How to Avoid Locksmith Scams
The State of the Industry
It's very important for everyone to be aware of the unregulated state of the locksmith industry nationwide. All across the country many big and small locksmith companies use very unethical and sometimes illegal business practices to take advantage of us, the good and trusting consumers.
First, let me tell you what you are up against when you find yourself in need of a locksmith. Even though many locksmith companies are good and honest, sometimes it can be very hard to tell who's who. The reason for this is that the bad outfits use deceiving advertising methods to disguise themselves as local, reputable and reasonably priced.
Here are only some of the methods the unscrupulous locksmith companies use to take advantage of your desperation. For example, imagine that you lock your only set of keys inside your car. When you look online or in the yellow pages under locksmith, you will find many ads with big local phone numbers and addresses claiming to be local. Do not be deceived, anybody can get a local area code from anywhere and the address might be phony. These companies advertise under many different generic aliases like AA Locksmith or 24/7 locksmith to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. When you call them to shop for a price, some will flat out lie to you about their charges and others will try to get away with just giving you a partial quote.
In the case that you accidentally call such a company you might not know you did until their technician arrives to your location. Once they arrive, it is very likely they are not employees of the company, but are just private contractors that work on commission. This sub-contractor will try to charge as much as possible and only lower the price, if it is their last resort. These technicians are usually trained to lie and deceive the costumer to make him think that the excessive price is normal and there is a good reason for it. So even if you were told the price would be $15, $30 or $55, their tech, once there, will try to convince you that your car is "special" and the price to unlock it is actually $120 or even $180. If you refuse to pay and tell them to go away, they are instructed to try to intimidate you by telling you that you have to pay a service call for them to come out. Some even threaten to call the police if unpaid.
Finding a Good Locksmith
The best way of not getting scammed is to call a locksmith company that you know and trust. And I want to emphasize the "know and trust" part. Just because you used someone in the past, doesn't always mean they are one of the good guys. In most cases people don't hire locksmiths very often and when they do they rarely remember who they hired in the past. This is what makes the locksmith industry the perfect Petri dish for unethical business practices.
In the case you do not have a contact number for a good locksmith and you are just shopping for one, here are some failsafe tips of how to make the right choice:
- Quick Research - Before you call a locksmith company, try to Google their name to see what comes up about them. Also check the www.BBB.org website to see their rating. If they don't show up at all in the BBB database it is usually just as bad as being badly rated.
- Demand Total Price - There are few types of locksmith services that cannot be priced over the phone, but it is not the case for the most common ones. Here is the list that includes, but is not limited to, all the types of services that should be fully priced before getting someone to come out:
- Car Lockout (Any Vehicle)
- House Lockout
- Car Key (Any Vehicle)
- House Key
- Lock Re-Key
- Company Name Consistency - Many of the unscrupulous locksmith companies use different aliases on their advertisements to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. This way if someone wants to post a bad review about them, they will not know their real company name. When you call a locksmith using a number from an ad, ask the operator what is the name of the company. If the name does not match the name on the ad, that is a big red flag. Reputable locksmith companies will consistently stand behind one brand and will never hide behind misleading aliases.
- Expect Proper Treatment - The best way to know how much a locksmith company values your business is by the way they speak to you. If they are rude or impolite over the phone, we highly advise to call someone else.
These four tips are a great filter to weed out the bad guys and to hire a reputable and honest locksmith company. If for some reason, a technician arrives and tries to pull an unreasonable price hike, tell them to leave immediately. If they try aggressively to charge a service call, do not fall into their trap. They mislead you and you are not morally nor legally obligated to pay them a dime. Once they leave make sure to report them to the Better Business Bureau and if you have the time, do your part by warning other consumers by posting reviews online.