As scary as it sounds, locksmith scams are becoming a part of our daily lives. Locksmiths target home and car owners when they are in their most vulnerable state and desperately need help, in an emergency and need immediate assistance.
Most of the time we feel that looking for a locksmith online is probably a smart move. However, we could fall victim to fake locksmiths or scammers who imitate the legitimate ones in online directories. The thing is, these fake locksmiths pose as local locksmiths and don’t even have a local shop. Sometimes these so called locksmiths are not even properly trained and are operated through out of state call centers.
A few cautious steps you take can help you avoid a scam company or an untrained copycat.
1. “Local” is the keyword
Do your research in advance. Take your time and don’t rush your search.
If a locksmith business is registered with a local address, Google the address and find out if there are any other businesses registered with the same address.
Even if you are in an emergency, you should always be on the lookout for services that answer the phone with some generic phrase, such as “Welcome to locksmith services.” If the caller is not willing to provide you with a legal business name, you should find another locksmith.
Also see if the companies are using any “800” numbers or a local number. The “800” number may indicate that the locksmith you are calling might be an overseas call center.
2. Check ID and license
When the locksmith arrives at the destination, it is important to request identification, including a locksmith license where applicable.
Of all the states, only fifteen of them require a locksmith license, making it a criminal job to even advertise as a locksmith without valid credentials. Check if your state is one of the 15 states on Google.
3. Beware of low prices
Always get a quote over the phone before allowing any technician to meet with you. Be skeptical of any locksmith offering an unbelievably low price. Those are the main red flags. Always ask about labor costs, emergency costs, and service fees.
Never allow anyone to start work on the house or vehicle without being fully aware of the costs that could be incurred.
4. It is better that there are no hidden fees
It is important to check if there are any additional charges, especially in case of emergencies.
A scam company could also claim that the lock on your home or vehicle is outdated and needs to be replaced. They will charge you an arm and a leg to replace your existing lock with one that they will say is a high security lock, but that is rarely the case. You could end up paying them to replace the existing good lock with a cheap one for a higher price.
5. Request vehicle identification
Always keep an eye on your surroundings. In case someone shows up in an unmarked vehicle and claims to work with a specific locksmith company, definitely don’t let them start working. Legitimate locksmith companies always send their technicians in a vehicle marked with company logos, phone numbers, and branded tools. This is a call to conscience.
6. Ask for a written estimate
Always request a quote in writing. This will cover you from hidden fees and additional labor charges. If a locksmith is hesitant to give you a signed written estimate, don’t let them start the job. This may mean that they do not have a good reputation and just want to make a quick buck.
7. The on-site estimate must match the written estimate
Any reputable locksmith company will provide you with a detailed quote during the phone conversation. This will include the cost of arrival, labor and parts needed. This estimate will be made with the estimate on the site. Locksmiths looking to rip you off will change your estimate upon arrival by adding additional hidden fees before the work even begins. Be safe from such dishonest service providers.
8. Say ‘No’ to drilling and replacement
Any locksmith company that suggests the lock needs to be drilled or replaced is a fraud. Experienced locksmith technicians can open almost any door. If they want to drill the lock, say a straight “No.” There is a high probability that they are scamming you and looking for more money. All genuine locksmith companies train their technicians to properly unlock any door.
9. Avoid cash transactions
All genuine locksmith companies give you the option to pay by cash, check and/or credit. Any company that insists on cash transactions is just looking for a quick buck and there is a 99.99 percent chance that it is a scam. This is also an important question to ask up front. Make sure you know how they accept payment BEFORE you start work.
10. Do not leave locksmiths unattended during work
I am not suggesting that you do not trust the person who has come to help you, but it is important to be aware of what they are doing. Your care can prevent you from being scammed in more ways than you can imagine.
If you believe you have been overcharged or scammed by a locksmith, you should immediately contact your state attorney general’s office. If you’re lucky, the AG’s office might be willing to hire staff to work as a mediator between customers and businesses and you might get your money back. Be careful and stay safe.