Today over 250,000 people in the U.S. contacted a locksmith for an emergency service call.1 Anxiety runs high when you find that you are locked out of your home or car. Since it’s not something that occurs very often, most people don’t know what to do. The first thing many people do is turn to the internet to find a locksmith for help. While there are many reputable locksmith firms on the internet, there are also many thieves waiting to take advantage of vulnerable victims.
Here are some tips to enable you to tell a reputable locksmith from a thief.
Tip #1: Find a locksmith before you need one.
You have a doctor, a dentist, and a hairstylist. Take the time to find a locksmith or two in your area. Ask your friends and neighbors for a referral just like you would when finding a new personal trainer or car mechanic. This is an important step in protecting yourself from a scammer, as some of the listings online are not legitimate locksmiths with local shops. The listings can even be for out-of-town call centers. The person you get through these listings may not actually be a professional locksmith at all. So, it’s best to do your research, asking some key questions.
These include how long the locksmith has been in business and what the locksmith’s training has included. You should also look at customer reviews, including checking out the company on your local Better Business Bureau site. When you call a locksmith, pay attention to how they answer the phone. If they don’t use the business name that you see listed, ask for the name of the business. If they can’t or won’t provide a business name that matches the listing, find another locksmith.3
Tip #2: Be wary of a locksmith with a toll free number and/or an unmarked business vehicle.
When the locksmith’s phone number is toll free, be wary. Toll free numbers begin with one of the following three digits: 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844 or 833.4 While some local locksmiths might provide a toll-free number for customer convenience, having a toll-free number often means that your call is being routed to a call center located in another state or even another country. Jim Hancock of the Associated Locksmiths of America was quoted in the AARP Bulletin as saying that “the overwhelming majority of locksmiths with an 800 phone number are not legitimate.”5 He described a scenario where the customer is given a very low price of $15 for the service call and then is told when the scammer arrives that the cost will be $1,000 or more due to some special circumstance with their lock. Of course, they will only take payment in cash.
Another warning is when the scammer pulls up to your location in an unmarked vehicle. Most legitimate locksmiths use their business vehicles to advertise their services, having the company name, phone number, logo and services prominently displayed.
Tip #3: Check out the locksmith licensing laws in your state.
Most states don’t require that locksmiths be licensed. Those that do include Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.6 If you live in a state that requires licensing the locksmith should be able to show you a copy of their license. If you don’t live in a state that requires licensing, you should always ask for some proof of the locksmith’s identity including a business card, invoice or bill with the company name printed on it which matches the name on the service vehicle. The locksmith should also ask for proof of your identity to prove that you have the authority to allow the unlocking to be done.7
Tip #4: Get a written estimate of the work to be done and a receipt for payment.
Before any work is performed, ask for a written estimate. That estimate should be done on a form with the company name and contact information. If you are uncomfortable with the estimate for any reason, you are free to decline the work and should do so at that point. Most locksmiths can open any lock, so if the locksmith that answers your service call says that they have to drill out the old lock and replace it, you probably should hire another locksmith.8 When the work is concluded make sure you get an itemized invoice. Without this invoice you can’t dispute the charge.
Following these tips can save you from becoming a victim of a locksmith scam and ensure that you get quality services at a fair price. While it may take an investment of your time upfront, knowing which locksmith to turn to in an emergency can provide peace of mind. Once you have found a reputable locksmith, remember to put their contact information into your smartphone contacts list. Then, you’ll have that information at your fingertips when you need it.
Looking for a reputable locksmith in Michigan? Action Locksmith is a trusted Michigan locksmith that has been keeping Michigan homes and businesses secure and up to date for over 30 years. We are licensed, family owned and operated, with experience in virtually all facets of locksmithing. We handle everything form re-keying to door repair and installation, access control, camera systems and correct code violations on doors and locks. Our hard work and dedication have made us one of the best locksmith companies in Michigan and we are happy to help.
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1, 2. 5, 8 Locksmith Scams on the Rise, AARP Bulletin, by Sid Kirchheimer
3, 6 7 Tips to Avoid Locksmith Scams, www.AngiesList.com, by Tom Lange. 3/11/2016