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Scammers prey on ash-borer fears

State officials report a new scam that seeks to capitalize on the spread of the tree-killing emerald ash borer.

The consumer protection agency says some unscrupulous tree companies are going door to door and using high-pressure sales pitches to urge people to treat or remove their trees. Department administrator Sandy Chalmers says the pitch is being made in places where the ash borer has not been found, and the shady operators are pointing to drought-stricken trees as evidence that their owners need to take action.

Chalmers says most tree-care firms in Wisconsin are legitimate, but some operators are telling people that the ash borer is in their neighborhood, even when it isn't.

Only 12 of Wisconsin's 72 counties have been hit with the beetle. Before agreeing to any offer, the Consumer Protection Department recommends that people check the state's web site at for updates. Officials also suggest that consumers call a reputable local tree firm with a good reputation and get a cost estimate, as well as checking to see if the treatment firm has a state pesticide license and getting a written contract.