Updated: May 26, 2018 at 2:30 PM EST
Your locks are what keep you, your property, and your belongings safe and make you feel secure. You can fool yourself by thinking you will never need help with these locks or the keys that open and secure them, but the truth is that to keep your locks working properly, you need a trustworthy and affordable company available when you need assistance and especially if it is an emergency. Some common reasons for needing an emergency locksmith include when you have locked yourself out of your car, home, or office, lost your keys, broken a key, had your keys stolen, experienced an attempted break-in, or are going through a divorce, change of roommates, employees or renters have had an unexpected turnover or eviction. These are times you need to call on a professional you can trust who will show up when you need help and not overcharge. Unfortunately, these are also the situations where you are most vulnerable to become a victim of a scam. Before you call and trust the first company listed, be on the alert and follow a few helpful tips to avoid these scams.
The way locksmith scams work is fairly basic and easy to spot if you are well informed and prepared. These scammers wait until someone is locked out of their home or vehicle or needs a set of locks changed immediately after a break-in, a roommate has moved out unexpectedly, or a divorce situation has caused them to feel unsafe. The innocent victim in need of emergency services looks up a listing and calls one that looks to be local and affordable. The sham locksmith plays along, shows up and then proceeds to overcharge and often even disassembles the locks in the process leaving the already vulnerable customer in a sticky situation. Now, their initial lock or key emergency has become even worse with their lock completely dismantled. Sometimes, the scam artist will even cut into the door or leave other damage. The end result is that the customer is now left in a dangerous dilemma of needing even more locksmith services and needs to quickly decide what to do or be left with no lock security in place. Sometimes, the scam artist asks for a credit card and does not release it until the bill has been charged in full. These bills end up being hundreds of dollars higher than the initial estimate. If the victim gets wise to the muse and refuses to pay, the bullying unprofessional so-called lock smith will begin to make threats such as calling the police or refusing to return your credit card. On top of all of this, the scammer will leave damage to your property, costing even more. Besides the initial overcharge and possible damage left behind, unlicensed companies have most likely not gone through the criminal background checks that are mandatory for a licensed and insured professional. This means, you may be allowing a criminal into your home or car with your permission.
Don't be fooled by a fancy or large ad on-line or in a phone book. Every company that advertises needs to be checked out before you do business with them. The CFA, Consumer Federation of America, publishes an annual Top 10 list of consumer complaints. Among these complaints, one of the fastest growing scams is locksmith fraud. Worse yet, these professionals impostors lurk to take advantage of their victims when they are most vulnerable and in the need of emergency locks and keys service. Not every state requires locksmiths to be licensed. In fact, the majority of states currently have no licensing requirements in place for locksmiths.
A skilled technician will be able to get you back inside your vehicle, home, or office without drilling out the locks. A qualified company will show up at your location equipped with all of the necessary tools to get the job done right without leaving damage behind.
The time to find a qualified professional is before you are in an emergency situation. Look through locksmiths in your area, and research them. Ask friends for recommendations, and make a non-emergency appointment with a few to make sure they are on the up and up before you are in urgent need of their services. One great place to always start your checking is with the BBB Better Business Bureau.
Are they really local? One of the biggest scams unlicensed companies pull is to advertise as if they are local when really they are operating out of a national call center. When you truly need a locksmith by your side, you don't want to wait for them to be dispatched from miles away relying only on a GPS to get them to your location. If the technician who shows up is local, he or she may actually be a contract laborer who has no affiliation with the company you called other than to be dispatched and collect payment. Be leery of companies who answer the phone with, "Locksmith Services" or another generic sounding name. Ask what their company’s name is and where they are located.
Be weary of bait and switch scams. Get a quote in writing before allowing any work to be done. Otherwise, when you call you may be quoted a great price, but when the technician shows up to do the job and hands you the bill, the price is much higher. There is not much to be done at this point but to pay the bill or dispute it with lengthy procedures that may not end in your favor.
When their technician arrive, look for a company logo on the vehicle. Usually, if the company is professional, they will have clear markings on the company vehicle. Also, take note of their license number.
Always expect a legitimate locksmith to ask to see your identification before doing work on your locks. This is required under law to make sure you own the vehicle or live at the home you are trying to gain entry to. Likewise, always ask their professional for identification and for license and registration number.
If their technician tell you that your lock will need to be drilled out and replaced, be careful. A skilled professional has undergone quite a bit of hours or training and knows how to use the proper tools to be able to unlock almost any lock without leaving any damage, or at worst minimal damage.
Research to make sure their company are licensed and whether or not he or she is insured to cover any damage that may incur during a repair. Look at their ad closely to see if there are any accreditation listed, such as ALOA, Associated Locksmiths of America. Keep in mind that plenty of legitimate companies are not members of these organizations, but it's added security if they are.
Follow these five helpful tips to avoid being taken advantage of when it comes to unlicensed locksmith scams.
- Check with friends and do a Google search for customer reviews.
- When you call, ask where their technicians are based, and then check the addresses to make sure they are legitimate addresses and not just a post office box or an empty lot.
- Ask them if they are licensed and what the registered name of the business is.
- Ask what their initial estimate of cost would be. If they quote you an extremely low rate, this is a huge red flag that this will not be your final cost.
- Never hand over your credit card until you are satisfied that the professional is legitimate, and always question if they insist on cash only.
If you suspect you have been scammed, notify the police.