News & Alerts

Locked out? Don't fall for these locksmith scams

November 30, -0001

If you're locked out of your home or car, a locksmith can be your lifeline - but make sure you hire a reputable one.

For most homeowners, there are a few life events that call for the services of a locksmith :

  1. When you're moving into a new home (or someone in the home is moving out) and

2. When you've accidentally locked yourself out of your home or car.

A locksmith is a professional contractor who specializes in entry systems such as locks, door knobs and other security features. Today's locksmith offer much more expansive technologically advanced products such as closed-circuit TV monitoring systems, residential fire and burglary alarm systems, remote keyless entry fobs for cars and digital access systems.

While most locksmiths are reputable, a number of scams have cropped up over the years, especially within Massachusetts, from fraudulent locksmiths who offer emergency lockout services. Often flooding phone books with local listings, these sham locksmiths often don't carry the licensing or credentials required.

Angie’s List Tips: Be on the lookout for these warning signs:

  • Be wary of companies that answer calls with generic phrases like “locksmith service,” rather than a specific name. If a locksmith cannot or will not provide the business’ legal name and physical address, find another locksmith.
  • Most legitimate locksmiths will arrive in a clearly marked vehicle and/or in clothing that carries the company logo. At a minimum, the locksmith should have some sort of company identification and/or Association Affiliation.
  • If the locksmith’s on-site price doesn’t match the phone estimate, don’t pay. Fraudulent locksmiths often inflate the final bill and insist the customer pay in cash. Call the local Police Department for assistance with this situation; In most cases, a scammer will immediately leave even without collecting any money for the services rendered.
  • If you’re locked out, be cautious of companies that recommend or insist on drilling or replacing the lock up front. Most experienced locksmiths have the skills and tools to unlock almost any door and will only use a drill for specific types of high security locks.

Picking a locksmith

  • Find a reputable locksmith before you need one: In most cases it's relatively easy to shop around for a locksmith if you’re moving into a new home, but getting locked out is almost always unexpected. Before you're ever locked out of your home or vehicle, find a reputable locksmith before you need one. It's much easier to be taken advantage of when you're in need of quick help and at the mercy of the first locksmith you call.
  • Do your homework: Rather than relying on the phone book, an Internet search or directory assistance, call a few companies to get an estimate on their services before you need them. 
  • Check Association Affiliation/credentails: Locksmiths are not required to be licensed in Massachusetts. Reputable locksmiths will be affilated with aloa.org and/or masslocksmiths.org
  • Know the details beforehand: Get an estimate before any work begins, including emergency service. Ask about extra charges for things like emergency hours, mileage, or service call minimums before you agree to have the work performed. Pay with a credit card so you can have some potential recourse if you run into problems.
  • Store the contact information: Once you find a service provider you're comfortable with, store that company's information in your purse, wallet, or cell phone — some place you're likely to have access to if locked out.


-Angies List

Locked out? Don't fall for this locksmith scam

November 30, -0001

Most locksmiths are honest. A few are not. According to a new warning from the Better Business Bureau, these untrustworthy locksmiths are “ripping off consumers” across the country. The BBB says this “nationwide locksmith swindle” has already resulted in more than a thousand complaints.

“We know that there are thousands more people across the country who have been victims and don’t even know it,” says Alison Preszler with the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The BBB blames most of the problem on two companies: Dependable Locksmith (New York) and Basad Inc. (Englewood, Colo.). These two firms also operate in other major cities across the country using dozens of generic aliases, such as AAA Locksmith, A-1 Locksmith and 24 Hour Locksmith – names that are also widely used by reputable companies.

The BBB says unhappy customers complain that Dependable and Basad significantly overcharge, charge for unnecessary services, and use intimidation tactics. In some cases, the final bill is four times as much as the quoted price.

“They have made taking advantage of people who are locked out of their house or car part of their business model,” Preszler says.

In Oak Creek, Wis., Carol Pintar was locked out her car on a cold night in December. She looked in the Yellow Pages and found a locksmith in nearby South Milwaukee. They told her the price would be $35.

The locksmith arrived in an unmarked vehicle, rather than a commercial van. That’s usually the case with these dishonest operations. Pintar said he demanded payment upfront – another warning sign. But the price wasn’t $35 as quoted. It was $95.

“I did give him the money, but I really felt funny about the whole situation,” she says. “I just knew it was some kind of scam, so I called the Better Business Bureau.”

The BBB’s Alison Preszler told me, “Many victims have come to us and said they knew they were being taken advantage of, but felt helpless to argue.”

Show me the money
Noelle, who lives in Cleveland, Ohio felt that way. She asked me not to use her last name because she has already been harassed by the company. Last August, after returning to a friend’s house from a rock concert, Noelle realized she had locked her keys in the car. It was 2 a.m.

Noelle looked in the phone book and found “24-Hour Locksmith.” She called and was told the charge would be $40. When the locksmith arrived – in an unmarked vehicle – he told Noelle he’d have to break the door to get it open. “He said he’d have to use a crow bar or break the window,” she told me.

