How To Avoid Being Ripped Off – The Handyman Scam

Everyone has some sort of DIY job that needs doing at home, whether it’s fixing a leaking pipe or just mowing the lawn! There are tens of thousands of legitimate ‘handymen’ out there making an honest living by taking on these sorts of household jobs, but unfortunately there are also a few out there who are giving the whole industry a bad name.
Imagine being greeted on a Saturday morning by a knock on the door and a man in overalls standing there offering to patch up your driveway or fix your garden fence at a knocked down rate. Ten years ago, most people would probably have turned him away.

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Now that times are tough however it can be tempting to say yes even though you know absolutely nothing about this stranger who’s just turned up out of the blue – these fake handymen often offer the job at what seems like a ridiculously cheap price after all!
So how can you tell the difference between a genuine handyman looking for work, and a con artist trying to rip you off? Here are some of the more common scams, and how to avoid them…
1.       The Oily Driveway
The Scenario: Your guy knocks on the door to let you know he’s just finished resurfacing a driveway down the road and has a little extra tar left over – he’s noticed you’ve got a few cracks in your driveway and wondered if you might like them fixed at a cheap price?
The Truth: This scammer doesn’t really have any tar lying around! Instead, he’ll coat your driveway in oil and brush it smooth – it will look just like freshly laid black tar and fills the cracks, but guess what? It never dries! Not only will he be long gone with your money, you’ll now have to pay to have it all cleaned off too.
Avoid It:  A good handyman is happy to show you his work. If he says he’s just come from working on a house in the next street, ask to walk over there together and take a look, so you can judge if his work is worth the price. At the very least ask to see his leftover tar, or keep a close eye on him through the window as he works!
2.       The Unfinished Job
The Scenario: You get a knock on the door from one or even a group of handymen asking if you’re in need of any services such as plumbing or fixing the tiles on your roof. They say they’re a local company just soliciting for work as business has been slow lately, so they’re happy to help out at a knock-down rate.
The Truth: Of course, they want payment (or a part payment) up-front, most likely ‘for materials’. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up with a shoddily done job that needs doing again very soon. At worst, the job will be started but never completed, or they won’t even show up to start. Why? Because these con-artists have high-tailed it out of the area to prey on the next city’s victims!
Avoid It: Ask to see a license or permit, and ‘nip to the loo’ to take a quick peek at the company’s website – in this day and age, 99% of real companies will have one! If the company or contractor is genuine, it should also be easy to find reviews online too. Never hand out cash payments before work commences, unless you can be sure it’s a reputable company with great reviews.
3.       The Missing Items
The Scenario: Much like the above, the would-be handyman shows up on your door offering a range of jobs inside the home at a fantastic price.
The Truth: In all likelihood, you’ll end up with either a shoddy or unfinished job just like in the previous scenario – except this time it’s worse, because he’ll also run off with his pockets stuffed full of stolen cash, jewellery or other valuables!
Avoid It:  Just because these strangers are dressed in overalls doesn’t mean they’re genuine. If you’re going to let someone into your home, find a professional from a company you can trust – the little extra price is well worth the security of knowing it’s a real handyman and not a burglar in your home! For example, workmen registered with the Gas Safe Register should be able to whip out an official card from their ID card holders to put you in no doubt of their credentials.
Have you ever been ripped off by a fake handyman? Or know of any other scams? Tell me in the comments below…
Estelle Page is an interior designer and DIY addict who hates to see people fall prey to scams and con artists. Her advice? Always pay for a professional, or do it yourself! She blogs for IDPro, the online security specialists.