Beware scammers who promise cheap yard work, return with a bill

Doing yard work can be rewarding and relaxing, especially for many kupuna.

They find calm and serenity working in their yards.

But not everyone has the time or energy to maintain them, and lawn scammers are recognizing these opportunities.

“Yes, we’re seeing it,” said Scott Spallina, senior deputy prosecuting attorney with the Elder Abuse Justice Unit. “Right now, we have a group working out of the Kaimuki, Diamond Head, Kahala area, and they’ll go and knock on doors randomly, seemingly promising free yard work basically, and who’s going to pass up free yard work.”

The scammers are telling seniors they have extra material and would like to make their yard the show piece of the community.

“They might do a little bit of work, like maybe squirt some weed killer around that, and then they’ll come back and say okay, this is what you owe us, and they’ll present a bill and either try to intimidate or guilt the victim into paying these bills,” Spallina said.

It’s not always fear. Some take the time to build friendships, even buying them plate lunches.

“They’re going to use this trust that they’ve built up through multiple visits to the senior’s home as a way to leverage they’re pull over the senior,” Spallina said.

A victim in Kaimuki told Spallina she never saw it coming, and thought they were just friendly workers who wanted to do good.

“They were really shocked when they got the bill. They didn’t know how to respond. They did not think it was criminal. They just thought maybe they made a mistake,” Spallina said.

But it is criminal.

“It’s theft. It’s basically theft by deception. When you promise something for a certain amount of money with the intent to deceive another person, it’s theft,” Spallina said. “When you see multiple instances, especially in the same area of operation, then it is clearly stress by deception.”

While many yard workers are trustworthy, kupuna must be on the lookout for these scammers.

“It’s happening to our seniors. It’s happening on this island, and it’s happening today,” Spallina said. “This is not something that is a mainland crime, or happening on another island. It’s happening on the island of Oahu and it’s a current crime that is happening right now. We’re getting calls today about these kind of instances.”

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