Giving your money to travelling contractors: risk versus reward

Written by Stu Salkeld

As a reporter working in K Division, which is RCMP’s nomenclature for Alberta, I’m privy to virtually every press release the Mounties send out. When you receive that many emails a day, sometimes 10 to 12, you start to see patterns forming.

This time of year, as snow recedes into the earth, geese honk their way back to ponds and people in the provincial government once again begin their annual tradition of talking about eliminating Daylight Saving Time, another annual tradition is also renewed: the saga of the travelling contractor. Here are two samples I received just over the past few weeks from RCMP K Division:

“On April 18, 2023, Morinville RCMP received reports about a person selling asphalt to rural residents of Sturgeon County. This time of year brings about a thaw to driveways leaving potholes to fill but don’t be scammed. The suspect offers to fill your driveway potholes or pave a driveway for a bargain basement price and asks for money upfront then is never seen again. Police believe a rental vehicle is being used to escape detection. A black Dodge Ram pickup truck may be associated at this time. Residents are encouraged to call the Morinville RCMP with information including video surveillance that will help identify the person(s) responsible.

“In order to prevent being a victim, RCMP recommend: Hiring known reputable businesses, check credentials and do not offer full payment until the work is completed.”


“Beaverlodge RCMP are investigating after receiving a report on April 14, 2023, from a local resident who hired a company to pave their driveway and was sent a bill well in excess of what was agreed upon. While RCMP investigates, we would like to inform the public of this ongoing scam and let you know what to look for:

“Typical things to look for in this type of scam are: Suspects come to your home saying they have extra materials from a paving job nearby, their equipment and company vehicles have limited to no company details and providing a business card with only a first name. The suspects will either take money and not start the job, or demand money well in excess of the original agreed-upon amount and threaten legal action.

“If you or your business have been approached making these claims please call RCMP immediately so that we can identify the individuals involved. Tips to prevent falling victim to this type of scam are: Hiring known reputable businesses, Check credentials and Do not offer full payment until the work is completed.”

It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to see the pattern forming here.

The folks above are what are now referred to as “travelling contractors” or simply “travellers.” They move from place to place performing shoddy work (if they perform any work at all), try to get their pay cheque as quickly as possible and then book out before their crappy work is discovered or the police are called. Travellers seem to prefer rural areas because, I believe, things like business license bylaws tend not to be enforced as rigorously and rural folks (myself included) tend to be more trusting and more forgiving. In my career, I came across a traveller who made sure potential victims could see an extra large, extra deluxe bible sitting on his dashboard which I assumed was one method he employed to exploit trusting victims.

There is a very easy way to avoid being ripped off by a traveller: hire only reputable local contractors. When you spend your money with a travelling contractor you are harming the businesses owned by your neighbours, the neighbours whose kids attend the same schools your kids attend and who pay taxes to the same municipality you pay yours to. From my experience, local contractors have prices similar to travellers and you run little to no risk of being ripped off. Finding reputable contractors is easy, simply call any service station, garage or hardware/farm store and inquire about reputable contractors. In a few minutes, I’ll bet you have more than one name jotted down on your sticky note.

If you absolutely must give your money to a travelling contractor, ask to see their business license (if in a town or village) or names of three references (if in a county or M.D., rural municipalities don’t always require business licenses even though they should). If they don’t comply, slam the door in their faces then sleep soundly that night.

Before giving your money to a traveller, consider a local contractor who is probably of higher quality and just as competitive and ask yourself if it’s worth the risk. The answer is obvious.

Stu Salkeld
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.