As a trusted locksmith, we constantly see locksmith scam business listings all over the internet, something that is happening in our own background of Malvern, PA. We hope to help put an end to these scams in order to be sure that when you are in need of a locksmith, you are certain you are being helped by a professional. View this very informative video and transcript put together by the Society of Professional Locksmiths to help you spot and avoid a locksmith scam.
What is a locksmith scam?
A locksmith scam happens when someone accidentally calls an ad, or website, that claims to be a locksmith service. Instead of getting a locksmith to show up, they actually get a con artist that performs poor work and overcharges by hundreds of dollars.
In many cases, the victim of a locksmith scam has to call a real locksmith back to repair the damage left by a scammer. This happens every day to thousands of people all across America. When it does, most people will mistakenly think that this was an isolated incident, or I was just unlucky.
What many people don’t realize is that this is a nationwide scam, owned and controlled by a foreign criminal organization. That criminal organization is destroying American small businesses. We thought we’d sit down and share with you what exactly locksmith scams are, how they work, and how you can avoid them.
Exactly how does a locksmith scam work?
There are three parts to a scam process advertise, dispatch, and con. In advertising, their model is quite simple. Outnumber legitimate locksmith businesses 100 to 1 through any form of advertising. In the phone books they list hundreds, and even thousands of fictitious business names in any variation and on any street.
This method waters down the listings and greatly increases the chances that you, the consumer, will accidentally call a scam locksmith. Anyone who still uses a phone book is at risk.
Online, they will create thousands of fake locksmith websites to overwhelm and outnumber any legitimate locksmith businesses that may actually be there. On their fake websites, you will notice the heavy use of generic stock photos in a desperate attempt to appear normal. Remember, anybody can purchase stock photos and put them on a website. That does not make them a certified, trained and experienced locksmith.
When visiting a scammer’s website, be careful if you find a picture of an actual storefront. There are two reasons for this. One, the picture might be stolen from another locksmith shop in another state. Number two, the locksmith scammers have been known to rent an actual store front location for a short period of time, take pictures of that established store front and even register it with all the search engines.
After a few days or weeks, they will vacate that property and continue scamming the local population while pretending to still have a store front. On their website you will notice phrases and wording such as,” You’ve come to the right place,” and, “Look no further.” Or, “Trusted,” “Honest,” “Reliable,” or “Affordable,” “Cheap,” “Best price.”
Remember, anybody can write these words on their website. It doesn’t make it true. These con artists will post images that say, “Best of 2011” and “Best of 2009.” They will claim to have won some type of award, but never say from whom. Due to recent exposure in the news, many locksmith scammers have stopped listing fake addresses on their website.
If you can’t find a local address, but the website lists and address of a head office in another state, be careful. If you notice, they will create thousands of fake Google profiles, some with photos and some without. If you take a closer look at some of these profiles with photos, and do a quick, simple Google search for that image, you will notice that many of these profile photos are stolen from other parts of the Web.
A closer look at this fake profile called, “John Smith,” a quick Google search will verify that this photo is not a “John Smith” but belongs to a man named “Henrick,” a male model featured in the “Huffington Post.” Again, this is just another stolen photo used to create a fake profile. With these thousands of fake Google profiles, they will create thousands of fake Google reviews.
These reviews are used to promote their fake websites and their fake business listings. Sometimes they’ll write their own reviews, and other times, they’ll just purchase fake reviews from websites. There are places on the Web where you can purchase fake reviews, not just for Google, but for other websites. Their latest trend is to purchase fake video reviews. All this is done to pretend to have some type of credibility on their websites and fake business listings.
When it comes to Maps locations, here is their business strategy. Number one, they locate a legitimate locksmith shop. Two, they surround that location with 10 fake locksmith listings. Three, they back up those locations by giving them fake reviews, by purchasing fake five star reviews for each fake listing. Next, they list at least three fake listings in every township, county, and borough surrounding that locksmith shop.
Then they repeat this process for every locksmith across the country. You may ask, “Why do they do this?” They want to make sure that their company, their fake listings are the only ones that you call when you search on your mobile device.
