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How to Spot a Travelling Conman

How to Spot a Travelling Conman

Some villains are easy to spot. An eye-patch and a cat usually tips off James Bond about a probable sociopath; just like the first sighting of Anthony Hopkins in a movie (Hannibal, Silence of the Lambs, Fracture) usually signals to the audience that the main bad guy has just appeared on screen.

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Unfortunately, the bad guys of the neighbourhood don’t have the same tell-tale signs. The problem has mushroomed in recent years with more than 40 conmen being found guilty, racking up fines in excess of $500,000 in New South Wales.

The problem has been deemed serious enough for state and territory governments to set up a website in conjunction with crime stoppers, aimed at stopping these dodgy door-to-door handymen and tradies.

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With over 100 unwitting residents being tricked into upfront payments, unsafe building work and incomplete jobs in Victoria last year, we’ve put together a list of tips for homeowners and residents to keep in mind when answering the door to a friendly stranger offering some help around the house.

“I’ve got a special offer just for today!”

Possibly the best tip-off you could get is the travelling handyman on the doorstep letting you know that they’ve got a special offer for you. They might say it’s because they’re new in the area and looking to build business, because they’ve been a bit slow at work or because they liked your letterbox.

The point is, it’s a load of rubbish. This tactic is known as push marketing or pressure selling, and is designed to result in a snap decision under pressure. Typically this is backed up by some fast talking and an easy smile.

“No cash? That’s fine, let’s just pop down to the ATM!”

Another hallmark of the wandering conman is a preference for cash. Many residents attempt to shake off the persistent seller at the door by saying they have no cash on hand. It’s not uncommon for these conmen to offer you a lift down to the nearest ATM or bank branch so you can withdraw some funds to pay for their services.

Helpful, right? Not really. Unless you need to visit the ATM for an unrelated reason, it’s probably not a good idea to take them up on the offer. Remember your mum’s advice about not accepting lifts from strangers? It still applies in 2015, especially because you might be giving them an opportunity to see your PIN and steal your card.

What You Can Ask

With this in mind, you need some tactics if the guy on your doorstep seems legitimate. Here are some questions to ask to weed out the fakes from the qualified tradespeople.

  • Are you approved by TrustedCleaner.com.au?
    Ask them for their business name and visit our website to check and see if the business is approved. or give us a call on 1300 484 100.
  • Can I pay you by debit or credit card?
    Like we mentioned earlier, a conman will not have a mobile EFTPOS machine and will only accept cash, so this is a simple way to spot a fake.
  • Can I see your business card?
    It’s not foolproof, but most conmen won’t have taken the trouble to print up a fake business card, whereas most qualified tradespeople will have.
  • Ask if they have insurance
    Letting someone onto your property means that if they get hurt or cause damage, you could be legally or financially responsible. Qualified professionals will always have insurance to cover this possibility.
  • My husband / wife is a police officer working down the road, do you mind if I call them and check?
    A little unorthodox, but it will send the dodgy ones running!

What You Can Do

  • Ask them to leave
    You have the right to ask any person on your property to leave. If they do not do so, you also have the right to call the police.
  • Get their details
    If you suspect a fake, take note of the time and date of their visit and any other details such as their name and vehicle registration numbers. You can then report them to the national hotline or your choice of social media.

There is no denying that help with clearing the gutters, tree lopping or painting is tempting. But when someone appears on your doorstep offering to help, keep in mind these tips to stop from being scammed, and get the job done right.

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