Seek references for anyone offering odd-job help

One of an occasional series of articles by Board Director Des Ryan, a retired police officer, on safety and security.

If you’re like me, the handiest gesture you ever make is walking into the Home Hardware on Parliament to pick up a replacement light bulb. Or maybe you’re more skilled but don’t have the time or inclination to tackle a project. Fortunately, we live in an area where there is no shortage of people willing and able to take on household tasks for us.

Unfortunately, not all tradespeople are created equal. In fact, as we have seen far too often, some so-called tradespeople are not interested in trading anything except their words for our cash. Of course, there is nothing wrong with giving the person who washes windows for everyone in the neighbourhood your business, or getting the young kid from next door to clean up your yard. Be careful, however, about that guy (and it usually is a man) who knocks on your door, sight-unseen and usually unsolicited, offering to do any odd job you may have.

Losing twenty bucks to one of these unscrupulous individuals is more of a hit to the ego than to the wallet but some of these con artists (and they are, in fact, conning you) have bilked some residents out of hundreds of dollars and/or personal possessions.

Most of us choose to believe that the majority of the people walking around our neighbourhood are good people and, for the most part, that’s true. There are, however, those few individuals who seek out opportunities to take advantage of another’s good nature. Many of these rounders either charge a “reasonable” fee for work that doesn’t get done, or, worse yet, endear themselves to their so-called employer and end up bilking them out of additional cash through hard-luck stories and/or intimidation. When the happens, the homeowner may be too embarrassed to say anything, giving the crook carte blanche to find the next victim.

Here are a few things to consider before engaging with an unknown contractor or door-to-door labourer:

– Do you actually need the work done, or do they make you feel sorry for them to the extent that you find work for them to do?

– Have they done work in the area that you can verify? We all like to pass on the name of someone good!

– Will they provide you with a first and last name and contact phone number? If so, Google is a great source of information, bearing in mind that the name might not actually be real.

– How do they make you feel? Don’t overlook that gut feeling.

– Are they doing the work you want done?

– Are they eager to help or are they aggressive? That can be very subjective, but you are the one hiring this person. Trust your instincts.

– Do they leave when you ask them to?

If you are answering “no” to any of these questions, consider the possibility that you may be getting conned. End the relationship. If they persist or become threatening, call the police. Chances are, you aren’t the first (or won’t be the last, unfortunately) person to be targeted. Make sure you are safe and cut your losses.

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