Here is another strategy called, “location poaching.” What they did was…let’s say you have a shop right here and it’s called “ACME Street Lock and Key.” They will come along and create a fake Maps listing right next door, and call themselves “ACME Street Locksmith.” There is no legitimate locksmith shop there, but in the rare case that you come along looking for a locksmith, there is a 50 percent chance that you might click on the fake listing right next door.
In a related story, there is a locksmith in the Baltimore, DC area, who is currently suing Google over the thousands of spam listing that Google has on their maps.
Last year, you could particularly find thousands of fake locksmith listings in the Baltimore area alone. Magically overnight, now that the lawsuit has begun, these fake scam listings have disappeared off of Google maps. When it comes to advertising, their strategy is quite simple, outspend everybody. If we take a closer look at the pay per click ads. The price for pay per click ad for DC Locksmith is $63.16 per click.
No legitimate locksmith in this country can afford that type of advertising. The scam companies have driven up the price of pay per click so high than no legitimate locksmith can afford to advertise anymore. Their strategy is quite simple, low price bait and switch. Here’s an example of one of their ads. They’re advertising for $15 locksmith service, another one, $19 locksmith service.
Since this is a foreign criminal organization, English is not their primary language. As we will notice in this ad here, “Fast response is guarantied.” That’s really nice. In this testimony right here, this person responded to a $15 locksmith ad, and ended up getting scammed for over $350 cash. In this testimony right here, this person responded to a $29 ad, and ended up getting scammed for over $600.
They will advertise as being local and fast response, when the average wait time for a locksmith scammer is anywhere between one and two hours. It is estimated that they make over $1 billion a year in their locksmith scam alone. With this type of money, they can afford any number of websites, any number of fake Google reviews, and they can pay any price for advertising.
All these ads, all these fake websites, these fake reviews, these fake business listings and maps locations are all in an effort to get you, the consumer, to call their number. Your call is enrouted to a dispatch service. Let’s talk a little bit about their dispatch service. Their number one thing is how they answer the phone, what they say and what they don’t say.
When they answer the phone, they answer with “Service” or “Locksmith.” When you ask them, “What company did I call?” They will never answer that question. There was a, “What company did you call?” Again, using questions should deflect a question. There’s your first sign, using questions to deflect questions.
You say, “Is this Locksmith Company A?” They’ll say, “Yeah, yeah. This is Locksmith Company A.” If you responded to a $15 ad, they’ll say, “It’s $15 for the locksmith to come out, then it’s $35 and up to open.” That is what’s going to get you, the “And up.” If you responded to a $19 ad, they’ll say, “It’s $25 and up, to open.” Again, this is their first psychological trick.
Number one, the $15 is just to get you to click on their ad. The “And up” is what is going to get you. Back to the dispatch service, their inability to answer locksmith related questions. Remember, they are dispatch service. Many times, they have the inability to answer those questions. Next up, they’ll say, “Well, the tech has to see the car or the lock.”
If you want a final price or some close ballpark figure, they’re going to say, “Well, the tech has to see the lock. The tech has to see the car, so we can’t give you any type of price.” With this, they avoid talking about price. They never give a final price and not even a ballpark figure. I understand many legitimate locksmiths, any normal business owner wouldn’t give you a final price over the phone in this particular incident.
There are many variables when it comes to lockouts. However, even the legitimate locksmith can tell you a ballpark, where else going to be between this and this. The dispatchers will avoid details in any type of questions. Their number one goal is to get off the phone as soon as possible, and to dispatch a comment to the same. That’s it. That’s their number one goal. That is the dispatch process.
Next up is when the con artist comes out to your house or car. That’s when the shake down really begins. Let’s start off with the arrival of the con artist, the scammer. Usually, you have a long wait for him to arrive, anywhere between one to two hours. Yes, they promise 15 minute response, but that’s only to get you to call. Sometimes, you’re lucky.
You might just wait 30 minutes but most of the time, it’s one to two hours. Usually, they show up in unmarked car or van, sometimes with out of state plates, and sometimes with magnetic removable signs. They use magnetic removable signs because they are involved in many other scams carpet cleaning garage, door repair, plumbing, moving, towing. They utilize these magnetic signs a lot.
