Fake tradies

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About fake tradies

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.

They offer to do jobs such as driveway resurfacing, painting, roof repairs and carpet cleaning at cheap rates.

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 move quickly and usually only give a first name and mobile number - so contacting them afterwards is difficult.

Fake tradies 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.

Travelling con men video - Thelma's story

Thelma lost over $4,000 to travelling con men after she hired them to fix her roof. 

Video transcript: Travelling con men - Thelma's story (Word, 83KB)

What to 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
  • anyone who:
    • 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.

Tips to protect yourself

You can ask a suspected fake tradie to leave. If they refuse, they are breaking the law.

If you want work done on your house:

  • 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 advertising their services in your mailbox
  • ask for the business's 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 more information, view our Clean up, repairs and re-building page.

For updates on the location of fake tradies, follow us on:

Report fake tradies in your area

If you know of fake tradies in your area:

  • 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 con men hotline on 1300 133 408 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays)
  • report them to your local police.

Resources for community groups

To find information about travelling con men in 23 languages, view our Other languages section.

Our regional offices can organise information sessions for your community group on fake tradies and other scams. View our office locations on our Contact us page.

You can also share our material with your group. To order 'Do not knock' stickers, visit our Door to door sales page.

Watch our travelling con men videos on YouTube.

Listen to our information on avoiding travelling con men: