Conmen and unscrupulous construction tradespeople are targeting victims of recent bushfires in the Blue Mountains as the bushfire recovery process gets underway, the New South Wales government has warned.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, State Minster for Finance and Service Andrew Constance lashed out those perpetrating unscrupulous behaviour and warned residents to avoid dealing with anyone who had not been directly engaged by their insurance company.
The warning comes as after an elderly resident was charged $24,000 to have trees removed from her property because she was told they were a fire hazard.
“The Blue Mountains community has been through enough already and I am furious to hear of this behaviour,” Constance said, adding that those seeking to profit from the vulnerable represented a threat the community. “This is a low act and anyone caught for engaging in this sort of fraud will face the full force of the law.”
Unscrupulous construction tradespeople commonly prey on victims of natural disasters, often making unsolicited approaches and charging excessive amounts for work performed, demanding up-front payment, performing work of a poor quality and/or of which they were not licensed to perform, leaving work uncompleted or simply taking money and disappearing without performing the promised work.
Following the Queensland floods, both the state government and the Master Builders Association reported significant volumes of enquiries from property owners concerned about so-called tradespeople approaching them unsolicited.
Constance’s warning comes amid his latest update about the bushfire recovery process, in which he said 72 homes have been cleared and it was expected that around 100 would be cleared by Christmas.
He says crews from NRMA Insurance, Suncorp and Allianz were working seven days per week to clear sites and remove debris – work which involves professional contractors and service providers.
“Insurers have engaged professionals to do the work – any anyone who is not directly engaged by your insurer should be turned away” Constance said.
Member for the Blue Mountains Roza Sage urged residents to report suspicious behaviour to the police.
“Our community is extremely vulnerable at present and unfortunately there are people who will try to exploit that,” she said.