Need your driveway repaved or your shingles in bad repair? If a mystery group just happens to show up at your doorstep claiming over-ordering of supplies or some major price deal, you could very well be a potential victim of a Gypsy scam artist at work.
Another potential scam is about and this one isn't associated with the Internet. Instead, it is a door to door ordeal and has a group supposedly preying on the hardworking and legit homeowner. In a story that seems surreal simply based upon how many people end up on the losing end and how many scammers go unpunished, its a frightening trend that is sweeping the nation.
One of the very common scams going on right now is the paving scam, where what appears to be a legitimate business operator comes knocking on the door and claims that they are doing a job in the area and have ordered more asphalt than needed and will do work for you at a "massive discounted price." Too good to be true? They DO have a magnet on the side of their vehicle and even have state plates and business cards.
Well, in a news article in The Fort Worth Star Telegram, one retired police officer recognized the scammers and told them no. But many believe they are getting a spanking good deal at $2 US a square foot.
The scam comes into play when only a thin layer of asphalt is layed. When it washes away or cracks and the homeowner pulls out the business card to make a call to the contractor, there is no real business. Only a fake address and phone number.
Sadly, this is not new. Travellers, as they are called, can make a lot of money scamming people. They reportedly roam the country soliciting contract work. In the Star Telegram's report, an anonymous Traveller spoke about how much money could be made, saying "It is crazy how much money can be made," the informant said. "You can make $100,000 a week."
The Travellers are nomads from places like Ireland and Scotland. They come into an area en masse during warming months, take homeowners for what they can and then roll out, usually without any legal issues for the scam artists. And artists, they are.
The sad thing is that people answer their door and believe or trust that the people are legit. A trust that makes them vulnerable - something the Travellers may very well prey upon.
Due to fear of retribution, the anonymous informant told the paper that many see nothing wrong with what they are doing because it is a generational career. However, one Traveller in the Fort Worth area defended the acts of the nomadic clans, saying:
"They are good, God-fearing people. . . . The only reason the Travellers are different is because they are their own community," [Ted] Daley said. "If you take 100 gallons of milk and set it out there and check every one of them, some of the milk is not perfect. For the good, hardworking Travellers that do respect the law, it is a shame the others cause them grief."
Really? So being God-fearing makes scamming legitimate and otherwise legal?
Law enforcement officials warn people about the groups because they keep fake IDs and fake addresses, or at least addresses that no longer exist in their nomadic lives. They are right up their with Las Vegas Strip illusionists except at least on the Strip, you know that you are being had by a master of trickery.
And the reason they do it? Wealth. Supposedly, it is all about extracting from people whatever they can get. So they charge whatever price they can get for the job and the craftsmanship is shoddy. When November arrives, they typically return to their homelands to display their wealth in many luxurious forms.
This isn't to say that every nomadic person is illegit. Just that there are a lot who have capitalized on the ease of scamming. They can do the same work as the legitimate pros and scramble away mostly unscathed.
Targets have typically been the elderly in places like Idaho and when they are caught scamming, they are tough to prosecute according to one Idaho police officer in the article:
"Our prosecutors look at this as a civil problem," Davis said. "We tried our best to explain it is grand theft by deception. They view it as a contract. We are unable to prove it as a criminal act."
However, sometimes prudent citizens can help nab these scammers, some of whom have paved their golden path with stolen money for decades, like John Gormann who was arrested in Wisconsin for a multi-state roofing scam. There have been other arrests made as well but they are few and far between, with some agencies still not knowing what a Traveller is.
As reported, there are some 30,000 of these individuals in America today. Law-enforcement claims that they are tough to "infiltrate" due to their close knit society and their ability to speak Cant. They often marry their own relatives and they are often highly uneducated except for basic core skills.
Some other scams they try and pull, often successfully, are lightening rod scams where they show up on rainy days and charge around a $1,000 US to put up a lightening rod, only they don't do proper work. Roof repair and painting, where diluted substances are used are also common. The bottom line is that the work is often poor and information is often false, so there are no guarantees to be followed up on.
Accepting door to door work might not be a great idea to begin with but if the deal seems too incredible, it is always prudent consumer practice to recognize scams and to contact the appropriate authorities or local agencies to confirm work history and complaint record prior to entering into any contractual agreement.
While homeowners are in dire straits, these Travellers are said to be living it up at their expense. A twisted irony.