Winter weather often takes a toll on trees, and with recent bouts of ice and snow across the state, this year is no exception.

Arkansas residents may seek out professional contractors to repair damage, trim trees or remove debris following the latest winter storms. Unfortunately, some tree-trimming services or other contractors may try to take advantage of Arkansans who have damage to their property or homes in inclement weather.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert to warn Arkansas consumers about the potential for scams related to debris removal and to offer advice on how to select a reputable contractor.

"My office receives complaints year-round about tree trimmers that appear to charge outrageous prices or that provide inferior work," McDaniel said. "After storms, we see more and more examples of contractors who take advantage of consumers. However, Arkansans who take their time to get estimates and to get recommendations from friends and family can almost always avoid falling victim to con artists."

After ice storms, scammers typically target affected neighborhoods using high-pressure sales tactics to deal with consumers who may be in urgent need of help. They may charge high "emergency" prices and demand upfront payment for services. Many times, those scammers leave jobs incomplete or fail to do the work at all.

The Attorney General offered this advice to consumers who need debris removal or home repair services:

• Select a reputable contractor. Obtain recommendations from friends and family and ask for references from the contractor itself. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the contractor has a good track record.

• Always get estimates. Call at least three contractors for estimates. Even if it is necessary to act quickly to repair damage or have a tree removed, consumers are still better off financially by taking some time to compare prices.

• Put it in writing. A contract should contain details about the price of the project and any necessary financing. It should indicate the exact work that is to be done, the type and quality of materials to be used and the expected completion date.

• Never pay in advance. At no time should a consumer make full payment in advance for any type of repair or debris-removal service. One option that should be satisfactory for both the contractor and consumer is an arrangement where one-third of the expected cost is paid in advance, a third is paid during the work and the final installment paid once the work is complete. Consumers should inspect the completed project before making final payment.

• Handle insurance payments directly. If homeowners’ insurance is involved, consumers should deal with insurance carriers directly rather than authorizing a contractor to negotiate with the company. In some recent instances, home-repair contractors have taken insurance proceeds in advance, then failed to complete work that was promised.

For more information about this or other consumer issues, visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division website at or call (800) 482-8982.