Locking yourself out of your home or car is probably one of the most annoying things on the planet. It is inconvenient, embarrassing, and sometimes dangerous. When you are already stressed out over needing a locksmith, you likely are not as attentive to detail as you normally would be when searching for a service provider. This can cause you to miss certain red flags and land you squarely in the middle of a locksmith scam.
It happens a lot more often than you might think, but it doesn’t have to happen to you. Read on to learn how to spot a locksmith scam, how they do it, and how you can avoid it.
How the Locksmith Scam Works
The locksmith scam starts with an ad for a nonexistent company. Usually, there are many ads and websites for many companies – all fake. They are the product of a shady company or even an individual scammer. By all accounts, these ads and websites look legitimate. Some even have pictures of storefronts and “customer” testimonials. They rank high on Google and their prices are better than most in the area. Unfortunately, these are all hooks to get you locked into the scam.
Once an unsuspecting person calls one of these businesses to get a locksmith, it sets the second phase of the scam into motion. The call goes to the main company’s call center which is often based in a country outside of the United States. The operator will give you an irresistibly low quote, a deal you can’t refuse, and then contact a sub-contractor in your area to dispatch them to you.
The third phase commences once the locksmith reaches your location. Upon arrival, he will claim to encounter problems with your lock and wind up drilling it. Now your lock is destroyed and your bill just increased substantially. Once finished, he’ll claim that the job was more complex than initially anticipated and will charge up to 10 times more than your original quote. He’s banking on typical human reaction: pay the bill, chalk it up to lessons learned, and get on with your day with a much lighter wallet.
No one said you had to react in a typical fashion, though. So don’t.
How to Spot a Locksmith Scam
There are some key things that are consistent with scam locksmiths that should be red flags to you.
The Ad is Too Good to Be True
The price on the ad is very low: $10 to $20. It may have a picture of a storefront, but if you do a reverse image search on Google you might find that it was stolen from a legitimate business. The ad may also make claims about being the cheapest and show extremely low prices.
The Call Is Vague
When you call, they don’t answer with a business name, but instead will say “locksmith” or “service.” When the operator quotes you a price, they will tell you a very low price like “$14 and up.” First, no locksmith can stay in business by charging such a low rate. Second, the “and up” is what will get you. It could mean hundreds of dollars more than the original quote.
The Response Time Is Slow
If it takes the locksmith hours to get to you even though the website and maybe even the operator who took your call promised 10 to 20 minutes, you should be suspicious. Chances are, it is because they aren’t as close as they would like you to believe.
Lack of Consistency in Appearance
When the fake locksmith shows up, he will likely not be wearing a uniform or have any ID that would show he is employed as a locksmith. Chances are, the vehicle will not be marked, or it will not have permanent markings for the business. It may have magnetic signage, but even that is rare for scammers.
The Locksmith Makes Excuses
When the fake locksmith begins to work on your lock, they will tell you that it is a “high security lock” or “commercial lock” and can’t be picked. He will tell you that he has to drill the lock. This will destroy your lock and he will replace it with a cheaper, lower quality lock, but charged you through the nose for it. If they are picking the lock on a car, they will either say it is too new (if it is a newer model) or too old (if it is an older model). Just so you know, a skilled, legitimate, professional locksmith will be able to pick a lock without destroying it. Very, very rarely will they recommend drilling it.
They Demand Cash or Debit
The fake locksmith will demand cash, but if you don’t have that much cash on hand they may agree to taking a debit card. However, they will try to avoid accepting credit cards because they are too easy to trace. The bill will be big and much more than the original quote.
You’re Unable to Make Contact After Service
Once the fake locksmith has left you, that is the last you will hear from him or the company. You won’t be able to reach the company and if you do get in touch with the fake locksmith he will tell you that the company sets the prices and he has to charge their rates. If you manage to talk to someone at the company, they will tell you that they have fired the technician and there is nothing more they can do.
The Truth About Locksmith Licenses
There are currently 15 states (and some cities) that require all locksmiths to be licensed: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. If you are in a state and the locksmith who shows up to help you does not have a license, he is probably a scammer.
Tips for Avoiding a Locksmith Scam
You can avoid getting sucked into a locksmith scam if you take a few precautions:
- The best thing you can do is find a legitimate locksmith before you need one. The ALOA Security Professionals Association is a good place to start. You can also ask friends and neighbors for their recommendations.
- Know the signs of a scam and if you notice any, check them out before you hire them.
- When the locksmith arrives, ask for an ID that has a name and address. If he is a member of ALOA, he will have a membership card. If you are in a state that requires locksmiths to be licensed, he should be able to produce one.
- When getting estimates, get it in writing on company letterhead. Make sure they include minimum fees, mileage charges, and other fees.
- After you pay, make sure you get a receipt.
- If the locksmith wants to drill your lock and replace it, say thanks but no thanks. A professional, experienced, legitimate locksmith can unlock nearly any lock.
What to do if You’re the Victim of a Locksmith Scam
If you’ve been scammed by a fake locksmith, don’t just take it – take action!
- The Better Business Bureau
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a special office of the FBI that handles internet related fraud.
- Your state’s Attorney General’s Office to complain about fraud or make a complaint against a business.
- Your credit card provider or bank if you used your debit card or credit card.
Know the signs, know how to avoid a scam, and take action if you have been scammed.
Work with a Locksmith You Can Trust
Great Valley Lockshop has been providing residential and commercial lock and security services for over 30 years. When you’re searching for a locksmith you can trust, we hope you’ll reach out to us by calling (610) 644-5334 or requesting a free quote online. We look forward to helping you regain your security!