NEWPORT NEWS -- Greg Harris says he's a lucky man. It's an unusual statement given the fact that a massive tree crumbled the entire second floor of his home and leveled the roof of the home next door on Maple Avenue in Newport News.
He's just glad his family wasn't there and no one was hurt. He also feels glad that so far, no one has tried to take advantage of his misfortune. Storms usually bring out con artists looking to make a quick buck. Harris says he's taking precautions.
"Be patient. Wait for your insurance to come, so you won't get gouged, " says Harris.
Harris has gotten three estimates on how much it would cost to have the tree removed and he's suspicious. The lowest one is about $3,000 and he thinks it's just someone who wants to make quick money.
Brandon Grigg has been in the tree business for 14 years with Grigg Brothers Tree Service in Virginia Beach. He says homeowners need to be wary of people offering extremely low estimates but high ones too.
"If you get prices, $9,000, $12,000 for one three, someone's trying to gouge you," Grigg says.
The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is opening a consumer protection hotline for consumers to lodge complaints related to Hurricane Irene, including price gouging, scheme related to home repair or tree removal.
Commissioner Matthew Lohr says there are warning sign of possible fraud. He advises to be especially wary when strangers show up at your door offering to do repairs and watch out when they claim to have materials left over from another job and will do your job for half the price. Also, always get a written estimate and references and never give up money up front.
To register a complaint, call VDACS at 1-800-552-9963.