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SWAMPSCOTT — The Police Department is warning residents of the town and surrounding communities about individuals who defraud private citizens by posing as handymen.
“We are coming out of the winter and usually people start thinking about doing some work on their house in early spring,” said Detective Ted Delano. “These individuals know that and start the campaign to defraud people as door-to-door solicitors.”
Delano has recently encountered a suspicious man going door to door in the Shepard Avenue area of the town, next to the Marblehead town line. The detective said he came up to an individual to check if he was registered with the town to be able to solicit under the bylaw of hawkers and peddlers.
Delano said the individual, whose first name was Pat, stated that he did not have any ID with him and was very evasive with questions about how he came to Swampscott, why he was going door to door and if he was with anyone else. The man was wearing a high-visibility construction vest, giving him the appearance of a construction worker.
After Delano was able to obtain an ID from the man, he discovered that the man had issues with fraudulent activity in other communities. The detective charged the man with a violation of the town bylaw via summons, meaning that the man will have to appear in court at a later date.
Delano noticed that the man had an Irish accent. The Swampscott Police Department believes he might be a part of the so-called “Irish Travelers,” said Sgt. Jay Locke, spokesperson for the department.
This organized-crime group is known to law enforcement and the U.S. State Department for intentionally targeting people by offering to perform roofing, carpentry, masonry, painting or other work around their properties. Members of the group are known to have heavy Irish accents, Delano said.
When the homeowners agree to hire them, the scammers take money to start the project. Sometimes they return with some supplies, begin working and then ask for more funds. Eventually, they abandon the project, sometimes in a much worse condition than when it started, said Locke.
“This group has been known to especially target elderly people, which is very unfortunate,” said Delano. “These individuals have no problem taking advantage of people.”
Delano said he would encourage anyone who encounters such suspicious individuals to call the police, as anyone who is soliciting in Swampscott is required to be registered with the town. Legal solicitors pay a fee for the registration and have their criminal history checked by the Swampscott Police Department.
If all goes well and they get issued an ID or permit, solicitors are required to display this ID when working so that anyone who approaches can see it. Religious groups, nonprofit organizations and political groups are exempt from this town bylaw, Delano said.
“I am positive that Detective Delano’s awareness and proactive encounter with this male avoided a situation where a resident of Swampscott could have been potentially scammed out of money, as well as their homes would be left damaged,” said Locke. “(It is) a reminder to residents that they should be cautious when someone does come to their door offering services or goods.”
If you are not completely sure of the validity of the individual you are dealing with, said Locke, do not let anyone into your home or give out any money, bank or credit card information.
“If you have any questions in the moment or after the encounter, call the Town Hall or the Swampscott Police immediately,” said Locke. “Time is always a factor in helping with these situations.”