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Consumers warned travelling conmen active in NSW

Bitumen bandits are active in NSW again, with Fair Trading receiving reports that the travelling conmen have reared their heads in the Tamworth, Central Coast, Lake Macquarie and Forster areas in the month of May.

These scammers have been active for decades, offering cheap labour, usually bitumen laying or sometimes roofing, only to take off with the consumer’s cash before completing the service or carrying out shoddy work, such as simply spraying black tinted paint.

Fair Trading Commissioner Rose Webb said while bitumen bandits can be extremely convincing, they exhibit several characteristics that can help consumers spot them.

“Members of these groups are nomadic and frequently travel across borders or long distances to seek work so it’s very important consumers be on the lookout for them,” Ms Webb said.

“Often these persons and groups are from an English or Irish heritage and will present extremely professionally, even with work vehicles and websites.

“They often imply they have left over materials from a nearby job and offer a cheap price for work carried out that day. They continually adapt their scam, offering Eftpos as they are aware demanding a cash payment can arouse suspicion.

“The latest report of a travelling conman in Tamworth came from a savvy consumer who was approached out of the blue by an individual fitting exactly this description offering bitumen services.

“Being aware of this scam, the consumer began to take photos of the suspect’s vehicle, and the suspect promptly left.

“There have also been similar reports made to local police in the Central Coast, Lake Macquarie and Forster areas.”

Ms Webb urged anyone who believes they are being approached, or have been approached, by a bitumen bandit to collect all details possible and report sightings to the police and NSW Fair Trading.

There are several other ways consumers can protect themselves from travelling conmen.

Contractors and labourers in NSW are required to hold a White Card, which you can request to see. These cards have also recently been digitised through the Service NSW app, so if the person does not have their physical copy you can request to see their digital copy. If they cannot supply either, that is a red flag.

If the work amount exceeds $5000 the person will require a contractor’s licence.

Whether bitumen related or not, you should also always use the Service NSW Tradesperson Check tool online. It is a free service that allows you to check the validity of an individual or business using any, or a combination, of the licensee name, licence number, trade and suburb. You are perfectly within your rights to request these details and again, if the person is unable or reluctant to provide these details, that is a major red flag. Tradesperson check: Check a builder or tradesperson licence with Service NSW.

Additionally, under Australian Consumer Law if a trader approaches a consumer, no work or request of payment can occur within 10 business days of approach. That cannot be waived and heavy fines apply if breached. To make a consumer complaint go to the Service NSW website.

Last updated: 02 June 2021
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