The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office issued today a public service announcement and consumer alert video following circulating complaints about a man by the name of Michael Oliveira who allegedly collects money for work he never completes.
Since the Dispatch first reported April 24 about a 77-year-old Gilroy man who claimed he was scammed by a crook under the guise of a friendly tree pruner, 10 others from Gilroy and Morgan Hill have come forward with similar stories, prompting police to launch an investigation.
“The weather is warming. Your trees and bushes are green and growing,’’ Deputy District Attorney Janet Berry warns. “But there is a dark side to the warming weather and I’m not talking about snails or slugs. Scammers pretending to be landscapers are busy at work throughout the county. And they are targeting elderly homeowners.”
The DA’s public service announcement warns that although the landscape scammers promise to do yard work “and look like they can do the job…these criminals often take money up front and disappear, leaving the homeowner to deal with their mangled trees and bushes.”
Officials are warning that it is a big mistake to hire anyone who shows up at your home unannounced, no matter what price they are offering. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is, according to Sgt. Chad Gallacinao with the Gilroy Police Department.
Here are three signs you may be getting scammed, according to the DA’s office:
– A landscaper, often wearing work clothes, comes to the door without being called.
– He offers to trim trees, repair your lawn or other landscaping services for a low price.
– He wants money up front.
Three preventive tips:
– NEVER hire someone who comes unannounced to your door. Don’t even open the door to them, and certainly don’t let them in your house. Just say, “No thank you.”
– Talk to your friends and neighbors to put together a list of reliable gardeners, landscapers, and home repair businesses to have on hand when you need some work done.
– When you are deciding on whom to hire, get references. Call them.
If you feel that you have been a victim of this type of scam, call the Gilroy Police Department at (408) 846-0300 or the DA’s elder fraud number at 1- (855) DA ELDER.