Next up is their appearance. Many of them look rough. They’re rough looking characters. Uncut, unshaven, no badges, no IDs, and no uniform. Whoa, whoa, whoa, let me stop the presentation right now.
I can hear it right now. There’s some locksmith out there saying, “Wait a minute. I’m a legitimate locksmith. That’s just preposterous. I’m a legitimate locksmith and I don’t wear a uniform. I use my personal car, and I have a beard.” Allow me to make a distinction. Allow me to draw a line in the sand here.
There are legitimate locksmiths who don’t have markings on their car, who have beards, that’s perfectly fine. They don’t have uniforms. That does not make them scammers, and I’m not saying that does make them scammers. I’m showing you the differences between scammers and legitimate locksmiths. If you’ll notice, scammers have a lot more of these traits.
If you heard the earlier part of the presentation, you will notice scammers will utilize all the previous techniques. Fake ads, Google profiles, fake reviews, fake written reviews, fake websites, fake business listings, you name it.
When you take all these characteristics put together, plus the ones I’m about to cover in a few minutes here, when you see a whole array of these characteristics, these techniques, and these strategies, there’s a higher likelihood, a higher percentage rate that you’ll find a scammer.
You’ll get a scammer showing up at your house or your car. Any one of these techniques doesn’t make anybody a scammer. When you see a lot of these traits all in a row right here, you will notice that that will make up a scammer. Any one of these techniques or traits doesn’t make anybody a scammer.
In a few seconds, we’ll be sharing with you more techniques that the scammers use, such as constant lying, psychological games, guilt throwing, and using questions as distractions. Right now, to set the record straight, here are a few simple differentiations between legitimate locksmiths and scammers.
A legitimate locksmith cares about his customer. A scammer is only concerned about getting your money. A legitimate customer takes times to answer questions of the customer and can answer questions intelligently. A legitimate locksmith is knowledgeable.
A scammer is irritated by your questions. He has no clue. He will BS his way through anything. Many legitimate locksmiths are trained, certified, and the ones that are, are proud of it. Scammer locksmiths are always on the run. While dealing with a legitimate locksmith, you get a good feeling.
When you’re finished, you feel more secure. Your home or your car is more secure. After dealing with a scammer, you have a bad feeling. During the whole transaction, you have a bad feeling.
During the whole transaction you have a bad feeling, and after the transaction, you certainly do have a bad feeling. You know because you’ve been overcharged. That is the difference between a legitimate locksmith and a scammer.
When you call a scammer out to unlock your house, the scammer will always use a famous thing. “OK, your locks are commercial locks or they’re high security locks. I cannot pick them. I cannot pick the locks. I can’t get you in. I’m going to have to drill the lock.” That is their famous technique. Drilling the lock, destroying whatever hardware you have on your door.
Then charging you outrageous sums to place a cheap, imported piece of hardware that’s worse than the one you had on your door. That is the technique of the scammers. Remember this. Any idiot can drill a lock. It takes a true professional to pick a lock. When you call them out to your car to unlock your car, immediately they’re going to have an excuse.
If your car is an older car, they’re going to say, “Your car is too old. It’s going to cost more money.” If you have a new car they’re going to say, “It’s too new. It’s going to cost more money.” If it’s big, they’re going to say it’s too big, or too small, it’s too compact. Whatever the excuse they’re going to tell you it’s going to cost more money. Their favorite excuses are, “You have a high security locking mechanism.”
The locking mechanism is complicated and I don’t want to damage it so it’s going to cost you more money. These are the excuses that they use to charge you more money. When it comes time to pay, they will rudely demand cash even though every one of their websites claims to accept all major credit cards.
They will rudely demand cash and they will tell you that their credit card machine is broken. If you continue to insist that card is all you have, magically their credit card machine is going to start working again.
They’re going to say, “OK, my credit card machine magically started working again but all I can accept is debit card.” Why do they do this? Because most banks will not let you refute or reverse a charge such as this. However, credit cards you can dispute charges.
That’s why they first start off with debit card. If you still have a problem, next they start with more psychological games. They get on the phone with their boss. They say, “Oh man, this customer here has a problem.” The reason they do this is to trigger some form of guilt, some form of fear and guilt into the customer. What happens when a technician gets on the phone with his boss?
