NATIONWIDE LOCKSMITH SCAM - WE WANT YOU TO KNOW…
There is a growing problem throughout the U.S. with disreputable, unethical, and possibly illegal activities of so-called “locksmith” companies listed on the Internet. The Better Business Bureau, state attorneys general, and regional and national locksmith organizations are receiving an ever-increasing number of complaints from consumers who have been ripped off and from legitimate locksmith businesses who have had their names and reputations damaged by these creeps. It’s happening in Washington, too, and it’s now happening to us here in Olympia.
Here’s a common scenario: You’ve locked yourself out of your house or car. You don’t really know any local locksmiths so you don’t know whom to call. You check online or in the yellow pages to find one, and call one you think is a local locksmith. They quote you a price (usually less than what legitimate businesses charge), you’re often asked for your credit or debit card number, and are told a locksmith will be dispatched (often from a call center somewhere in New York or even another country). You wait and wait and wait. IF someone does show up, your quote flies out the window because the person charges you two or three (or more) times what you were quoted. If you weren’t asked for a credit or debit card number to begin with, this phony-baloney locksmith demands cash. You’ve just been scammed!
We’ve recently had several customers who have come to our shop with similar tales. These dirtbag companies are cheating people not only by changing fees, but they are also confusing and misleading consumers by using business names, web addresses, and e-mail addresses closely resembling legitimate local businesses.
What can you do if you’ve been ripped off?
- Call your credit card company or bank to notify them what has happened. They will probably issue you a new account number and card.
- File a complaint with the Washington State Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division You can do this online.
- File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and/or the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center - You can also do this online.
- Tell your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers what happened so they won’t become victims.
- Post reviews and blogs to help get the word out. The more informed people are, the more cautious they will be.
SEVEN TIPS FOR FINDING A LOCKSMITH:
- Find a local locksmith before you need them. Check out their business name, license number, address, and phone number to make sure they are legitimate local businesses. Also, look closely at their yellow pages or Internet advertisements. Are they clearly identifiable? Do their ads look similar to other ads but with a different name?
- Don’t give your credit or debit card number over the phone unless you know and trust the person you have called.
- When the locksmith arrives, look at their service vehicle. Does it have signs clearly showing who they are?
- Ask for identification. Ask to see their license and their occupational permit which has their picture and business name on it. Also, most legitimate locksmiths have business cards with the company’s and service technician’s name.
- Get a written estimate prior to work being done. Don’t sign a blank authorization form. After the work is completed, demand an itemized invoice stating precisely what work has been performed.
- If possible, have a trusted friend or relative with you at your house, car, or business when the locksmith arrives. This is especially important at night or if you’re a woman in a remote location.
- If you feel intimidated or uncomfortable with the provider, you can, and should, refuse to work with the locksmith.
ALOA (Associated Locksmiths of America)
KOMO News, Seattle – Herb Weisbaum, ConsumerMan – “Locksmith scam makes a bad day even worse”
North Carolina Consumer Affairs – “North Carolina Locks Down Phony Locksmith Scam: Attorney General targets scammers for false pricing”
New York – Google blog – “Another business is clearly impersonating my business…”
Florida business blog – “A short list of ‘locksmith scam’ companies…”