There have been many reports in recent months of conmen cold-calling, offering services at a ‘today only’ price. The services offered range from laying bitumen, to repairing roofs and performing tree lopping. While some of these may be legitimate, all too often they are the work of scammers out for the cash with no regard for your safety. The work (if it even gets done) is often poor quality, may not comply with relevant codes and could result in injury or property damage.
These conmen often prey on elderly people who tend to trust more readily and often don’t think to question the person. Sadly, this is nothing new and seems to be an increasing trend across Australia.
What to look out for
In most cases, the persons offering the service demand full payment up-front which is illegal in itself. They may offer to drive you to an ATM to withdraw cash for this payment. Some other things to look out for are:
- Verbal ‘quotes’
- Cash only
- Unbranded uniforms
- ‘Pushy’ sales pitch
- Asks to look inside, or out the back
- Sounds too good to be true
Be particularly cautious if somebody shows up on your doorstep and asks to look inside or out the back. This is a great way to see what valuable items you have in the house, where they can break in, and if you have a security system or dogs. Remember, you didn’t call them!
There are several things you can do to protect yourself against these scams. If it is a phone call or email, you can simply hang up or delete the message. You can ask for their licence number (if they claim to be a licensed contractor) which you can then check online. If they claim to be a business operator, ask for their ABN.
NEVER respond to an email or text message asking you to provide personal details, banking details, etc. NEVER click on a link in a suspect email or text message.
If the person comes to your house, you have several options:
- Tell them you’re not interested and ask them to leave, close the door
- Ask them for I.D
- Ask to see their contractor’s licence if they claim to be a licensed contractor. You can check this on the Fair Trading website while they wait.
- Ask for their ABN if they claim to be a business. You can check ABNs on the Australian Business Register.
Don’t rely on a business card, brochure, shirt logo or website as proof of identification or legitimacy. A legitimate person with nothing to hide should have no problem with providing details and waiting a few minutes while you verify them.
Use your head
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If it doesn’t ‘feel’ right, it probably isn’t.
Remember, you didn’t call them!