Officers warn of asphalt paving scam in Dickinson
As construction season starts to heat up in North Dakota, Dickinson Police officers are warning residents of an alleged construction scam after an anonymous tipster alerted authorities that so-called “gypsy pavers” are back in the area.
The ploy is simple: Contractors go door to door, unsolicited, with a truck full of asphalt they claim is left over from a previous job. They offer to pave the driveway, guaranteeing their work for several years. They’re persistent to the point of pushy, and after the work is done, they practically vanish, leaving customers with shoddy paving and no way of contacting the contractors.
This particular group of contractors is reportedly out of Fort Worth, Texas, but similar scams have been reported as far away as Maine and Colorado. A string of incidents hit western North Dakota a couple of years ago, Dickinson Police Sgt. Kylan Klauzer said.
The tipster, who refused to give his name, said he worked for the pavers for six months back in 2011 but left after he became suspicious of their work.
Customers “think they’re getting a good deal,” he said, but they don’t know until too late that they’ve been scammed.
Klauzer said officers haven’t received reports of any suspicious work in town yet, but officers are “trying to be proactive instead of reactive” by getting the word out early.
“With weather warming up, obviously we’re a prime economy toward these sorts of businesses trying to scam people,” he said, particularly easy targets like the elderly.
The anonymous former employee also contacted the nearby Billings County Sheriff Department to report possible scam artists handing out business cards in town, said Deputy Sheriff John Tczap, adding, “as far as I know, they haven’t done any work there yet.”
The operation is difficult to track; the contractors often work under fake names, or very generic company names, and typically accept only cash payments. Workers will buy phones with local area codes, even print business cards with local addresses, in order to boost their credibility, Klauzer said.
He said homeowners should follow the “see something, say something” adage if they suspect they’re being scammed by the fly-by-night workers; he recommended calling the Dickinson Police non-emergency number to report complaints.