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Every few months, media reports do the rounds about bogus craftsmen who want to rip-off gullible people. Most recently in the canton of Aargau, Fislisbach, a municipality with 5600 inhabitants on the edge of the Reuss valley:
Two craftsmen ring the doorbell of the caretaker of an apartment building. She opens the door. They claim that they have to go to all the flats in the building and check the heating. The owner of the house had commissioned them, so they needed access to every flat. The caretaker is sceptical, asks the workmen to wait, closes the door and calls the owner of the house. Her suspicions are quickly confirmed: the owner knows nothing about it, she has not commissioned anyone to check the heating. When the caretaker returns to the door and opens it, the two fake workmen have disappeared. Apparently, the caretaker's presence of mind has sent them fleeing.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case, as Bernhard Graser confirms: "Due to Corona, we had peace from them for a long time," the media spokesman of the Aargau cantonal police explains in an interview with the SRF consumer magazine "Espresso", "but currently it seems as if these incidents are piling up again". What the fake craftsmen in Fislisbach were up to is unknown. Possibly they would have cleaned out the flats of the unsuspecting and absent tenants during their "heating check". Or they would have handed the caretaker a bill for their work and insisted on immediate cash payment.
Demanding a lot of money for a botched job is the most common scam of false craftsmen. Like grandchild scammers, they exploit human weaknesses and dupe their victims, preferably elderly and gullible people. They talk them into doing all kinds of work at the front door. For example, painting shutters, cleaning gutters, renovating a façade or tarring the car park. No sooner have they started than they are done, charging horrendous prices and insisting that their customers pay cash immediately. They disappear faster than they appeared, their receipts are worthless, all information falsified.
Be sceptical if a craftsman turns up whom you have not ordered. Fake tradesmen often drive up in neutral vans or station wagons without lettering. If in doubt, call the police (117).
The scammers are well organised and travel throughout Switzerland in their search for victims. In eastern Switzerland, especially in the cantons of St. Gallen and Thurgau, so-called tarring crews were recently on the road in vehicles with British licence plates, offering homeowners to tar their front yards. They did so, but unprofessionally and at far too high a cost. Consequently, Daniel Meili, media spokesman for the Thurgau Cantonal Police, urges caution: "Anyone who wants to renovate the façade, redesign the garden or tar the forecourt should get a quote from craftsmen in the region.
You can avoid such difficulties if you hire a craftsman from the region and ask him for a quote. That way you play it safe:
Check the work result and the final invoice and compare all items with the offer. If the costs are unclear or were not quoted in this way, ask for clarification and have any ambiguities or discrepancies explained or justified. Even tradesmen can make mistakes, and this does not have to be malicious. If you and the tradesman cannot reach an agreement, contact his trade association and ask for advice.
If an offer is marked as "non-binding" or deviations are expressly reserved, you must accept a deviation of 10 to 15 percent, depending on the industry.