Local authorities are warning residents to watch out for scam artists targeting seniors with offers of low cost driveway paving and repairs.
A group of suspected traveling “gypsies,” as they are referred to by law enforcement, was spotted in eastern Dawson County last week, according to Maj. John Cagle, head of investigations with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.
Cagle received a tip Friday that a group was seen laying asphalt on a driveway on Hwy. 53 East. He said Forsyth County officials responded to a similar report the day before.
“Usually what happens when they are confronted by law enforcement is they’ll travel on to their next destination,” Cagle said. “They have it all mapped out. They know where they are going in advance.”
Cagle said the scam involves several players, who not only target seniors, but also set up surveillance in neighborhoods to determine where older adults live.
“We did not meet up with the alleged scammers, but Forsyth deputies did down in Forsyth,” he said. “Actually, the person I talked to approached them and one of them, a worker bee, got so nervous he left. Just left everybody out there. They’re not hard to spot.”
The typical offer made by the workers, Cagle said, is generally too good to be true. The pitch the workers make to homeowners, Cagle said, involves a story that they are laying asphalt down the street, have some left over and will coat the homeowner’s driveway for a couple hundred dollars. They then pave a portion of the driveway and tell the homeowner that finishing the job will cost a couple of thousand dollars.
“They’ll quote a price to finish it and it will seem reasonable,” Cagle said. “But you’re buying substandard, watered down asphalt that will just crack and go away as soon as it rains.”
Other scams include asphalt sealing and roofing scams, said Cagle.
“They’ll approach somebody and say ‘We’re in the neighborhood and noticed your roof was in need of repair.’ Sometimes they’ll actually have a ladder truck and they’ll actually get up on your roof, tear off a piece of shingle and come and bring it down to you.”
The “pitch man,” Cagle said, has the scam down. “He knows what to say. He’s a salesman. They say, ‘Look how bad this is. We can repair it.’ And they’ll go up on your roof and hammer a little bit and leave. But in the end they don’t repair anything, and they just take your money.”
Cagle said “gypsies” have a propensity to be dangerous, recounting a similar scam in Habersham County where an elderly woman was robbed of more than $100,000 she had in a safe inside her home after she agreed to let workers repair her driveway.
“They had no intentions of doing any kind of work, because their intention was to get in the house, distract people and steal from them,” Cagle said.
“When they saw a safe they just couldn’t leave without getting in the safe and that’s when they tied her up.“
The bottom line, Cagle said, “Don’t let people in your house. Don’t hire somebody that just shows up on your doorstep to do paving or roof work, if you don’t believe you need it.”
Residents are encouraged to report possible paving scams to the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office at (706) 344-3535.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.