Con men tradies target fire-ravaged areas

Unscrupulous tradesmen have descended on some fire-ravaged areas, prompting a call for residents to be on guard against travelling con men.

Consumer Affairs Minister Heidi Victoria said "unscrupulous tradesmen" had already targeted Riddells Creek residents affected by fire.

At Riddells Creek the travelling con men are posing as experts in asphalting, roof painting and carpet cleaning. They offer ‘‘today only’’ specials and ask for the cash upfront, often disappearing as soon as they are paid.

Works done were often shoddy or unfinished. The con men usually gave just a first name and a mobile number, making them nearly impossible to trace later.

Ms Victoria released a checklist for residents to follow when they were approached about repairs and rebuilding their homes. She also called for residents to view a Facebook page and website that shows photographs of con men.

"Con men are unscrupulous and will take any opportunity, even in bushfire-affected areas," Ms Victoria said.

"They often offer jobs at a cheap rate, putting the resident under pressure to say yes immediately and to pay the full amount in cash.

"Consumers may also be left with substandard work, forcing them to pay even more money to have a legitimate tradesperson repair shoddy work left by the travelling con men."

Consumers should be suspicious of a person who knocks unexpectedly, offers cheap "today only" deals, asks for upfront cash, pressures a consumer to accept the deal, or offers to drive a consumer to the bank to get the money.

Ms Victoria said if someone suspected they had a con man at their door, they should:

  • Refuse to open the door.
  • Not open the door, and if they did, ask them to leave. Refusing to leave is unlawful.
  • Record details including the con man's name and vehicle registration.
  • Report them to police and the national travelling con man hotline on 1300 133 408.

Ms Victoria said residents should only use reputable tradespeople who provide a written quote, previous references and an address rather than just a mobile number.

She encouraged residents to shop around for a quote.

Visit the Stop Travelling Conmen Facebook page or the interactive map at stoptravellingconmen.org.

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