NORTH Coast residents are being warned to be on the look-out for shonky itinerant scammers posing as legitimate tradespeople.
NSW Fair Trading has been investigating the travelling con-artists, tracking their movements, gathering intelligence and compiling profiles that paint disturbing pictures of extremely well-organised gangs.
Each spring, many of the itinerants travel from the UK and Ireland working up and down the east coast of Australia and travelling in expensive four-wheel drives towing luxury caravans.
They are cashed-up, shameless and unscrupulous, said Fair Trading officer Teresa Mullan.
"We expect them to be reactivating their scams on the Northern Rivers and we urge the public to contact the department at the earliest opportunity on 133220 if they see them or are approached with offers of cheap cash jobs," she said.
NSW Fair Trading has initiated an aggressive national strategy to stamp out illegal itinerant traders, including bitumen bandits, dodgy roof painters and van scammers selling cheap electrical products.
"We've been tracking them, we've got intelligence and we're working closely with other regulators and law enforcement agencies in a determined effort to stamp out illegal itinerants," Ms Mullan said.
"Domestic-based gangs are under surveillance all year round, but spring and summer are the key times for overseas itinerants to run their scams - they usually come across from the UK and Ireland and often have connections with local gangs, but they all have one thing in common - to rip off vulnerable and trusting Australians and take them for their hard-earned money in their own homes."
This year NSW Fair Trading and its interstate counterparts have agreed to a proposal from the NSW Government that will provide unprecedented cross-border co-operation on illegal trading.
Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts said the department would invest $1.4 million in 2011/2012 on the new strategy and workclosely with the NSW Police Force, the NSW Crime Commission and the NSW State Debt RecoveryOffice.
"We will use the new Australian Consumer Law against the persistent and pernicious practices of illegal itinerant traders who prey on the vulnerable, the trusting and the poor; work has already commenced."