Be wary of nomadic travellers offering home improvement services

Sylvan Lake RCMP are warning residents to be wary of a group of nomadic individuals who are believed in Alberta offering home repair

Sylvan Lake RCMP are warning residents to be wary of a group of nomadic individuals who are believed in Alberta offering home repair services.

Cpl. Malcolm Callihoo said anyone operating a business within town limits must obtain a business license. “These groups will likely not have a valid license and both Sylvan Lake Protective Services and the RCMP should be contacted to ensure we can deal with these groups prior to them victimizing local citizens.”

Known in enforcement circles as “Travellers”, but also referred to as Gypsy/Irish Pavers, these are a distinct group of nomadic individuals that arrive in Canada (from the USA, the United Kingdom and Ireland) and operate as unlicensed, itinerant contractors. These groups often reside in campgrounds or trailers parks just outside major urban centers working the rural peripheries of the larger centres and small rural communities. They tend to visit Alberta in the spring each year. These groups run scams involving paving, painting, roofing, rain gutters, chimney repair or any other home renovations.

A typical sales pitch is that they are working in the neighbourhood and can offer a reduced rate for a particular job. Their work may be of poor quality and the consumer often ends up paying considerably more to fix the shoddy outcome. Targets of these groups are often seniors who succumb to high pressure sales tactics. The Travellers constantly, and aggressively, approach their victims until they have received as much money as the scam artist feels he/she can get out of the victim.

Possible warning signs include:

• knock on your door offering a special price because they just happen to be doing work in the area.

• promise a discount if you allow them to use your home to advertise their work. (The same offer is likely made to everyone.)

• quote a price without seeing the actual job

• demand a large down payment for materials

• conduct a free inspection of your home and then suggest major repairs

• unmarked truck or van with out of province licence plates

• no business identification, local address or phone number, no local references.

Education, prevention and consumer awareness are the best ways to deal with unscrupulous contractors. Investigations, after the fact, may not have successful outcomes: these individuals typically stay in a community for only a short time, making it difficult for police to identify, locate and, when possible, obtain evidence and charge them. It is important for homeowners to know their rights and the protections that exist so that they can be confident in the people they hire. Service Alberta has an eight page Home Renovations Tipsheet that helps homeowners determine a qualified and competent contractor (www.servicealber ta.gov.ab.ca/pdf/tipsheets/Home_Renovations.pdf)

The RCMP suggests that consumers use caution when accepting unsolicited offers for service, especially if the person is using one of the above mentioned techniques to obtain your business.

To report a scam occurring in your area, please contact Sylvan Lake RCMP detachment at 403-858-7200.