But there was a better option. For another $60, he could use a Slim Jim and pop the door open with no damage. Noelle agreed to the new fee of $100.

Once the door was open, Noelle was told the bill was $250.

“And I was like, excuse me! How do I owe you $250?”

The guy told her there were fees and service charges. And because she was going to pay by check, there was a check-processing fee. He volunteered to drive her to an ATM to get cash, but Noelle didn’t like that idea.

“He would not give me my keys back until I gave him a check for $250. I was very upset because I realized I was being taken advantage of,” she told me. But she needed to get into her car, so she paid.

A few days later, Noelle decided to visit the company, to complain in person. She found several locations listed in the phone book, but they all were bogus addresses.

A common trick
Each of these companies uses a slick trick to appear as if they’re a local locksmith. They place ads in phone directories and on the Internet using fake local addresses and phone numbers that ring at a call center in another part of the country. For instance, dial one of the Dependable Lock companies and your call will be routed to New York.

“Consumers think they’re calling a reputable locksmith and they’re quoted a price that seems very reasonable,” says Claire Rosenzweig, President and CEO of the BBB of Metropolitan New York. “Then these people show up and charge more than you expected.”

For the record: I called both companies and could not find anyone who would talk to me about the BBB’s allegations. The attorney for Dependable Locks returned my call, but would only talk off the record. His only on-the-record comment? No comment.

The bottom line
The Better Business Bureau suggests finding a good locksmith before you need one. That’s a good idea, but most people don’t do that.

So, how do you protect yourself? Be careful. Don’t pick a company at random based on an ad in the phone book. If you’re stuck in a situation where you need help right away, try to find a familiar name.

If you can get to a computer, you can check the company online 24/7 on the BBB’s Web site. If not, call a friend and see if they know of a good local company.

If you’re a member of AAA, you might want to use their locksmith service.

Be suspicious of anyone who shows up in an unmarked vehicle. Never pay before the work is done. Whenever possible, use a credit card. It has built in fraud protection. Finally, if you’re not comfortable with the person who shows up, don’t use them.

If you do get burned, let someone know about it. File complaints with the Better Business Bureau and your state’s consumer protection or Attorney General’s office.


By Herb WeisbaumConsumerMan

msnbc.com contributor
updated 7/13/2007 2:32:36 AM ET

 

More information:

 


Looking out for phony locksmiths

February 14, 2012

By Melissa McKinney
Original post here

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
It can happen anytime, anywhere. Locking yourself out of your house or car is–no doubt–a hassle. But if you’re not careful, your locksmith could make the situation worse!

After 15 years with a local locksmith company, Chris Craft knows how long it takes and how much it costs to unlock someone’s house or car.

“I would say within the first 10 minutes you should be able to pick it,” he says.

It’s little facts like these he and his coworkers at American Lock and Key on Troy Highway fear customers don’t understand and wind up being taken advantage of by phony locksmith companies popping up nationwide.

“They’re sending out a representative that they have hired. In most cases we’ve found, they’re not trained, they’re not properly licensed,” says Owner, Dallas Brooks.

He is also a member of the state board that licenses locksmiths.

He says there are some common tactics illegitimate companies are using such as:

- Demanding more money than customers were quoted over the phone
- Insisting on cash only transactions
- Damaging locks, doors and windows by using unnecessary power drills
- Tacking on extra fees for what may be fake services

“They get on site. They end up raising the price on you,” says Brooks.

If you lock yourself out of the house during the daytime, professional locksmiths say it shouldn’t be more than about $60 dollars for a service call. If you’re quoted more than $100 dollars they say you might want to start asking some questions.

“Ask for those licenses. They [locksmiths] all should have picture Id’s on them. You should ask to see that as soon as they come in the door,” adds Brooks.

“You like to know who you’re dealing with,” says Craft.

Professional locksmiths say you should even be mindful of the vehicle your representative is driving. If it has the company’s name on it, that’s a good sign they are legitimate.

Copyright 2011 WSFA. All rights reserved.


Top reasons for using an automotive locksmith

May 03, 2011

Try not to panic if you have lost your car keys or locked them in your car. Simply call a locksmith.

Many people use make-shift attempts at unlocking a car but these can be quite damaging even if you do not see the results right away. Using a tow truck driver to pry the corner of your door open and using a long rod to attempt to hit the unlock button will damage your car door and you won’t realize it until you hear the wind at the edge of the door when you’re driving down the road.  Also, police rarely have all the tools or special training needed to open your car without damage. A botched car opening job can easily do $300.00 worth of damage to the inside of the door panel. These methods I would never recommend, instead, use a locksmith. These are trained professionals that use finesse, not force.

