Locksmith scams: don’t be a victim!

Locksmith scams are out there – preying on those in need.  Being aware of them is your first step in not becoming their next victim.

So, what exactly am I talking about — what is a locksmith scam?  The tips below will help you spot and avoid them!

What is a locksmith scam?

It’s 2am.  You’re at the casino, ready to leave, and find you’ve locked your keys in your car.  What do you do?

Out comes the smartphone — and Google produces quick results for 24 hour locksmiths near you.  You call the first number, the voice on the other end of the phone answers — “locksmith” and is more than eager to help you out — “No problem at all!  We can help you!  That will be $15 service call with a minimum of $45.  Because it’s so late, we’ll have to request cash and I’ll have a technician call you right back.”

Wow, you think.  $45 to open my car at 2am – what a deal!

An hour later, the “technician” arrives.  Usually, in a car with no company information on it.  He then tells you that your car is more difficult, will require more tools and will be $150 to unlock.

What?  $150?  But you were quoted $45!   Yeah, it’s a late call — take it or leave it.

If you’re lucky enough, you’ll find this out BEFORE the technician actually unlocks your car and takes possession of your keys!  You can simply tell them to go fly a kite.  Once they have your keys, however, it’s a different story.

 

Tips to spot a scam

In the scenario above, red flags should have gone up immediately.

The called company answered their phone with “locksmith”.  Red flags should go up.  Any legitimate company would not forgo the use of their trade name.  Would McDonald’s answer their phone with “burgers”?

$45 to open your car at 2am?  Red flags should go up.  If it sounds to good to be true, it usually is.  Be very careful when a company, or technician, is hesitant to talk pricing, or is obviously confusing in the way they present their pricing.  “$15 service call with a $45 minimum.” is a good example.  By the same token, service calls that are extremely low are another good indication that the company you are dealing with are scammers.

Cash is requested as payment.  Red flags should go up.  Most legitimate companies will have the ability to process credit cards, which is your best method of payment, and form of protection.  Don’t let them talk you into paying cash “to save the tax”.  Get a proper receipt with their business and / or tax number.

A technician shows up with no uniformed shirt and / or marked company vehicle.  Red flags should go up.  There are two reasons why this should concern you; 1) most companies pay an awful lot of money for advertising — to get there name out in front of potential clients.  Choosing to pay for advertising, then not utilizing FREE advertising doesn’t make much sense, and 2) locksmiths are security professionals and should look the part.  If they don’t you need to ask yourself why.

Tips to avoid being a victim

  • Before you contact the company, have a look and see if they advertise a website.  No?  Why not?  If they do, have a browse around and look for things such as accreditation from local associations, such as TAOL and BCAPL,  or national associations, such as ALOA.  Keep in mind that not all legitimate locksmiths belong to, or advertise, locksmith associations.  It’s not a tell-all, but one tool-in-the-bag.
  • Look for reviews and feedback on websites, such as Google+, Yelp, Homestars and FSLocal to name a few.  You can also help by leaving your feedback for companies whom you’ve dealt with.  That’s what they’re there for folks!
  • Look for their address and / or service areas and use this information to ask questions to the dispatcher, such as if the technician is local to you.
  • Look for things such as how they answer their phone.  Did they use generic terms, such as “locksmith” or “locksmith services”, or did they answer with a company name?
  • Ask the dispatcher for pricing.  If they are unwilling to discuss pricing, or offer a pricing structure that seems confusing, don’t be afraid to ask questions.  If they are legit, they should have no problem answering your questions, or explaining their pricing.  Abnormally low trip charges are, generally, a very good sign of a scam.
  • Watch for requested methods of payment.  Are they demanding cash?  Most legit companies will offer the acceptance of other forms of payment, including credit cards.
  • If, for any reason, you are wary, call around and get some other estimates.  Talk to someone until you feel comfortable with them sending out a technician.  Once this has happened, ask for the name of the technician that will be dispatched.
  • Once you’ve moved to the next stage and have had a technician dispatched, you still need to be on your toes.  When the technician arrives, look at what they’re driving.  Are they in a car?  Does they have a company name on their vehicle?  Are they wearing a company uniform displaying the company name AND the technicians name?  Under most circumstances, the answer to all these questions should be yes.
  • Ask the technician for photo and / or company ID.  If they hesitant or unable to provide ID, call someone else.
  • Ask for a written estimate BEFORE they begin any work.  If they are unwilling or unable to provide you with a written estimate, call someone else.  Don’t hand over any form of payment until you are completely satisfied with the estimate.
  • Finally, pay with a credit card.  This is the only form of payment that can give you any form of retribution in the event “something goes wrong”.

 

Getting to know your local locksmith before you need them is always the best bet, but this is not always possible for a host of reasons.  Sometimes you just need a locksmith now and have to do what you have to do.  Hopefully, with these tips, we can help you avoid being another victim of a locksmith scam.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to leave your comments below, or send me a message through my contact page!

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