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Builder Scams and How to Spot Them

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 7 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Builder scams can be a real headache for anyone who happens to encounter them during their time having work carried out at their home. For many people, it can lead to a loss of money and a huge amount of stress, often without having the work completed. There are obvious scams that people need to be able to spot in order to avoid these rogue builders and also ways of avoiding them that should make it easier to steer clear of disaster.

The Scam That's Too Good to be True

Builders have tried and tested schemes to bleed customers dry of their hard earned cash - so never be fooled by a deal that seems to good to be true. If a builder seems too quick to carry out work for you and appears to be pushing you into making a quick agreement on the job you need done, always approach with caution. Most good builders will have long lists of people waiting on their services so there's no need to pressure clients into a deal. This is one of the most basic scams and is usually accompanied by a one-off special price for you if you agree to the work there and then. Builders who claim to offer huge reductions on prices or special two for one deals and similar 'bargains' are usually scamming you. Never agree to this kind of deal unless you are completely sure that you are dealing with a reputable local builder.

Door to Door Builder Scams

Builders who show up at your door are usually there with ill-intent - not many are likely to show up and offer deals to customers if they are highly sought after. One of the most common builder scams is to show up with 'left-over' materials from a local job. The builder will then make you an offer that seems unbelievable and will promise you that they'll get the job done quickly as they're moving on to another soon. Never make a deal at your doorstep with a builder who is clearly trying this scam out on you. Most of these builders are rogue traders and won't even have insurance. They're likely to be working on their own and without the backing of any reputable trade organisation. This means that you have no fall back if something goes wrong and the lack of contract is probably going to work in their favour, not yours.

The Mysterious Office Scam

There should be nothing mysterious in dealing with a builder. Good reliable builders will be happy to freely tell you all of the past customers and any work they've conducted that they're proud of. They'll show you their insurance certificate and will provide you with their full office address, landline contact number, mobile number and trade association membership ID number or similar. Builders who mysteriously seem to have 'misplaced' their landline number or company details, or who don't have any visible signs of their company such as a van, work shirt or business card are definitely not worth getting involved with. They will no doubt scam you into handing over cash and then possibly leave you with a poorly finished job, if it's finished at all.

Handing Over Your Cash Scam

Scam builders will also be on the lookout to take cash from a customer as early as possible. Any builder who asks you for cash before carrying out work should immediately make you see a red flag. Builders shouldn't need a large payment up front and should only invoice when the work is carried out. If you're having a large piece of work carried out, there's the option of using progress payments and this gives you control over when the workman gets your hard earned cash. Always be wary of handing cash over before the work is carried out. It's a common scam to ask for cash rather than a credit card also, as then the builder can put the money straight into his pocket. Get a receipt every time and always wait until the work is concluded before paying if possible.

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