Every year thousands of people fall victim to rogue traders, losing millions of pounds in the process – not to mention having their lives turned upside down and homes left in tatters.

Huge costs, massive disruption, stress and even court battles are just some of the things that can result from building work that goes off the rails.

The secret is to distinguish between reputable traders and those who are just out to make a quick buck.

Here are ten things to be aware of to help you unmask the cowboys and find a trader you can trust.

1. Knocking on your door “out of the blue”

It might seem a little too good to be true, but hiring someone who has just knocked on your door on the off-chance isn’t a great way to do business and usually means this handyman is far from legit. Obviously some tradesmen like to look for new business when out and about, but be sure to do your research thoroughly before offering them the job.

2. They don’t belong to trade body

Most established trades people belong to one, or several, industry bodies. This is a way of showing that they are qualified, trustworthy and reputable. You should always find out if the person who is carrying out your work belongs to a trade body, and if not, why?

3. They can’t produce paperwork

If you have any doubts, ask to see some paperwork. Any tradesman worth their salt will be able to produce certificates of qualifications, as well as references and any other form of professional documentation. If your fitter says he can’t do this, or even worse, he doesn’t hold any value in such paperwork; it’s probably a sign you should look elsewhere.

4. They deal in cash only

Cash is king for most people, and the rogue tradesman is no different. It’s quick, easy and you don’t have to wait seven days for it to clear – everyone’s a winner. But this doesn’t account for the fact that most people don’t have hundreds, if not thousands of pounds to hand immediately. If someone that is working for you deals only in cash; this might suggest more than them just wanting to go for a pint at the end of the day.

5. They ask for money up front

You don’t go into your local supermarket and hand money over before doing your weekly shop, so why would you do it for work that has not yet been done? Asking for cash up front is never a good sign in any business transaction and usually means the person asking has insufficient funds to see the job through or even make ends meet.

6. They become uncomfortable when confronted with questions

If you are still unsure, make sure to ask plenty of questions. Things like; “How long have you been in business?” or “What other jobs do you have on your books?”. Anything that might give you an idea of the person you are dealing with and how they go about their business. You should be able to form an opinion of the person from the answers they give, or more importantly, the questions they avoid.

7. Details of their company are sketchy

Turning up in an unmarked van or not wearing a name badge doesn’t make someone a criminal, but if they are unwilling to offer details such as a land line phone number or company address, then this could mean two things – they don’t have one or they have something to hide. Try and find a fitter online who can offer a full list of references and company details.

8. There are additional charges

When you get a quote, it should be just that – a quote for how much the job will cost in total. Obviously when having work done there are always likely to be unseen difficulties, which may add to the original price, but a bill that continually rises for additional work that mysteriously appears overnight is a pretty convincing sign that you are dealing with a cowboy.

9. They don’t use contracts

Rogue traders don’t like contracts for one simple reason – they can’t keep their word. Contracts are there to protect the consumer and that’s just why they don’t want to offer you one.

10. They avoid your calls

You’ve paid money up front (cash, of course), your kitchen is half finished (due to the fact that you’ve been told some extra work needs doing), and now your calls are going unanswered.

If any of the previous warnings signs hadn’t rung alarm bells, the fact that your calls are now being ignored and there is no guarantee when, or even if, your work is to be completed; it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ve been dealing with a rogue trader.