Saturday, March 11, 2006

I Did It Myself

Was the catch cry for the latest rort/scam.

We had a tenant phone a few weeks back asking that her house be painted on the inside only, as her kids had smeared excrement all over it. A quick check showed that the house wasn't due to be re-painted until about 2009, so we said, nope, sorry, can't be done.
"I'll get it done myself then." she answered. Fine, we said, as long as you don't bill us and you pay for it, we don't care. So off she toddled and rang some couple who specialize in doing affordable house-painting, got them in, got a quote and got the house painted. So far so good?


You see our tenant posed as a totally different person. The painter asked if she owned the home, she replied yes and to work they went. She doesn't own the home. The painter then sent the bill to her only to have it come right back with a 'Not at this address' stamp on it. The painter is confused, sends another invoice. Same result. You see she gave a false name. He then drives around to the house and places the invoice in the mail box. Same result. He then does a property/title search and discovers he's been had - it's one of our places. He then calls us on the phone and demands to know the tenants name. We can't tell him due to privacy laws. He's screaming. We suggest that he call the police. I did, he screams. It's a civil matter and they won't tell me her name either. By this stage he starts to break down in front of me. I run a small business, he says. It's going under because of people like her. I'm sorry,we just can't give out those details, we'll be in all kinds of trouble. He files a FOI form (not that it'll do any good) and off he goes.

I got a call from a pal of mine in the force. "Do you know anything about a Mr. ____?" Yep, I say and tell him the story from our end. Why?
"It appears that he's gone back to her house and started a scene. She's phoned us, we've gone out there and she's screamed through the windows: 'Don't tell him my name!!' Messy eh?" Yep, I say. What happens now?
"Nothing we can do. Poor bastards been ripped off by one of yours." Yep, I say. Happens every day.

Anyone out there in Current Affair land and wants a good story, just let me know. Honest builder, dodgy tenant. She knew exactly what she was doing, she knew the rort, played the scam and as a result has put some poor bastard out of pocket by a few grand. This will more than likely ruin him, not that she cares.

After all, her house is nice and freshly painted.


maelorin said...

he can still sue her.

he goes and gets himself a lawyer (or perhaps a debt collector? they're even nastier). a private investigator would have her sorted same-day i suspect.

he/she can also find out her name in many obvious ways - including the local electoral roll - which is a public document.

in any event, it is possible to sue a person even if they gave a false name.

of course, the cost is probably the main issue here. but it's fun to serve a summons on someone who's pulled a trick like this.

this is pretty straightforward fraud - she never intended to pay.

[i've known debt collectors to get very enthusiastic about this kind of thing, even for tiny debts.]

yes the process is expensive, but you just add the costs to the original debt.

or the tradie talks to their accountant and writes it off as a bad debt. there are ways to work that into the taxation stuff.

The Regional Support Clerk said...

The biggest problem for the painters is that they're a small operation - most people want the cash up front and they've told me they can't afford it. By all accounts she's not on the electrol role - I mean, she owes us money so I'd hazard a guess she doesn't want to be caught. The fact that she deliberatly used a false name means that you're right, she had it planned from day one to rip this guy off.

I expect that it's about to all come crashing down around her ears and when it does I hope it really hurts her. But then she'll just do what most of our scammers do - claim bankruptcy and just not pay. Hopefully, in this case, the court will also pass a sentance of a court imposed fine or community service. That'd be just.

Foilwoman said...

Why is this a civil matter? She used deception to defraud him. Do the Australian authorities not prosecute theft involving deception and scams? If not, Oz would simply be a paradise for con men. It seems to me that the police or the prosecuting attorney need to be a little more willing to step up to the plate.

The Regional Support Clerk said...

The biggest problem the painter has is before he can instigate any legal action he needs to know her name. Without that he's stuffed, and she knows it - hence she asked the police not to give him her name. Once he has that then he can take her to court.

The cops won't get involved simply because they can't - they also need her name before they can go any further. I'm going to follow it up later in the week if only to discover the outcome.

Foilwoman said...

But that just gives a bye to con artists every where. If someone robs you at gun point, you don't need to know his real name to make an arrest if you can identify the criminal by physical description enough for the police to find him. Same with DNA evidene. If they know where this con artist lives, that should be enough to start a criminal investigation. Otherwise, the police there should have their motto be: "Protecting You Against the Criminals You Don't Need Protection From (And Not From Those Who Do)". Some kind government clerk (who might that be?) should find the name of a sympathetic muckraking newspaper or TV reporter and give that person the name of the defrauded tradesman and see if that can light a fire under somebody.

The Regional Support Clerk said...

If there's any muckraking journo out there who wants some great stories (much like the ones I've already documented) then they're free to get in touch. They can leave a message with some details and who knows? Ratings, baby, ratings!

You don't have these problems in the States Foil?

Foilwoman said...

Oh, yes we do. But if someone knew where someone who had conned him lived, the police would be able to investigate. Collecting the money from someone who's judgment-proof would be a problem, but no-one would be denying that a crime had been committed and needed to be investigated and, I hope, prosecuted.

The Truth Fairy said...

hey today/tonight do pay for stories like this!

you should get in touch with them. they have a line-up at channel 7 most days for the producers to meet with low lifes who have a 'story' to sell.

make yourself some good bank bitch *mwa*

Jim said...

we're dealing with a local con-artist here in Charleston who is actually the painter... he specializes in getting half the money up front then never showing up to do the work. how in the world that is not theft by deception, I don't know.

the painter in your thread might be able get the vin number from the dash board on her car and use that to look up the her name... good luck to him!