Scammers are a huge problem in the locksmith business. They target helpless people who are locked out of their homes or cars, and exploit them for money while they’re in a vulnerable situation.
Here’s the layout of a typical locksmith scam.
Most locksmith scams start with an extremely low price listed online. In all likelihood, you don’t know how much a legitimate locksmith charges, so you go with the cheapest option. Being locked out is an uncomfortable situation and you just want to get back in your car or home. Period. While this is understandable, it can also get you into hot water financially if you encounter a scammer.
Scammers will arrive at your home or vehicle, fix your lock, and then demand a much higher fee than they quoted you online. Sometimes as much as hundreds of dollars more. It’s important to ask for the price up front because even though you may feel obligated to pay them after they’ve driven to you, you don’t have to pay them until they have technically serviced your lock. Once they’ve helped you back into your car or home, you are required to pay them and if you’re hesitant they may get hostile with you.
Scammers can be very good at hiding their intentions. They may look like a perfectly legitimate business, complete with a local phone number. But if a locksmith is advertising an extremely low price – generally anything below $40 – there’s a good chance they could be locksmith scammers. These scammers will purchase a local area code to seem trustworthy, when they are really operating out of a call center in another state!
Here are some suspicious signs you might encounter with a locksmith scammer:
Low price listed online
Open 24 hours
Phone quote different from online price list
If you’re reading this and you’ve already called a locksmith you think may be a scammer, it’s not too late to call off the hire. Remember, if you haven’t paid yet, it’s perfectly legal to refuse to let the locksmith fix your lock, even if you agreed to the service over the phone. If there’s anything suspicious about your locksmith, go with your instincts and cancel the service.
Watch out for these signs when your locksmith arrives:
Drives an unmarked car
Claims your lock needs to be drilled or replaced
Gives you a more expensive quote than you were given over the phone
Unfortunately, if you’ve handed over your money, there’s not much you can do. It’s better to stay safe than try to hold onto your cash. Your best option is to report the scam to your state’s Attorney General office.
Avoid being scammed in the future by educating yourself. Research the locksmith industry and find out the average price for locksmith services in your area. Find a reputable, local locksmith and keep their information in your phone in case of a future lockout.