Rogue Traders: what tricks they’ll try to enter your home and 6 ways you can avoid them

Elderly man opening door to Buy with Confidence approved builder

Ask a tradesperson to produce ID, cancellation paperwork and estimates for your home repair to check if they are a genuine contractor or builder. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

How to spot a rogue trader and some simple tips you can use to prevent one from darkening your doorstep.   

With over 20 years of experience, trading standards officer Richard Matthews from Heart of the South West Trading Standards has seen all shades of doorstep crime, and the devastation it can leave in its wake.

“It’s not nice to think that the person at your door may have less than good intentions, but the sad reality is doorstep crime is on the rise,” Richard explains. “Rogue traders are using the pandemic to exploit vulnerable individuals and capitalise on the fear and uncertainty it’s created.

“This is why it’s more important than ever that people know where they can go for help.”

Below, Richard shares six things you can do to avoid rogue traders.

1. Learn as much as you can about rogue trading

“Forewarned is forearmed, as they say, so learning what you can about rogue traders can better protect you,” Richard says.

Rogue traders often pose as contractors or builders that promise home repair work for low prices, though the work is often not delivered, is incomplete, or is very low quality. You can find out more about rogue traders and how to spot one on the Trading Standards website.

2. Don’t agree to have any home improvement work done on the spot

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“Many rogue traders will approach homeowners feigning concern over a roofing or gutter problem they spotted when passing by,” Richard explains. “They will appear helpful, offering to complete the repair for a reasonable price, but realistically they are inducing panic to complete an immediate sale.”

Senior woman answers her front door to a potential cold caller or rogue trader

Remember a tradesperson can't step foot in your home without permission. If you don't feel comfortable lock your door and call Citizens Advice or report the incident to Devon police. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ask the contractor to provide you with ID and a business card, then arrange for them to come back at a later date. A genuine seller will be happy to give you the time you need to make an informed decision.

If you’re still unsure, ask loved ones for recommendations of builders they’ve used before, or use a scheme like Buy with Confidence to find a reputable local trader.

3. Remember, you don’t need to let a tradesperson into your home

Rogue traders may attempt to gain entry to your house by claiming they are from a water, gas, or electric company.

“Often they will use a story or reason to enter the property, hoping they can convince you to agree to the work and make a payment,” Richard shares. “However, they can’t enter without your permission.

“If you suspect the caller is a rogue trader, lock your door and report the incident to Devon police.”

4. Spread out the payments for your home improvements

Don’t pay your builder in one lump sum, stagger the payments instead. Be sure to discuss your project before work begins, agreeing on realistic deadlines, what work will take place and who will carry it out.

“Anyone asking for payment in full upfront, promises to start work immediately or complete the renovation quickly, is a red flag,” Richard says.

You should also take note of everything you agree with your builder, as this will provide evidence to back up your claim should anything go wrong.

Woman finds builder using the Buy With Confidence approval scheme in Devon

Use the Buy with Confidence list to source contractors or builders you can trust to complete your home repair work. - Credit: Tim Pestridge Photography

5. Don’t be afraid to report rogue traders

Hundreds of people every year throughout the South West fall victim to rogue traders. “Anyone can be a victim, which is why it’s vital people speak out, as we may be able to help them recover money, take criminal action and prevent this from happening to others,” Richard says.

If you spot a concerning caller, you can let Citizens Advice know, by contacting them on 0808 223 1133. They’ll report the activity to Trading Standards, who will investigate and take appropriate action. 

6. Use the Buy with Confidence list to find tradespeople you can trust

Buy with Confidence is a Trading Standard approval scheme that’s operated in Devon for over 20 years. It’s a directory of tradespeople that have been vetted, approved and continue to be monitored by Trading Standards to ensure customers receive a quality service they can rely on.

“We only include businesses on the list that are financially viable and have completed a one-to-one audit with a qualified Trading Standards professional,” Richard explains.

“The directory is simple to use. Type in the sort of trader you need and your postcode, and you’ll receive a list of local, reputable tradespeople you can contact.”

For help finding traders you can trust, visit buywithconfidence.gov.uk

If you need more information, you can also email bwc@devon.gov.uk or call 01392 383430.