If you live anywhere between Alabama and Delaware you are on the pathway of the "Irish Travelers." Sometimes they’re called "Gypsy Travelers." Many of them live in South Carolina in homes that were paid for by unwitting victims. There are about 7,000 Irish Travelers living and working in the U.S. Their ancestors immigrated here in the 1800s.
"They have a regular circuit just like the fair," says a detective. "They’ve already worked the first round and we’re expecting them back again any day now."
One of their latest scams is this: they especially like to target older folks because they’re so trusting. They’ll offer to pressure wash your house, clean the gutters, and do minor exterior repairs.
The Travelers spray the house with a hose for less than an hour, then come to the front door and ask for a small check to purchase additional materials. They promise to give you credit against your final bill.
Travelers are slick. Because the name they give themselves is difficult to spell, they offer to make out the check for you. They’ll enter the amount of 20 dollars on the far right side of the "amount box" on the victim’s check. Then they ask the victim to sign the check.
"I’ll be right back," says the Irish Traveler, "my mates will stay here until I return." That’s the last you’ll see that fellow. And he’ll be barely out of sight when his "mates" gather up their stuff to "go get lunch."
Now, everybody’s gone. When the leader cashes the victim’s check, he’s added a "50" or a "100" to the left of the check, making it worth $5,020 or $10,020.
Banks in the southeast have reported losses ranging from $25,000 to $45,000 in a single day. Police believe that for every reported victim of the Irish Travelers there are two or three others too embarrassed to report the flimflam.
The solution? Deal only with business people from your community that you know. If you’re offered a deal that’s too good to be true, it probably is: too good to be true.
Copyright-Bob Ford 2003