies. Look for any necessary licensing and insurance as well. To avoid signing a “verbal contract,” do not contact a company before doing your research.
- Ask for a lawn inspection before getting a quote.
- Get everything in writing. Make sure the contract clearly explains terms of the agreement and for how long it is valid. The contract should also list the quantity, size and types of plants and other materials that will be used by the lawn-care company. Keep a personal copy of anything you sign.
- Ask for references and pictures of past jobs.
- Get specifics on pricing.
- Ask for receipts for all paid invoices.
If you’ve been scammed
If you’ve been duped by an unscrupulous lawn-care company, you may have difficulty getting out of contracts or agreements. Report the scam to the FTC and the BBB. Also contact local law enforcement to ask about suggested next steps.
Don’t get scammed by a lawn-care company! Follow the tips outlined above when hiring a provider and keep your money safe.
Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a lawn-care scam? Tell us about it in the comments.