Fake tradies (also known as travelling con men) are dodgy tradesmen who offer to do maintenance work on your home or office then disappear with your money leaving unfinished or substandard work, if they start work at all.
Fake tradies can be sophisticated in how they attract business. They often use:
- 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 may approach people while they are working in the garden. They look for houses that have handrails and ramps, often targeting older Victorians and vulnerable people. They ask for cash before starting the work and will offer to drive you to an ATM.
They appear more frequently during warmer weather and after natural disasters, such as floods, fires and storms, when vulnerable people are cleaning up or repairing their properties.
Fake tradies offer to do jobs such as driveway resurfacing, painting, roof repairs and carpet cleaning at a cheap rate. Often, they pressure people, offering ‘today only’ specials.
Why should you avoid them?
Fake tradies ask for cash before starting work and frequently disappear as soon as you pay them.
If they do any work, it is often unfinished or of a poor standard.
They move on quickly and usually only give a first name and mobile number – so contacting them afterwards is difficult.
What should you look out for?
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:
- paint the house
- work on your garden or cut trees
- resurface driveways
- fix your roof
- offers cheap deals using words like 'for today only'
- asks for cash up front
- offers to drive you to the bank to get money to pay for the job
- pressures you to accept their offer
- says they can do the job now as another nearby has just cancelled.
Protecting yourself – tips to dealing with fake tradies
You can ask a suspected fake tradie to leave. If they refuse to leave, they are breaking the law.
Resist the offer of a cheap deal. It may cost more in the long run.
If you want work done on your house:
- shop around for the 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.
- ask for the business’ number, so you can call to confirm whether the tradesman works for them.
Particularly after disasters, be wary of anyone offering you a ‘today only’ deal to carry out repairs for cash. For advice in a disaster, view our English language Advice in a disaster page.
Taking action against fake tradies
To help us warn your community about these dodgy dealers, please posts links to this page on social media and forums. If you know of fake tradies in your area:
- record as much information as you can, such as their name and vehicle registration
- call the national travelling con men hotline (1300 133 408) between 8.30am and 5pm Monday to Friday (except public holidays)
- report them to your local police
- tweet using the Twitter hashtag #BewareFakeTradies and follow us at @consumervic for updates on the location of fake tradies
- post on the National Travelling Con Men Facebook page at facebook.com/StopTravellingConMen.
Watch the travelling con men video