Traveling Criminals: Take the Money and Run

By Mazzone, Gary L. | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, July 1994 | Go to article overview

Traveling Criminals: Take the Money and Run

Mazzone, Gary L., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

Throughout the United States, both law enforcement and consumer protection agencies receive complaints daily of con games and other criminal scams. While many of these schemes are perpetrated by con artists who reside and ply their trades only in their local areas, an increasing number of scams are committed by highly mobile criminal groups who travel from area to area stealing from citizens and escaping the detection of law enforcement.

The two major groups of traveling criminals now operating in the United States--the Rom Gypsies and the Travelers--have long histories in North America. Today, these two separate, and often competing, groups employ similar tactics to steal from unsuspecting victims. By understanding these groups' methods, law enforcement agencies can better protect the citizens of their communities.


The Travelers first came to the United States in large numbers during the English migration of the 1700s and then again during the Irish potato famine in the 1840s. Today, an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 Travelers reside in the United States.(1)

Gypsies arrived in North America during the great wave of European migration from 1880 through the early 1900s. Gypsologists estimate that approximately 1 million Rom Gypsies currently reside throughout North America.(2)

The two groups do not interact. Travelers resent being called Gypsies. Gypsies, on the other hand, refer to themselves as the Rom, speak an unwritten language known as Romaines, and do not appreciate being mistaken for Travelers.

Certainly, not all Travelers or Gypsies participate in illicit activity. However, those who do generally carry on criminal traditions that have evolved over many generations.

Home Improvement Scams

Typically, Travelers and Gypsies who do engage in crime are on the road plying their trades between 40 and 70 percent of the year. Members of both groups often represent themselves as self-employed home improvement contractors. They may pose as driveway sealers, basement and roof waterproofing specialists, or painters. As with many con artists, their preferred victims are the elderly.

In most cases, the group members do perform some type of work, though of extremely poor quality. They may spray roofs with a steam mist that they represent as sealant. The waterproofing agent used may be, in reality, thinned black paint. Their driveway sealant may be nothing more than drain oil.

The initial prices quoted may often appear quite reasonable, only to be grossly inflated when the job is finished. For example, a driveway may be quoted as requiring four pails of sealant at $20 a pail. When the job is completed, the contractor tells the victims that there must have been a misunderstanding--the job required 40 pails--and then applies pressure to secure payment.

Home Invasions

Additionally, both groups have been known to commit home invasions while they negotiate or perform residential improvement jobs, or as a predetermined sole objective. These invasions typically involve one or more group members searching for cash or jewelry, while another member of the group diverts the victim's attention. Alternately, group members may pose as public utility workers to gain entrance to a residence. Home invasions may also be performed openly in front of elderly victims.


Rom Gypsies

While both Travelers and Rom Gypsies commit many similar crimes, each group also specializes in particular types of criminal schemes. Gypsies, for example, often commit a slight variation of the home invasion scam, using only female group members to perform the con and to gain entry.

Gypsies also specialize in fortune telling--often seeking out elderly victims or individuals who have recently undergone some emotionally distressing experience. These scams usually begin innocently with a quick palm reading for $5 to $20. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Traveling Criminals: Take the Money and Run


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.