How to Spot Rogue Traders

We want to tell you how to spot a rogue trader and where you can find registered tradespeople who are skilled and qualified for the job. With more 1.5 million complaints made to Trading Standards last year, we want you to give you the confidence to hire a reputable tradesperson, knowing they can be trusted.

  • Unskilled rogue traders are targeting hundreds of thousands of homes around the UK each year.
  • Some homeowners don’t know where to find registered tradespeople they can rely on.
  • Gas and electrical are two of the most dangerous trades to employ, if done incorrectly and not to the current UK standards, the results can be catastrophic.
  • Rogue traders misuse trade association logos in order to lure you into false sense of the security.
  • It’s important to check your tradesperson is registered with a scheme associated with their trade.
  • The elderly are high risk targets for rogue traders because they are vulnerable and easy to persuade.
  • Find out how differences between rogue traders and registered tradespeople with us and how to spot a rogue trader.


The danger of Rogue Traders - the facts

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Trading Standards receive thousands of calls and complaints each year from consumers reporting rogue traders. The most commonly reported traders are selling roofing, paving, garden/tree services, insulation and general building work. Despite the topic being highlighted many times on TV and in newspapers, more and more homeowners are still being taken advantage of, whilst the unskilled traders make away with the money.

A massive 60% of the public say “it’s fair to label tradespeople as ‘cowboys’ or ‘rogue traders’”, reports AXA Business Insurance. There are tradespeople who go beyond the call of duty for their customers, but one rogue trader can cause the industry a lot of damage to its reputation.

In December 2015, six rogue traders were brought to justice and sentenced under fraud. Some of them had conned elderly homeowners out of up to £10,000, while one went a step further and conned a customer out of £288,000, when the job was only meant to cost £30,000. Action Fraud, a crime reporting agency, estimates a shocking number which shows that consumers suffer a loss of at least £6.6 billion every year because of unfair trading.


The problem lies in a portion of the public being far too trusting in tradespeople and unknowingly put themselves in danger. Only a mere 20% of the public saying they’re afraid of being ‘ripped off’ when they require work done. Rogue traders not only mean a loss of money to the homeowner, but also the risk of an unsafe job and potentially unfinished and hazardous. But it’s not just about being qualified to do the job, it’s also crucial you make sure they are working legally. If they are legally carrying out work, it also means they will be safe to do so and have insurance.

Gas Installers and Electricians are two of the biggest trades that can be easily prevented through the use of online registers, which can help customers find a fully qualified and registered tradesperson to undertake the job. More than 41,000 registered electrical firms can be found on Registered Competent Person Electrical and Gas Safe Register. Still only 46% of the public know how to check if their electrician is registered or not.

Trade association responsibilities

The government have a responsibility to make all consumers aware of the dangers of preying rogue traders. Efforts have been made to alert the public, with the use of government approved schemes and online registers for tradespeople. These online registers are checked and monitored regularly, from when the tradesperson signs up with an initial assessment and throughout their membership with annual checks. But still the rogue traders take advantage.


However, this is all expected to change soon as new laws have been put in place to help protect the customer against rogue traders. Homeowners will now have up to 90 days to take legal action against rogue traders who have bullied or misled them into buying their services that they don’t require, under changes made by Consumer Affairs Minister, Jo Swinson.

This new law gives the homeowner some of the power back, and helps ease the worry of unwanted tradespeople on their doorstep. The 90 days allows the consumer to get out of a contract and be able to take action through the civil court for misleading or aggressive demand of payment. The law also permits the consumer for a right to damages or stress suffered, due to the actions of the tradesperson.

Misuse of company logos

The sight of a trusted scheme or body’s logo is a sign of reliability. It shows they are registered, qualified and skilled to do the job. In order to join a scheme or body, tradespeople must pass a certain criteria and go through rigorous annual assessments. The sign of the logos shows the customer, they can be trusted.

However, some rogue traders are misusing the logos. It’s easy for rogue traders to stick any organisation logo onto a van or a website and it immediately misleads the customers in the quality they are receiving. It’s also illegal to do so. Yet this is a regular occurrence, as more and more rogues resort to it as an easy way to get work. What is the value of the logo if you can’t trust that they are registered?

Gas Safe and NICEIC (Electrical Part P scheme provider) are two scheme providers who have begun to name and shame contractors who illegally misuse their logo and falsely claim to be members. The NICEIC state that their name “is associated with quality and we will work with the appropriate authorities to protect those contractors who are legitimately registered with us and have the quality of their work assessed on a regular basis”.

It takes careful research to find out if the contractors are who they say they are. It’s important for the consumer to check online with the provider who the contractors claim to be a member of. Check online body and scheme registers, Registered Competent Person Electrical, Gas Safe and Buy with Confidence for reviews on the trader.

When we carried out a quick search on a selection of reputable trade review websites, we soon discovered 10 companies who were misusing various logos and lying to potential customers. They did not belong to the schemes they claimed to, so beware! It’s important to do your research on your tradesperson.

Report a rogue trader

If you have been scammed by a rogue trader, not happy with the standard of work done, or if a special instance occurs and a tradesperson has left the job half finished, contact Trading Standards immediately. They can offer you guidance on the next steps to take.

It is important to report rogue traders, otherwise they will go unnamed and lurking for more victims. Protect others from being taken advantage of and report any sub-standard work.

Rogue traders scam elderly

Rogue Traders Scam the Elderly - High Risk Targets
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We’ve all had them; door to door salespeople, trying to sell their trade or product to us when we don’t necessarily want or need anything. AgeUK have reported that £5 billion is lost to scams each year.

The over 65s are most at risk of rogue traders, as nearly half the elderly public in the UK (42%) have said they have already been targeted by lurking tradespeople on their doorstep. They are vulnerable to scams and easy to persuade, making them an easy target and sale for rogue traders.

Elderly homeowners become ashamed once scammed, not telling family or the police, while the rogue trader continues, not being stopped. If you do not want door to door traders, seek advice from your local council about getting a door sticker to discourage people selling their services to you and follow the advice given below in our infographic.

What to look out for?

Rogue Traders versus Registered Tradespeople - the pros and cons

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Rogues target unsuspecting households, offering deals too good to be true. If you choose to accept work from a rogue trader, you’ll pay much more than you intended for a very poor, unnecessary and sometimes dangerous work. As a rule, you should always get three quotes from different tradespeople for a job.

If a tradesperson claims to be able to complete the job for very little money, eager to give out discounts or even demand cash before the job is finished, then treat them with the utmost suspicion.

Builders are commonly recognised as ‘cowboys’ or ‘rogue traders’ and there are a few warning signs for you to look out for. Builders can often offer very cheap estimates and quotes to lure you into to accepting work quickly. If they are keen to start right away, refuse to sign a contract or are unwilling to give references or previous work, be wary. Reputable builders will have liability insurance and belong to a trade association – if they say they are a member, double check on the register.

minor work certificate

If they are a reliable tradesperson, they will not ask for all of the money up front. Tradespeople will only ask for a small deposit and a final payment after they have completed a job to your total satifaction.

We encourage you to check the ID, qualifications and insurance of tradespeople. These are crucial checks that every consumer should be carrying out.

Rogue traders may look the part, as well presented tradesperson and speak the lingo, but they could be taking money right out of your pocket. They may seem like they know what they are doing and appear friendly and approachable, but it’s important to ask to see proof of qualifications, as they may not be qualified to carry out that type of work.

Put your safety and your home first and always hire a qualified, registered tradesperson.