It’s the middle of the night and you discover that you are locked out of your car. You come home and realize your home has been burglarized and you need new locks fast. These are scenarios, unfortunately, people face every day. Getting back into a locked car or changing the locks on your house should be quick and easy. The bad news is that these are just the types of emergencies that make people perfect prey for scammers.
Locksmith scammers are roaming the country, ripping off good people with virtually no interference. Few people even know about locksmith scams, let alone what to do if faced with one.
When an emergency strikes, you might feel like you are forced into taking help from the first locksmith who answers the phone. Wait! Just because someone says they are a locksmith doesn’t mean they are.
Professional Locksmiths Are Trained and Certified
Professional locksmiths go through a certain amount of training, and in many states they have to be certified in order to practice their craft. When calling a locksmith (especially one you have never heard of before), be sure to ask about their certification and insist on seeing the technician’s ID when he arrives.
Any locksmith who will not tell you his certification number or show you an ID when he arrives should be turned away. You also should be leery of any locksmith who arrives in an unmarked car. Most feature some sort of signage or advertisement on their vehicles, and those who don’t should be considered suspect.
Qualified Locksmiths Are Upfront with Costs
There are a lot of ways to be scammed by a fake locksmith. The biggest is quoting one price for the job over the phone and charging a higher fee once it is complete. The other is doing unnecessary work to increase the fee. When you call a locksmith (even in an emergency situation), ask for a basic quote over the phone. If the price seems too low (like $20-$50), hang up; a scam is likely underway.
Now, lets say that the phone operator quotes you $125 for the job. That seems fair to you so you ask them to dispatch a service technician to the scene. When the technician arrives, have him look over the job and then give you a final written quote before doing anything. If he refuses (or quotes you a much higher price), refuse his help.
Also, be sure to have the technician explain exactly what he is going to do. If he insists that your locks need to be drilled out, ask him to explain why. Drilling out a lock is very rare these days. The vast majority of qualified locksmiths can open doors without destroying the lock. Unqualified ones, however, have no idea how to do that and must drill out the lock to get it open.
Never Pay Outrageous Fees
Locksmith scammers have gotten very slick in recent years. Recent complaints by consumers report scammers who offer a reasonable quote on the phone and at the time of arrival, only to charge the customer up to ten times the quoted amount when the job is complete. When the customer refuses to pay, the service provider threatens to call the police or keep their credit card.
The best advice here is to agree; if you are being scammed, the scammer is not going to call the police and if they keep your credit card simply call the company when they leave and report it stolen. You will not be responsible for any charges the scammer places on the card.
Don’t Be Intimidated
Intimidation is a scammer’s key weapon. Most people who call for locksmith services are in the midst of an emergency situation and are vulnerable. Scammers understand this and prey on this vulnerability. Don’t let a firm or even scary service provider force you to pay for services you didn’t request or large bills that are not reasonable. Call 911 for help if needed, but don’t be intimidated by their brute tactics.
So how can you ensure that you won’t fall victim to a locksmith scam? Here are a few tips:
- Sooner or later almost everyone needs a locksmith. Scout out one in your area that you feel comfortable contacting in an emergency and keep their number in your car or wallet
- Always ask if the locksmith company is licensed and ask for the licensing number before a service tech is dispatched
- Always ask for a quote over the phone and a written copy when the technician arrives
- Request that the technician go over the job and cost before commencing work
- Always ask to see the locksmith's ID when he or she arrives; be sure to tell the phone operator that you will require this before allowing the tech to commence work
- Be willing to say no if the quote is too high; the service provider makes you feel uncomfortable (for any reason); or they simply can not explain what they are doing – or why they are doing it.
Locksmith scammers are everywhere! It’s up to you to take the proper precautions to ensure that you don’t become a victim to one of these unscrupulous scam artists.