A locksmith scam that traps desperate home and automotive owners into overpaying for emergency locksmith services has been named as one of the fastest growing frauds in the country. Unlicensed and unqualified, bogus lock technicians charge up to 10 times the going rate for rescuing locked-out victims.
These scams are easy to spot and to prevent, by following the tips in this article. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of locksmith scam artists are taking advantage of emergencies to rip off home and auto owners across the United States. Some professional locksmiths even believe the widespread fraud is part of an organized crime operation.
Things you should do to avoid a locksmith scam:
- If they answer your phone call with a generic name such as “locksmith services,” be suspicious. If they can’t give a specific business name, move on.
- When it’s time to hire a locksmith, inform the dispatcher you need to see the technician’s certification and ID, and that you would like a written estimate prior to the service.
- Before having them come out, make sure you get information about any extra charges such as for mileage, service call minimums or emergency hours.
- Check the locksmith’s vehicle; it should be marked, and get the license number.
- Ask to see his locksmith license. The following states require locksmiths to be licensed: Alabama, California, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
- If the locksmith insists on cash, this may mean a scam.
- If the technician won’t give a written estimate before starting the job, end the transaction.
- If the onsite estimate doesn’t match the phone estimate, do not permit the job to be performed.
- If he says, “The lock needs to be drilled out,” ask why, because a professional locksmith should have the skills and tools to unlock just about any door.
- Don’t pay until you’re satisfied with the job.
Here are things you could and should do:
- 1. Before even contacting them, check their ad and website for an address. Look for accreditation such as from ALOA (though a lot of genuine locksmiths are not members). Then check Google and directory listings for customer reviews.
- 2. When you phone them, ask where they or their technicians are based (again, checking the address), whether they are licensed and what the registered name of the business is. End it here if you’re not satisfied with the replies.
- 3. Otherwise, still on the phone, ask what their preliminary estimate of the cost will be. Don’t fall for an outrageously low price — like $10 or $20. It’s a sure sign of a scam or, at the very least, you’ll end up paying a lot more.
- 4. Tell the locksmith dispatcher you will want to see the technician’s ID and certification, and that you want a proper written estimate from them before they start work.
- 5. When the locksmith arrives, check out their vehicle. Make a note of the license number. Be very dubious if they roll up in an unmarked vehicle or if their behavior seems unprofessional in any way.
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