Aussies warned over house number kerb painting scam

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A scam that has bothered and intimidated Australians for years appears to have resurfaced. The scam involves people claiming to be council workers and offering to paint numbers on your kerb.

In the Sunshine Coast subreddit, one user warned others after she was approached by a woman in her mid-20s wearing a high-vis vest.

"[She] came by the house stating she worked for the government and we could have our house number painted/repainted on the kerb [to] assist with emergency vehicles etc. Cost is $50. Sounded suss so I said no thanks. Googled it and it’s been reported on previously in parts of the Gold Coast."

Though the scam has resurfaced most recently in Queensland, it happens all over the country.

These door knockers may offer to paint your kerb under the false pretence that it's a council initiative to enable emergency services to more easily find houses. Though kerb numbers are certainly not a bad thing to have (for that very reason), it's usually a DIY job. Instead, these scammers will usually start the job, and then demand money in exchange for doing so. They might try to gain sympathy through sad stories and make you feel bad for declining their services, or use aggression to intimidate you into paying. They might also offer you other home maintenance services like fixing your roof or resurfacing your driveway, but painting numbers on your kerb seems to be the most common one.

This scam targets all residents, but perpetrators like to zero in on elderly residents. They keep on the lookout for houses that have ramps or handrails, which are usually a sign of vulnerable or elderly residents. They also appear frequently after natural disasters, using a time of hurt to prey on Australians that may have had their homes damaged by floods, fires, or storms. 

What are travelling conmen?

Travelling conmen often turn up at your door unexpectedly with the aim of misleading and deceiving you into believing they are legitimate tradesmen, or in this case, hired by the council.

If you are approached by one of these conmen, make sure you ask to see council identification or a council permit. Take close observation of the offender’s appearance and vehicle, as it could assist in a police investigation, and help put a stop to the con. 

If you are getting some home improvements done by a tradesperson, be vigilant and wary of who you hire.

What should you be on the lookout for?

Be suspicious of people who:

  • Offer a ‘one time only’ or ‘today only’ deal
  • Pressure you into accepting their offer
  • Pressure you into paying when the job is incomplete
  • Offer to drive you to the bank to withdraw money for payment

Travelling conmen or fake tradies can seem legitimate in how they attract business. They might have a website that looks genuine or a flyer with industry-standard logos and an Australian Business Number (ABN). 

How can you protect yourself?

To prevent yourself from falling victim to a fake tradie, follow these tips:

  • Ask for the tradesperson’s full name and registration so you can check these with the relevant industry authority 
  • Look around for a quote that’s right for you. If their prices are alarmingly cheap, this can be a warning sign 
  • Seek out previous clients and chat with them about their experience with the tradesperson
  • Do not sign any agreement until you’re ready

Final word

If you think you might have fallen victim to a travelling conman, report them on Scamwatch. You can also report suspicious tradespeople to NSW Fair Trading and the National Travelling Conmen Hotline on 1300 133 408.

Hannah Geremia
Written by
Hannah Geremia
Hannah has had over six years of experience in researching, writing, and editing quality content. She loves gaming, dancing, and animals, and can usually be found under a weighted blanket with a cup of coffee and a book.

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