Check credentials before hiring contractors

By Sonya Bateson

Western Bay residents are being alerted to an alleged scam involving people posing as council contractors for work and then hiking their rates.

Concerned residents have been calling the Western Bay District Council with reports of people claiming to be sub-contractors for the council and offering to do work on driveways and vehicle crossings at a cheap price.

Council transportation manager Alex Finn said he hadn't spoken directly to any of the complainants, but said customer service representatives had notified him of a number of calls they had received about the issue.

"The information I got was there are people offering to do works such as constructing vehicle crossings and driveways, which are not up to standard, then they make up reasons to escalate the price for the work. My understanding is it's happening in different places around the district, including Katikati, Plummers Point and Te Puna."

Mr Finn said if it appeared the "contractors" were doing anything illegal, the best option was for people to call the police.

Although offering to do construction work itself was not illegal, some of the things the people had been offering to do would require a council permit.

"From the council's point of view, we don't have contractors or council staff offering to go around doing vehicle crossings. The only time the council contractors are involved is when something directly involves a council project on the road. If anyone is acting suspiciously, call the police."

Mr Finn also suggested making sure any workers hired for a job came recommended by someone, were registered and were qualified.

A police spokeswoman said while it didn't appear as if there was anything illegal happening, there were steps people could take to make sure they weren't affected by this type of scam.

"Beware of cold callers. It is not advisable to trade on the doorstep and don't just accept an on-the-spot offer to do work. Always obtain more than one quote, preferably at least three, for work to be done and get the quote in writing."

Other recommendations were to make sure workers had an established trading address and landline telephone number. People should not pay up front, only in stages or on completion of the job.

"If you see anyone acting suspiciously in your area and are concerned they may not be genuine traders contact the police."

In Pyes Pa in 2005, an elderly man was left $10,500 out of pocket after agreeing to have his rural right-of-way resealed by phony contractors. The workers fled with the money and the neighbourhood was left with an inadequate and unfinished job until a construction firm donated money for reputable contractors to fix the driveway.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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