What are they trying to do here? They’re trying to make you feel guilty. You’ve been a bad customer, let me get on the phone with my boss and tell them how bad you’ve been. That is a frame that they’re using. I can’t believe you have a problem with my price I’m going to have to talk to my boss.
Again, they’re using guilt to manipulate you. If you have a problem with the price they will say, “I gave you a discount already!” If you responded to a $15 ad and he’s charging $350, he’s going to say, “I gave you a discount already. I would lose my job if I gave you more discounts.” He’s using guilt as a form of control to manipulate you into paying his outrageous prices.
He’s going to frame the entire situation as it’s your fault that your door was complicated and it cost more money. He’s going to always frame the entire situation into it was your fault, Mr. Customer, that your lock was too old or too new, whatever it was. It’s your fault that I have to charge you so much money.
That is how they frame the entire situation. If you try to report these guys or follow up on them, if you ask the tech, “Why are you doing this?” The tech will always say, “Well, listen, it’s not my fault. The company makes me charge these prices.”
If you call the number that you originally called, they’re going to say, “Listen, we’re just the call center. We take calls for thousands of different fake companies. We don’t know which one you’re talking about.” If you are so lucky to get a hold of the original company, the mobster that controls it, they will say, “Oh, you know what? That guy, that tech, we just fired him yesterday. He no longer works for us. We don’t condone with that behavior. He was a rogue locksmith.”
Again, using the triangle of deflection, sending you in circles. All these techniques. Guilt, psychological games, constant lies, questions used as distractions, answering your questions with their questions. All these techniques and tricks just to overcharge you by 200 to 800 percent more than market rates.
When you choose to call a scammer, all the extra money that you pay goes to support the extravagant lifestyle of a mob boss. It helps him make his next sports car payment or buy that third mansion in Miami. Many of these crime bosses are living abroad in a life of luxury.
What starts off as a low price local fast response ad turns into a high price shakedown. Their racist views towards Americans are that Americans are stupid and naive, as caught on camera by ABC News’ “The Lookout” last year.
This entire system that we covered is just their locksmith scam. However, they’re involved in many other scams, such as carpet cleaning, moving company scams, plumbing scams, garage door repair, HVAC/AC repair and towing, just to name a few. Every day, all across the country, thousands of Americans are being scammed, and thousands of Americans are handing over their hard earned cash.
Instead of supporting a mobster’s way of life, support American small businesses in your community. These are mom and pop owned locksmiths. How do you find a legitimate locksmith? When searching for a locksmith, make sure you look for a face. That is, when you’re searching their website, make sure you see a face of an actual locksmith, and remember, don’t fall for stock photos.
Look for a locksmith that actually shows his face. Legitimate locksmiths are proud of who they are, and they will gladly show their face.
If you find a legitimate locksmith shop that has an actual address, go and verify that address. Go to that actual location and verify it in person. Now, bear in mind, 80 percent of legitimate locksmiths are mobile shop owners.
In this particular case, call them up. Ask them questions. Get to know them. Remember, legitimate locksmiths will be happy to answer your questions and will be glad to spend time with you on the phone. When you find a legitimate locksmith that you like, program that number into your phone so the next time that you need one you don’t have to look on the search engines or in a phonebook.
Protect your loved ones. Share this video. Make sure they don’t get scammed as well. Make sure your loved ones are educated about this issue. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel. Share your stories and comment below. If you were ever scammed by one of these con artists, let us know. Share your stories.
One last question you may be asking yourself, what if I find myself in the middle of a scam? What should I do? The best thing to do is to whip out that camera phone. Get video of everything. Get video of the scammer’s face, his license plate, his car, everything. Many of these scammers are afraid of video and will run when caught on camera. At any time, if you ever feel unsafe, call the cops.
That’s it for today. Thanks for watching.”
Great Valley Lockshop is the Philadelphia area’s trusted locksmith. As members of the Associated Locksmiths of America and with over 40 years of experience in the locksmith industry, our goal is to ensure that you are in the hands of a professional. Visit our Malvern location today, or feel free to give us a call at (610) 644-5334 with any questions that you may have!