A friendly looking fellow is knocking on your door. They introduce themselves as a tradesman, offering you a “today only” deal for roof repairs or house painting – jobs you’ve been meaning to do, but haven’t quite got to yet. You’re intrigued as the price they’re offering sounds like great deal. But don’t be fooled, you’ve just met a fake tradie (also known as a travelling con man).
What are fake tradies?
Fake tradies are dodgy tradespeople who offer to do home maintenance and repairs at cheap cash rates, then disappear with your money, leaving work badly done or unfinished. They tend to target older Australians and vulnerable people in their homes.
Fake tradies can be extremely sophisticated in how they try and attract your business. They know how to make their services sound appealing and look genuine.
How fake tradies work
Fake tradies will:
- Offer to do jobs that you would love to check off your to-do list such as driveway resurfacing, painting, roof repairs or carpet cleaning.
- Doorknock your home offering “today only” specials with super cheap cash rates.
- Ask for upfront payments in cash and may even offer to drive you to the bank.
- Often carry legitimate-looking flyers and business cards that include professional logos, ABN numbers and web addresses that lead to sites which look genuine.
- Put up signs promoting their services on light poles or traffic lights.
- Provide fake contact details, so you can’t follow up with them afterwards.
Sadly, fake tradies only end up doing substandard work or won’t finish the job at all. You won’t be able to contact them as they’ll provide you with a false name, phone number or email address. With your repairs half-finished, you’re angry, upset and out of pocket.
Protecting yourself from fake tradies
- Do plenty of research into a company or tradie before dealing with them.
- Shop around for a quote that is right for you. Try to get a minimum of 3 quotes if you can and ask a trusted family member to check them over for you.
- Always ask for the tradie's full name and whether they registered or licensed with the relevant industry association (such as the Victorian Building Authority or Energy Safe Victoria). Then check these with the relevant authority.
- Don’t rely on ID Badges, business cards or flyers as these can be faked.
- If they claim to be from a company, call their business on a number you have sourced yourself, to see if the person works for them.
- A trustworthy tradie won’t pressure you into making a decision or signing an agreement on the spot. They will happily answer your questions and won’t mind giving you time to decide.
- Check reviews on independent sites like Google, Yelp and True Local. Don’t rely on glowing testimonials on the tradie’s website or brochures.
- Seek recommendations for trusted tradies from family or friends, or in a local community or tradies Facebook group.
- Only use established tradespeople who provide quotes in writing.
- Don’t sign any agreement until you are ready and have had a trusted friend or family member read it over.
- Never pay the full amount upfront and avoid paying in cash. Your deposit should be no more than 10% of the total quoted price. Don’t make any further payments until you are satisfied that all work has been completed to the agreed standard, without any defects.
7 quick ways to outsmart fake tradies
- Seek recommendations and advice from family and friends.
- Don’t be pressured into making a decision on the spot.
- Shop around for a quote that’s right for you.
- Check to see if the tradie or company is genuine before committing to the work.
- Use reputable tradespeople who provide written quotes and don’t ask for payment in full, up front, in cash.
- Ask for contact details of previous clients, so you can check references.
- Don’t sign any agreement until you’re ready.
Reporting fake tradies
If you encounter a fake tradie, follow these steps:
- Keep any flyers and paperwork, including receipts.
- Record as much information as you can, including their name and vehicle registration.
- Report them to the National Travelling Con Men Hotline on 1300 133 408
- Report them to Victoria Police by calling the Police Assistance Line on 133 444