1. Non-destructive entry

Make sure you do research before choosing a locksmith and keep the number on you in a safe place like a phone or a wallet. Try to choose a reputable company with certified workers. Locksmiths go through some pretty intense training before they are considered certified. If you get locked out, certified locksmiths will never damage doors or frames and will likely be insured, so in the rare case something does get damaged while they are trying to help, they will pay for it, not you.

2. Stress-free and friendly

Getting locked out of your car, losing your keys, or having your keys stolen, is very stressful for anyone. Companies that specialize in this are usually quite friendly, compassionate and experienced. Locksmith companies, such as East Coast Chip Keys, provide very friendly and fast service. Their goal is to get to your location and get you back into your vehicle as quick and secure as possible. They also can make you new replacement keys and remotes.

3. On-call 24/7

The great thing about most locksmiths is the fact that they are always open for your convenience. You can never expect when you might lose or lock your keys in your vehicle. So you can call a locksmith up at any time and they will attend to your needs as soon as possible.

4. Reasonable prices

The locksmith industry is a very niche market, therefore it is very competitive. These companies tend to be reasonably priced for this reason. Make sure you do some shopping around to make sure you go with a qualified and certified locksmith that has competitive pricing. However, prices do tend to be dependent on the time of day. Be careful, some locksmith companies claim to have low cost pricing but then will have several hidden fees they will tack on once you get the bill. Try to find a company that promises no hidden fees and ask for the total price over the phone before they come and do the work for you.

5. Up to date with latest technologies

Automobile security is always changing and becoming more high tech. Find a locksmith service that is versatile and skilled in many current ways of key entry such as transponders (chip), forbik, or smart keys, etc. Locksmith’s that know these methods and are certified in these areas will deliver the safest, secure, and less damaging results.

East Coast Chip Keys is a leader in Automotive and Motorcycle Locksmithing, providing Locksmith services within Massachusetts! With years of experience and dedication, East Coast Chip Keys is at the forefront of the Automotive Locksmithing industry with employees earning a reputation of unparalleled knowledge and professional service.

Resources:

http://www.eastcoastchipkeys.com/?page_id=1
http://www.eastcoastchipkeys.com/?page_id=5
http://www.anytime-locksmith.com/blogs/1/5-reasons-for-using-a-certified-locksmith-service.html


Keying in on Locksmith Fraud

March 31, 2011

Joan Scott felt her gut drop when she lifted the door handle of her 1998 Ford Escort last month. Scott was locked out, and the engine was running.

A phone-directory search of locksmiths yielded a company that quoted a $35 service charge plus a fee of $15 that could go up if her vehicle “is a newer car which could be harder to open.”

When the locksmith arrived in an unmarked truck, he said the job would cost $134.

“I told him I’d rather throw a rock through my window,” said Scott, who eventually accepted a “discounted” price of $85.

The Colorado Better Business Bureau said Scott may have been a victim of a locksmith swindle becoming prevalent in Colorado. Companies register under an assortment of business names, flood phone directories with large ads and provide shoddy work at high prices.

Basad Inc., an Englewood locksmith, faces such allegations from the Colorado attorney general’s office, which says the firm violated the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.

A suit the AG’s office filed in November alleges that Basad “deceived, misled, and financially injured consumers” in Colorado and six other states.

In addition to claiming the company raised its prices once it was on the scene, the suit says Basad has used 73 trade names since 2004 and falsely printed the Associated Locksmiths of America seal on its ads.

Basad’s attorney, David Zisser, said his client is a good corporate citizen and is working toward a resolution with the state.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say the quote doubles or triples,” Zisser said. “And frankly, I don’t think there’s actually a quote or an estimate given until a technician gets to the scene.”

Dell Sterling, owner of Interstate Lock & Key in Westminster, said up to three-fourths of the locksmith listings in phone and Internet directories are from a handful of shady firms operating under dozens of names and phone numbers.

Sterling said customers should demand a firm price before a locksmith comes
Sterling’s Star Mobile device links to a computer to program the microchip inside a modern automobile key.
out and ask to see the worker’s identification upon arrival.

The Rocky Mountain Locksmith Association’s investigative committee said receipts given by questionable operators usually are written on blank invoices.

Ted Kimmes Jr., owner of EBI Security in Commerce City, said his company sometimes has to fix broken locks left by shady locksmiths.

“If they have trouble opening a lock, they drill it out; they don’t pick it,” Kimmes said. “(Shady operators) don’t have the skills of the locksmith. They just know enough to get into trouble.”

Article by: Anthony Bowe

Don’t get picked

Tips to avoid a locksmith swindle:
  • If a company won’t provide its legal name when you call, find another locksmith.
  • Most reputable locksmiths arrive in a clearly marked service vehicle.
  • Ask about additional fees before you agree to have the locksmith perform the work.
  • Legitimate locksmiths should ask you for an ID or proof of authority to allow the unlocking.
  • An experienced locksmith has the tools and education to unlock almost any door. They don’t usually have to drill out the lock.
  • Once you’ve found a reputable locksmith, keep the company’s name and contact information.