The City's Urban Forestry Division said that they had received a handful of reports regarding attempted scams.
With the arrival of hurricane season — which officially kicked off June 1 — comes individual and community-wide preparation.
And that preparation is ripe for exploitation by shady companies looking to make money off people’s fears, said Craig O’Neil, assistant director of communications for Winter Park.
“These people that are doing this are preying on people as they’re getting ready for hurricane season and are already thinking of, ‘Oh I need to be prepared,’” O’Neil said. “So they’re in the preparation mode already.”
Although there is no specific number known, O’Neil said the Urban Forestry Division has gotten a handful of complaints from residents who have dealt with the questionable businesses. City officials said the companies have been approaching folks in two different ways: going door-to-door and mailing threatening flyers that claim work needs to be done on trees to make them “hurricane proof.”
The flyers — and people going door-to-door — also claim if the resident does not take up their services, then they will face fines for violating city code.
This isn’t the first time this sort of issue has popped up in Winter Park — it’s become an annual issue that surfaces every year, O’Neil said.
Last year, the Winter Park Urban Forestry Division received a dozen calls from locals about tree service companies around areas such as Winter Park High School and the Winter Park Country Club, as well as Palmer Avenue, Georgia Avenue, Golfside Drive, Old England Avenue and Temple Drive.
Between residents being in the mindset of hurricane preparedness and the fact that these companies often have their workers pose as local city officials, the confusion can be enough to trick people into buying services.
And the issues don’t just stop with a resident being bamboozled. The trees could suffer, as well.
“In some cases, these companies can compromise the health of the tree by not following best management practices of proper pruning,” city officials warned in an official statement. “For example, in some instances, companies are using climbing spurs which can be detrimental to the tree’s health.”
Not only can the spurs be harmful to the outside of the tree, but also it can lead to the spread of disease and leave vulnerable trees open to infestation.