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How to pay your builder (without getting scammed)
Planning a home improvement project can be exciting and perhaps a little stressful. But once it’s completed you’ll have a new kitchen, bathroom, loft conversion or extension that will transform your property.
However, there’s been a worrying handful of reports of people being scammed out of serious sums of money when paying the tradespeople they contracted to carry out their home improvement work. So, how do you avoid this happening to you?
Since the start of 2016, the Guardian has reported on two major scams carried out on people who thought they were paying for home improvement work. In the first, a woman was sent an email that appeared to be from her carpenter, telling her he’d had a cancellation and could begin work on her job sooner than originally planned. The email also asked her to transfer the £1,500 deposit into his account. However, this email turned out to be a fraud and the real carpenter knew nothing about it.
This month, the Guardian reported on a couple who had lost £25,000 to a very similar scam. They received an invoice from their building company and two days later an email claiming to be from the same company arrived, letting them know the business account details had changed. The couple transferred £25,000 into the account, but a few days later their building company got in touch asking for payment. The couple then discovered the account they’d sent the money to did not belong to the building company who’d done the work for them – and because the money was withdrawn and the account closed, they have not been able to get it back. The cash they paid was made up of remortgage funds and life savings.
Cause for concern
Of course, cases like this are very troubling, and may even make you think twice about how you pay service people you employ to work on your home. And you’re right to be cautious – you always should be when it comes to your finances.
If you have a home improvement project planned and are now worried about transferring the money for a deposit or invoice, follow the tips below:
- If you receive an email asking for a large payment, even if it appears to be from someone you know or it’s a bill you’ve been expecting, double check. Pick up the phone and call the person who appears to have sent it to check that it’s genuine. It only takes a moment and it could provide the alert you need to avoid falling victim to a financial scam.
- Should the bill you’re due to pay be for a large sum of cash, you could send a small payment to the tradesperson’s bank account first. Send over £10 or £20 and then give them a call to check they’ve got it. As many people have access to online banking through their mobile, it shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience for them to check they’ve received the money, and once they confirm this you can transfer the remainder.
And of course, it shouldn’t end here. Even if you don’t need to make a money transfer, it pays to be aware and regularly check your current account statement for any suspicious activity. Your statements and credit history – which you can check through one of the credit reference agencies (Experian, CallCredit, Equifax) - may contain details of transactions or spending you don’t remember, so you should alert your current account provider as soon as possible to get to the root of the problem.
To find out about some of the other scams fraudsters use to get their hands on people’s cash, read our article. For more tips on keeping your money safe and avoiding falling victim to financial fraud, check out our guide.