Environment Waikato is warning Hamilton residents about a potential tree removal scam involving a woman impersonating a regional council biosecurity officer.
“The aim of the impersonation is to get people to agree to pay for trees to be removed unnecessarily,” says biosecurity officer Darion Embling.
His comments came after EW received a phone call from a resident saying a woman – who appeared to be of Pacific Island descent - had turned up at their property in North Hamilton illegally impersonating an EW staff member.
“She knocked on their door saying she was from EW and told the property owner they needed tree removal work done, and that a team of people was there to do it at the owner’s cost.
“When the land owner refused access she threatened to come back with a large man. When asked for identification she refused to provide any.”
Mr Embling said a subsequent EW check with Hamilton City Council indicated the scammers sounded like a rogue team that had been operating in the city’s northern suburbs for some time.
“We’re told that if the property owner does allow scammers to remove trees the woman and her associates then increase the price or do not finish the work.
“Their operation has also been doing unauthorised pruning of protected trees, park trees and road reserve trees, then trying to charge back to nearby private landowners.”
Mr Embling said HCC’s advice was that the operation had targeted elderly people and people with large trees.
Those running the scam were using a small white truck with ply wood sides.
Areas that have been targeted include Chartwell, Chedworth, Flagstaff, Glenview, Huntington and Pukete.
Mr Embling stressed that EW staff and contractors are accredited and will have photo identification to prove it. “If this group visits your property ask them for official ID. If they cannot show it ask them to leave and call the police. If you are uncertain or need advice call EW’s biosecurity team or the police.”