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LPD: Keep an Eye Out for 'Gypsy Scams'

According to the Lexington Police Department, three of this week’s calls reporting suspicious activity sounded like they could have been 'gypsy scams.' Members of the LPD offered a few red flags -- add your own scam signals using the comments box below.

If the solicited work sounds too good to be true, then it probably is, police said this week following several familiar sounding reports of suspicious activity around town.

The morning of Wednesday, Jan. 25, a Massachusetts Avenue resident reported four men came to her door offering to pave her driveway, insinuating the work would be part of a nearby town job but she’d have to pay for it. 

The following morning, Thursday, Jan. 26, a Westwood Road resident reported two men came to her door claiming to be from a tree company her husband contracted to take down a few trees near powerlines in the backyard. The woman confirmed her husband did not contract the work and called the police.

Police also received a report of an individual claiming to be a town meter reader who left quickly after being asked to present identification. 

According to police, each of these interactions fit the description of scams perpetuated by roaming crews more common throughout the area in warmer months. 

“We don’t have any evidence to prove that’s what it is, but we’re on alert that this could be starting up,” said Lt. James Barry, a spokesman for the .

Residents also should be on alert for offers for driveway paving or sealing, yard work, tree trimming or meter-reading , according to police, who said there have been reports of similar activity in nearby towns, as well.

“Soliciting to your door should put you on alert,” said Det. Steve Garabedian. “If someone does come to your door, they should be well ID’d.”

A common rouse, according to Garabedian, is for a man to suggest coming onto the property and dropping trees in the backyard while a partner enters the house to burgle it.

There are similarities between that description and the report from Westwood Road Thursday morning. 

According to the police report, at 9:47 a.m., a Westwood Road resident reported two white men came to her door claiming to be from a tree company. After the woman’s husband contradicted their claim that he hired them, she told police the men reportedly left the area in a white truck with a yellow diamond emblem on the side.

In addition to random solicitation of work, police offered a few other red flags for possible scams:

  • Insistence that transactions be paid in cash
  • Driveway paving or sealing work offered to be done at discounted rates with materials leftover from a nearby job
  • No Identification
  • If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • Tree work with references to power lines  
Vicki Blier January 28, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Calling this a "gypsy" scam adds nothing useful to the information, but it does slur an entire ethnic group. No one has any way of knowing the ethnic origins of these scam artists. I bet they are are conducted by low-lifes of a variety of ethnic backgrounds. I think that we are all trying to get beyond this type of ethnic slur, but somehow we have trouble letting it go when it comes to the assumptions we make about gypsies.
Patrick Ball (Editor) January 28, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Hi Vicki, Thanks for reading and commenting. First and foremost, please let me apologize if the use of "gypsy" with regard to these scams offends you. The scams were described this way and the headline should (and will) include quotation marks. I certainly do not mean to point a finger at or slur an ethnic group. Used as an informal lowercase adjective, "gypsy" can also refer to nonunion or non-licensed service providers who move from place to place and often work off the books. In this case, the Lexington Police believe these reports fit the description of seasonal scams often linked to work crews that move through the area.
x January 29, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Sister Vicki, We have to wonder what bubble you've been living under. France, which tolerates virtually anything, has deported Gypsies back to Romania. Here in our area, Gypsies or gypsies have committed numerous seasonal crimes. It is an ethnic group that deserves to have a finger pointed at it... see France. Patrick, no apology was needed. Your supposed to be an editor, not a slave to political correctness. Your spiritual advisor, Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
Vicki Blier January 29, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Ask someone who is Jewish how they feel about "jew" with a lower-case "j", when referring to activities involving money... and that's in the dictionary too. By the way, Gypsies are not Romanian, altho many live in Romania. They are actually descendants of an Indian caste. There's as good a chance that our local scammers are Italian, or Hispanic, or Canadian, or just plain American.... again, designating them with an ethnically-derived label does not give us any added piece of information that we can use to protect ourselves. The word "scam" is sufficient without adding "gypsy." But apparently it does give joy and satisfaction to Reverend Pimperton!
x January 29, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Sister Vicki, I get the picture... no negative stereotypes allowed. None of any kind, as someone might be offended. I will try to avoid the phrase 'Italian cruise ship captain' over the next few months. How about positive stereotypes - can we use those? For example 'American inventiveness' - the sort you showed in looking Gypsy up in Wikipedia. I'm worried that this phrase might leave other national and ethnic groups feeling dumb and left out. In any case, let's all be nice, Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
John Andrews January 29, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Last year a well-groomed young man with a pronounced Irish accent knocked on the door of my Lexington home and offered to pave my driveway at a really good price. I signed a contract. But I became suspicious when I couldn't find his paving company listed as a licensed contractor on the state website. Nor could I find his company address anywhere on the internet. Then I stumbled across articles on the "Irish travelers" - a clan of traveling scam artists that originated in Ireland. It said they often do substandard work and then move on before the defects begin to emerge. I cancelled the contract. I later got my driveway paved by an established local business that did a great job at only a slightly greater price. Bottom line: Check the credentials of anyone who shows up at your door. Deal with local businesses. And don't fall for the idea that ethnic labels tell you who to trust.
Joe Deveau February 01, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Good for you John, I am a painting contractor here in town. I started my business in Belmont in 1978. Through out these past 33 years, I had to keep my paper work up to date: workers compensation, liability insurance, home improvement license and just recently an E.P.A certificate. In these difficult financial times we must all be aware of scams. It is quite simple to check out proof of insurances' and licenses. Buyer Beware!
Patrick Ball (Editor) February 01, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Joe, Thanks for reading and commenting. It's great to hear someone who has kept up on his paperwork weighing in on the importance of customers being vigilant to protect themselves from scams. And John, thanks for sharing your experiences. In just the past few days, Lexington's Town Manager, Carl Valente, has publicly shared the an advisory from Police Chief Mark Corr that an alert resident took down a license plate after becoming suspicious of a scam and that plate was traced back to a person known in the are for perpetrating work scams.
Patrick Ball (Editor) February 08, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Folks, I just deleted a comment from a user called mikemills. The gist of his message was that some door-knockers are legit and nobody forces work onto anyone, but then he threatened violence so his comment got taken down.
x February 08, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Patrick, Thanks for the update. We don't want no violence here. Suggest the term 'gypsy scam' be stricken from our vocabulary, to be replaced with 'business proposal by disadvantaged multicultural person'. Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
mikemills February 08, 2012 at 04:09 PM
No violence no threats to anyone i just said if someone called me a gypsy there would be a problem i hate gypsys scum like them make it hard for guys like us tryin to make a livin i work from morning till night lets see this guy grab a chainsaw and climb eighty feet in the air and cut a tree down
mike.s April 26, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I agree gypsys are so bad right I agree. But do they murder or rape people or gang violence I didn't think so. So before judging its not good what they have done but keep in mind its the black people and Mexicans and the whites who commit the worst crimes there is if u don't believe me turn on the news. Or CNN
marymoon April 09, 2013 at 04:41 PM
WOW! I came to this site looking for information on Gypsy people because I don't know anything about their country of origin, primary faith, etc. Instead I got this. Really? Really, people?

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