They can be rogues with a brogue, blue-eyed bandits or charlatans charming the birds out of the trees, but invariably it’s the vulnerable, the elderly and the economically disadvantaged who are their victims.
Travelling conmen have been a scourge across NSW for more than a decade. Now, in Fair Trading Week, Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe is warning all residents in NSW to be vigilant of itinerant tradies, offering roof repairs, driveway sealing, tree lopping – any sort of handyman work, but only if you pay cash up front and agree on the spot.
“Their chicanery knows no bounds. With a smile, a wink and often a beguiling accent, they knock on your door and make you believe they are doing you a favour,” Mr Stowe said.
“They may offer to stop that leak, mend a broken tile or fix a rusty pipe – all for an unbelievable price and even offer to drive you to an ATM.
“They will then pocket the cash and either scarper before any work has started, or botch the job and leave you to clean up the mess. If someone comes knocking making an offer too good to be true, show them the door.”
Mr Stowe said many of the travelling con men (TCMs) were of English or Irish origin, worked in gangs and targeted specific regions of NSW, staying one step ahead of the law and the misery they leave behind.
“With warm weather and the storm season approaching, this is a busy time of the year for travelling conmen so it is important to keep an eye out for suspicious activity in your local area,” he said.
So far this year, Fair Trading has prosecuted 19 individuals and six companies for TCM activity, issuing fines totalling $67,900.
Between October 2011 and October 2015 a dedicated national hotline received 1,681 reports of TCM activity. Between 1 July 2013 and 19 October 2015, more than 380 calls to the hotline specifically related to NSW.
Crime Stoppers CEO Peter Price said locating and apprehending these criminals relied heavily on co-operation from the general public.
“The best way of stopping these crooks in their tracks is for people to not fall for the scam. Don’t be duped, know what to look out for, and help spread the word in your local area, so the whole community is informed and can send travelling conmen on their way.” Mr Price said.
“Crime Stoppers encourages anyone who has come into contact with someone they suspect may be a travelling conman to let us know right away.”
Crime Stoppers has also produced a video to help people spot the classic signs of a travelling conman.
To watch the video on travelling con men, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkTcTFmfX3Y
To report travelling con men in NSW call the National Travelling Conmen hotline on 1800 133 408 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. In an emergency, call 000.
For updated information on reported TCM activity, visit the Stop Travelling Conmen Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StopTravellingConMen or go to the Stop Travelling Conmen website: http://www.stoptravellingconmen.org/.