Scammers and price gougers could find opportunity in the clean-up of Monday’s derecho

Victims of Monday's storms should be on the lookout for people looking to take advantage of them.
Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 10:30 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - As people spent the last two days sawing through trees and picking up the debris from the derecho, scammers and price gougers are looking to overcharge and outright steal people’s money from them.

Justin Hartmann, who owns Canary Tree Service in Jacksonville, Florida, said he’s planning on coming to offer free tree removal services for people in the Cedar Rapids area. However, his company is currently being sued by North Carolina’s Attorney General for price gouging people during Hurricane Florence in 2018.

According to court documents, the company charged people up to $14,000 for a job where five men worked about six hours each. The documents also say the company charged another client $9,000.

Dane Heiar, who is a tree remover, said pricing a tree removal job could be tricky depending on the job, but said this was likely price gouging.

“$9,000, I’d like to see that job,” Heiar said.

Dane said there could be some $9,000 jobs, but said he would be suspicious of any job over $3,500. He said to search for other prices recommendations by calling other contractors to avoid getting scammed.

I9 reached back out to Hartmann for comment on the lawsuit. However, he refused to answer any questions about the lawsuit. Hartmann, through a text, said he would only bill insurance companies rather than individuals.

Lynn Hicks, who is the communications director at the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, said seeing scams when a natural disaster isn’t uncommon.

“We see a little bit here or there,” Hicks said. “But it is common and it is typically contractors jacking up prices to do repairs.”

Hicks said to avoid scams make sure you research a company online or look for recommendations from friends.

Editor’s Note: an earlier version incorrectly identified the company that employs Dane Heiar.

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