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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Beware door-to-door con artists

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office would like to caution residents against door-to-door con artists.  These itinerant criminals known as “Travelers” and “Gypsies,” generally appear in the summertime and are often members of one family.  Annually these professionals collectively make millions of dollars off the vulnerability of older or unsuspecting Coloradoans.

A FRAUD ALERT!  supplied by the State of Colorado Office of the District Attorney offers these observations on recognizing “Travelers”:

They peddle asphalt paving, roofing and other repair work door-to-door.

They drive new pick-up trucks, typically with out-of-state license plates.

They prey on the elderly and are very friendly and polite.

They may say they have material left over from a previous job, or insist they previously did some work and need to “finish the job.”

They quote bargain prices, but demand much more money after the job.

They do poor quality work – or little or no work at all.

Recognizing “Gypsies”:

They impersonate water department, Public Service Company or city workers.  They may even wear a uniform and flash a badge.

They say they need to inspect pipes or the furnace, or weeds next to the homeowner’s property.

They will require the homeowner to accompany them to the basement, bathroom or backyard, under the premise of needing assistance.

They may say the homeowner is owed a rebate because utility bills are too high – then watch where the home owner goes to get change for a $50 bill.

While distracting the homeowner, others will ransack bedrooms in search of cash and jewelry.

“Travelers” and “Gypsies” travel extensively and work in well-organized teams.  Although they appear friendly and likeable, these itinerant criminals are a ruthless group of thieves, who consider themselves superior to other criminals and citizens.  They further believe their elderly victims deserve to be conned.

If you are considering having any work done, check first with the Better Business Bureau.  Ask for recommendations from previous clients.  Check references.  Get estimates from other local firms who do the same type of work.  If you are being charged, for example, by the square foot, measure the area yourself.

If you suspect Travelers or Gypsies are in your neighborhood, don’t answer your door, never let strangers in your home.  And above all, call Larimer County Sheriff’s Office at 970-416-1985 if you live in the county or your Police Services if you reside in the city limits.

From the Berthoud Recorder February 19, 2008

We thought you might like to know a little more about the “Travelers” who were recently reported to be in our area. The Travelers are of European descent and are divided into three clans based on their ancestry: English, Scottish or Irish. The Scottish and Irish Travelers may speak with a burr. As a rule, they do not associate with people outside their own clans.

There is surprisingly little information on the Internet about the Travelers. The few articles about the Irish and the descriptions are probably valid for the other clans. While the Travelers are scattered throughout the country, Murphy Village, S. C., is by far the largest, most affluent, and best known of all the populations of Irish Travelers.

According to the book, “License To Steal, Traveling Con Artists, Their Games, Their Rules — Your Money” by Dennis Marlock & John Dowling, “Every year new mansions are erected in Murphy Village and the manifest opulence of the community grows. It fosters a resentment among nearby non-Travelers or “country folk,” as the Travelers call them. The Travelers are aloof and reclusive, having little to do with the encysting community. They interact with outsiders rarely, reject overtures of friendliness or neighborliness, and refrain from participating in the social activities of the area. In doing so, the Travelers have made themselves easy to dislike. Building houses well above the means of others about them simply fuels the antagonism.”

The Travelers profess to have a high moral standard, but it applies only within their group and the rest of us “country folk” are fair game for their activities and obviously, those activities are very lucrative.

Children only go to school through the eighth grade and that only because it is required. The Travelers do not like having their children in school, as they do not want them learning about the outside world. The boys’ education in the family business begins early when they accompany their fathers and uncles for several summers and learn how to perform the swindles that are so profitable. After years of learning from the experts, these young men are charming, glib, persuasive, and persistent and ready to go out on their own. They may be some of the best salesmen in the world.

Each spring the Travelers leave their enclaves to prey on the rest of the country, migrating from state to state looking for victims. When they reach the state line, they may stop to change their license plates and driver licenses. The Travelers usually have multiple license plates, driver’s licenses, social security cards, birth certificates and other pertinent data. They are well prepared and very good at what they do.

They have also been known to represent themselves as utility company or city employees to gain entry into a home. In some cases victims were found bound and beaten. Police have also found concealed weapons in some Traveler vehicles. These people are dangerous; do not try to deal with them yourself, call law enforcement immediately.

One of the common ploys is the roof repair or treatment scam. They offer to seal the roof so it will last longer. The cost is only $200 and they “guarantee” the work. They may even do it without your approval. While you are out watching the work, there is likely to be someone inside the home helping themselves to your valuables. After they spray your roof with a mixture of diesel oil and silver paint, they inform you that they found problems, which they repaired, and the cost will now be $2,000. They will apply a great deal of pressure on you to pay and may threaten legal action. Don’t be alarmed by this, it is an idle threat. Travelers will not stay in an area long enough to pursue a lawsuit. It takes a great deal of paperwork and time to file a small claims case and several months before it gets on the docket. They also prefer not to have any contact with the legal system.

Some Travelers also engage in auto body repair scams, usually picking their victim as they come from a reputable shop where they just received an estimate. The Traveler will represent himself as being from another firm and offer to do the work off duty for considerably less money. The work will be shoddy, but the car won’t be returned until payment is made. Travelers have also been known to approach victims at a gas station or shopping mall parking lot. They jump out of their truck and start doing the work before the owner can say no and then pressure the victim into paying.

The Irish Travelers also have a tool-selling swindle. The machine tools from the Rebel Tool and Equipment Company are shoddy pieces of equipment made in Asia. For example, a $3,690 hydraulic hoist costs the distributor $150. The Traveler can sell the equipment for far less than the “list” price and still make a huge profit and the tool will probably break the first time it is used.

Unfortunately for law enforcement, most victims do not want to press charges because they don’t want anyone to know how foolish they were. Remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it isn’t true. The Travelers are in our area. Don’t be a victim; don’t deal with strangers who approach you; do call 911.

Oh yes, don’t buy any lightning rods either.

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