published Friday, June 7th, 2013

DeKalb County, Ala., sheriff warns of 'gypsy' con artists

DeKalb County, Ala., Sheriff Jimmy Harris advised that everyone exercise caution this summer as traveling con artists begin moving across the Southeast.

He said these “gypsies” come mostly from the East Coast and are well organized in taking advantage of people.

Harris described one of the most common scams used is the “driveway repair.” The suspect will approach a “client” and give a story about having left-over asphalt from a large job. The offer is made to give a huge discount to pave a driveway. Once the “contract” is signed the $300 quote swells to several thousand dollars after the cheap mix is put down. Threats of liens are made to get the victim to pay and a settlement is usually reached still far exceeding the original agreement.

Harris recommended that any home repair a person did not call someone to do should be suspect. He added that reputable contractors do not go door-to-door soliciting businesses and said that if someone comes to a property wanting to do repair work a person should always ask for written quotes which detail labor and materials and the work to be completed. He also advised to get references which can be verified and never pay up front for materials.

Harris noted that door-to-door sales are legal in most cases but should not take place after dark. He said to not let strangers enter a home if alone and to always ask for identification and licenses for the items being sold. He recommended caution in not letting people leave one's sight while in one's home, to take note of vehicle descriptions and tag numbers, and to be suspicious and not let a guard down.

Harris reminded that phone and Internet scams are a daily problem and to use common sense as some one goes through these calls or e-mails. He said to never verify account information over the phone or Internet, not to wire money to collect money, not to cash a check to send money back. He added that lottery winnings do not require wiring any money to collect nor does collecting on an inheritance. He ended by stating that if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

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