Australia has plenty of hardworking tradespeople (also known as 'tradies') who go around working on people's property. But unfortunately, there are unscrupulous con artists going around posing as fake tradies and scamming people out of their money.
So in order to try and minimise any fake tradie scam from being pulled off, we're going to take a deep dive into how fake tradies operate, what to look out for with this scam, how to protect yourself, and what to do if you spot a fake tradie.
If you need support or just someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.
How fake tradies operate
Fake tradies will offer to do maintenance work on your property (such as driveway resurfacing, painting, roof repairs and carpet cleaning), only to take your money and leave you with unfinished or less-than-subpar quality work.
Natural disasters, such as bushfires and floods, will often draw more fake tradies out of hiding due to the increased number of vulnerable people who require repairs to their property.
These con artists have a number of sophisticated methods to attract potential victims, including:
Flyers that have industry standard logos, Australian Business Numbers (ABN) and Australian Company Numbers (ACN)
Websites that look genuine
Signage on light poles or traffic lights
Door-knocking with 'today only' specials.
Fake tradies generally target older and more vulnerable people and will ask for cash before starting any work - to the point where they will offer to drive you to an ATM. These con artists act quickly and will usually only offer a first name and mobile number, which makes contacting them afterwards difficult.
What to look out for
There are several things that raise red flags, including:
Flyers that look legitimate but offer services at reduced prices.
People who knock on your door, or approach you while you are in the garden and offer to do things like paint your house, work on your garden, resurface driveways, or fix your roof.
Anyone who offers cheap deals using words like 'for today only', has an excuse such as having leftover materials from another job, or says they can do the job now as another one nearby has cancelled.
Anyone who only provides their first name and mobile number.
Anyone who asks for cash upfront.
Anyone who pressures you to accept their offer and offers to drive you to the bank to get money to pay for the job.
How to protect yourself from fake tradies
The most important thing to know is that you can ask a fake tradie to leave your property. If they refuse, they are breaking the law and you can call the police.
Other things you can do to protect yourself, especially if you want work done on your house include:
Shop around for a quote that is right for you. Try to get at least three quotes from three different businesses.
Use established tradespeople who provide written quotes.
Ask friends and neighbours for recommendations.
Ask for contact details of previous clients, so you can check references.
Ask for their full name and registration or licence details, then do a check with the relevant authority.
Independently find the business’s contact details if someone claims to be working for a company.
Do not sign anything until you’re ready and you've had someone you trust check them over.
Report fake tradies
If you know of fake tradies operating in your area, you can report them to the authorities. Make sure you:
Record as much information as you can, such as their name and vehicle registration.
Keep flyers and paperwork such as receipts.
Report them to the national travelling conmen hotline on 1300 133 408 or visit Scamwatch.
Report them to your local police.
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All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.