Aussie homeowners on alert to avoid shady tradies and conmen catastrophes

Renovators are being urged to slam the door on scammers posing as honest tradespeople after a spate of complaints across Australia.

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
5 Min Read

Renovators are being urged to slam the door on scammers posing as honest tradespeople after a spate of complaints across Australia.

Nomad con artists have long been a problem across Australia, plaguing the construction industry with their substandard workmanship.

And as Scam Awareness Week draws to a close, state governments are reminding homeowners to remain on high alert over the holiday season for illegitimate tradies offering unlicensed and often under-par services.

Working individually or as part of a more prominent gang – the construction con-men typically offer services like cleaning driveways, painting, sealing roofs and essential home repairs at a discounted rate.

These expert fraudsters often use convincing tactics to demand payment in advance before disappearing with the work either unfinished or poorly completed.

NSW Fair Trading said the dodgy tradies have been using letter box drops, door knocking and online advertisements to find new victims, often providing fraudulent documentation and credentials to deceive customers.

“NSW Fair Trading regularly investigates conmen activity, but it’s important homeowners are also vigilant,” NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Natasha Mann said.

“These scammers are deceptively convincing. They’re far better actors than they are tradies.”

“These scammers are active in NSW right now. They don’t discriminate and will travel from our biggest cities to our smallest communities to find victims.

The warning comes as one NSW victim was scammed out of $5200 to renovate his roof, only for the shoddy work to result in the home being flooded when the roof leaked two weeks later.

Construction con-men a nationwide issue

However, these dodgy dealings are not endemic to New South Wales.

In September, a group of bitumen bandits were reported to be travelling Western Australia and found to have schemed homeowners a total of $264,000.

The travelling con artists were using sub-standard materials, raising quoted fees and threatening to destroy work if the adjusted invoices were not paid.

WA Commissioner for Consumer Protection Trish Blake said the tradesmen’s work was both “dodgy” and a “complete scam”.

“They lie to potential customers, saying they have left-over bitumen from a job nearby so they can offer a cheap price, but the finished job is left uneven, thin and soft,” she said.

“In one case in Derby, the bitumen washed away with rain the next day, but the customer was still invoiced $33,000, and demands were made for immediate payment.”

Meanwhile, in Queensland, The Office of Fair Trading warned social media users about construction contractors using Facebook Marketplace to lure in homeowners.

A Brisbane man was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay over $14,000 in compensation after he used the platform to trick Queenslanders into paying upfront for car roofing installation, which were often neither installed nor supplied.

How to spot a tradie scam

So, how do you spot rookie roofers, cowboy builders and bitumen bandits?

The government says the offers you can’t refuse are usually the ones you should.

Warning signs include someone coming to your door unexpectedly with a special deal, demanding money up front, or pressuring you into accepting an arrangement and offering to escort you to the bank or an ATM for payment.

“It can be difficult to tell if they’re legitimate, but if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Ms Mann said.

“Turn these conmen away, check their licence and business name and report anything suspicious to NSW Fair Trading.”

Any unsolicited approaches should be met with careful scepticism, with homeowners encouraged to verify a tradesperson’s details online before proceeding with any contractual agreement or financial exchange.

To verify a licence in each state, visit the following websites:

Any sightings of dealings with travelling con artists can be reported to your state’s Fair Trading office. 

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.