Weatherford Democrat

January 31, 2014

Beware of so-called ‘Gypsy Travelers’

Con artists posing as home improvement contractors could be in the area


Weatherford Democrat

— Groups of people known as “Travelers” or “Gypsy Travelers” who target homes and businesses in scams to rip off unsuspecting people might be working in areas of Parker County.

A resident of the county said he has encountered them twice, but said he was already wise to them and their tactics.

“They are from Arizona and drive brand new pickups,” he said.

In general, they pose as contractors such as asphalt workers to repair driveways or utility contractors wanting to go inside a home under the guise they can make repairs to save the owner money through utility cost savings.

One of their spiels to targets of their con is that they have been in the area performing work and have leftover materials they can use at reduced costs to perform certain work.

They will typically quote a low price and perform some of the work before then demanding more money to complete the job. Sometimes they ask for the entire costs up front and leave before starting any work or completing the job. If given inside access and they have distracted the occupant, they will look for valuables they can steal, according to reports.

In the past couple of weeks similar groups have been reported in the San Antonio area.

As of Friday afternoon the Parker County Sheriff’s Department had received no complaints related to the Travelers or any similar groups.

In one recently reported case, the suspects dumped asphalt on an individual’s driveway then demanded money, becoming confrontational.

In another, a group offered to paint a house cheaply if the homeowner purchased the paint. The homeowner gave them $200 to buy paint. The group left their children behind as a way to prove they would return soon with the paint. But they left and did not return, and the homeowner said the children quickly ran off.

Even using checks to try and protect yourself might not work because they are quickly cashed in some instances, according to a report.

Anyone who believes con artists and potential thieves are working an area should call 911 and request an officer.

In the meantime:

• Don’t use a contractor you are not familiar with, referred to you by someone you know and trust or who can’t provide local references you can easily check.

• Don’t pay in cash and don’t pay the full amount before work begins or is completed.

• Get a signed contract detailing the work – materials and labor – that will be performed.

• Be very cautious about who you let into your home or business.

• If you did not seek out the contractor but was approached instead, be suspicious.

• Do not agree to any deals such as those described above and call law enforcement if someone threatens you or refuses to leave your property when requested.