Be On The Lookout: Pine Straw Scams

By Tim Cook - timc@landings.org
Security Director

Spring is right around the corner, and you may have already started sprucing up your yard. For the past few years, Security has seen an influx of pine straw vendors around this time, and 2021 is no different. Last week, we had a pine straw vendor enter the community on the premise of a job at one residence. A Security officer located the vendor at a different home attempting to solicit business shortly after gaining entry, and the individuals were promptly escorted off the property. Thanks to our Security Officer’s quick thinking, at least one homeowner was saved from becoming the next victim of a probable pine straw scam.

If you are not familiar with pine straw scams, here is the short version. After gaining access for one job, a crew of two-to-four men drives around and asks residents if they need pine straw in their yard. They offer to install the pine straw at $4 per bale. The homeowner agrees, and the landscapers get to work. However, upon completion, the final bill is often double or triple what was initially quoted. When the homeowner balks at the price and refuses to pay, the landscapers become confrontational and try to verbally strong-arm the homeowner into payment. Typically, the owner agrees to pay a portion of the bill, which still is more than they usually would have paid. The men leave and move on to the next victim. Chatham County Police Department (CCPD) has worked well with TLA Security and several individuals have been issued Criminal Trespass Notices.

Would you be surprised if I told you this particular scam has been around for years, and it occurs all over Southern states. A Google search about pine straw scams in Georgia results in pages upon pages of news articles and warnings on websites like Nextdoor. The most recent article I found was dated January 15, 2021, out of Macon. Please do not become one of those articles! Take the following steps to avoid falling prey to these swindlers.

  • Use a reputable landscape company with references. Anyone can order business cards online and appear to be a legitimate company.
  • Get a written estimate before any work begins, and never pay anything upfront.
  • Make sure they know to inform you immediately if there will be an increase in cost.
  • Contact Landings Security immediately regarding any unsolicited door-to-door salespeople.