Fake tradies are out in force and targeting older Australians

When the weather warms up, out come the flies – and the con men.

tradie painting

My widowed neighbour Catherine*, 87, knocked on my front door in obvious distress. I helped her to the kitchen and made her a cup of tea.

Two tradesmen had partially – and poorly – painted the eaves on her home and charged her $5000. Being helpful types, they drove her to the bank so she could withdraw the cash.

Catherine was as devastated at being duped as she was by the cost of the scam. She was embarrassed and suffered a major loss of confidence that had a lasting impact on her well-being.

That was five years ago and Consumer Affairs Victoria is warning that ‘fake tradies’ are out in force again – or should that be still – knocking on doors and dropping leaflets, offering a range of home improvement services.

Last month, a group of British con men were arrested and two men charged after allegedly duping customers while offering to do maintenance and repair work, The Age reported.

A 61-year-old British man was arrested for allegedly obtaining $30,000 from an unsuspecting pensioner in the Melbourne suburb of Beaumaris by falsely telling the man he had been fined for removing asbestos on their property.

“Almost half of all money lost to fake tradies reported to Consumer Affairs Victoria in the last financial year has been as a result of people following up an offer they received in the mail,” Inspector Bernie Edwards told The Age.

“If you want work done on your property, don't just use a flyer to make a decision, make sure you shop around for more than one written quote.

“The best protection against travelling con men is awareness, so we are asking everyone to spread the word and warn their families and friends to avoid handing over cash to fake tradies.”

Consumer Affairs Victoria warns that fake tradies can appear to be very sophisticated, using flyers with industry logos, Australian Business Numbers (ABN) and Australian Company Numbers (ACN).

“They look for houses that have handrails and ramps, often targeting older Victorians and vulnerable people,” a spokesperson said. “They ask for cash before starting the work and will offer to drive you to an ATM.

“They move quickly and usually give only a first name and mobile number, so contacting them afterwards is difficult.”

The department says you should be suspicious of:

  • 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 such tasks as paint the house, work on your garden or cut trees, resurface driveways and fix your roof
  • anyone who offers cheap deals using words such as “for today only’, asks for cash up front, pressures you to accept their offer, says they can do the job now as another nearby has just cancelled.

It says if you want work done on your house, you should:

  • shop around for a quote that is right for you
  • use established tradespeople who provide written quotes
  • ask for contact details of previous clients, so you can check references
  • do not sign any agreement until you are ready
  • ask for the tradesman's full name and registration or licence details (if applicable) so you can check these with their industry authority – especially if you have received a pamphlet about their services in your mailbox
  • ask for the business's number, so you can call to confirm whether the tradesman works for them.

If you know of fake tradies in your area, make a report to the local police or to the national travelling con men hotline on 1300 133 408 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

* Catherine is not her real name.

Have you been approached by a fake tradie or know someone who has? Do they seem to appear with warmer weather?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    13th Nov 2018
    Sadly, people in the country are at risk, because quite often, we find the good tradespeople have abandoned a steady stream of local work to gain more quick money by driving a coalmining truck.
    So in the country towns, good plumbers, electricians, builders, are getting scarce, and jerry building scammers find easier targets. Sadly also, the good tradespeople now doing heavy dangerous shift work lose their health, their contact with family, and their new money is lost on huge houses and more debt etc. Awful. Not only that, but a hailstorm brings a hail of scammers wanting to rip off sturdy old iron roofs lasting 100 years, for tinny colorbond... something to do with Insurance scams too perhaps. Wrong way to go.
    13th Nov 2018
    Hmmm not sure I can agree with your extrapolation of events Heskwith.

    The solution is quite simple. Never respond to unsolicited 'offers' of help with home maintenance you didn't know you needed.
    13th Nov 2018
    When Tradies were union members they had to hold the correct ticket for the work performed but since our stupid government cut back on Tafe training we have a shortage of real Tradies and have to import tradies of dubious trade qualification.
    13th Nov 2018
    Unfortuanately that isn’t correct, it has nothing to do with being a member of a union, coming from a trade background, you only need your tafe certificate, or other overseas credentials that are accepted in Australia, if you are an electrician for instances there are other credentials and licences that you need depending on the type of work, so I am afraid you are incorrect, it has nothing to do with the government that people are being scammed. Now if you had said that all governments have reduced the amount of trades people we have, I would agree, ever since Bob Hawke said every child has the right to go to university, many people who went to university were not suitable and would have been far better going to TAFE, I agreed that everyone is entitled to receive the best start in life and if that meant going to university so be it, I was wrong, the idea put forward was that everyone should have the same opportunity to secure a highly paid job that came with a university education, unfortunately that hasn’t materialised, no doubt there are a variety of reasons, and at the end of the day many trades people earn a far better income than people with a degree.
    Not a Bludger
    13th Nov 2018
    Floss - rubbish - they are travelling gypsy con men (not tradies at all) and gypsies have been travelling Europe and the world conning people for centuries.

    And, stop trying to turn a serious problem into a support for thug, crooked unions.
    13th Nov 2018
    And the fully accredited and registered Australian born and bred tradie who totally botched my bathroom renovation, who lost the against him in the local, district and high courts of Australia and still refuses to make restitution is the paragon of tradie virtue then Floss?
    Old Geezer
    13th Nov 2018
    Just ask them for a Certificate of Currency and then ring the company that issued it to see if it valid.
    13th Nov 2018
    The article mentions that the scammers were British, all of the ones I have seen in the news were Irish and usually from a gypsy background, so to identify the scammers correctly you need to state that they might speak with an Irish accent, now of course if they are from Northern Ireland then yes you can say they are British, but most of the gypsies come from Southern Ireland or they might have come from the UK, many gypsies go to the UK for work, they also use the same scams there, or is it politically incorrect to identify them as Irish, North or South?
    Karl Marx
    13th Nov 2018
    In Britain they prefer to called "Travellers" not Gypsies, Gypos, Pikies etc lol
    13th Nov 2018
    How true
    Not a Bludger
    13th Nov 2018
    Now, where is Mick riding in to defend another shonky group viz Irish gypsies who, under, EC rules actually come from Romania and surrounds.
    Geez, Mick, can’t you somehow sheet home the blame Tony or Scomo or or Peter D or just about anyone else on this one?
    Karl Marx
    13th Nov 2018
    Comrade Not a Bludger what are you on about. It's obvious you are only interested in stirring & not putting forward any worthwhile input on the topic at hand.
    If you are only interested in stirring then bugger off.

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