If the world was perfect with clear skies, chirping birds and smiling faces then you could take the time to research a number of different locksmith companies in your area and contact the best option. Unfortunately, sometimes emergencies arise and we aren’t necessarily afforded the luxury of time. It is at these times that you are most susceptible to locksmiths with unsavory business practices.
I highly recommend, if you haven’t already, find a well respected professional locksmith company in your area in case of an emergency. Go online and check out a couple of companies. Read some of their customer reviews and even check on their licensing. While the vast majority of locksmiths are hardworking professionals, the industry does have its share of bad apples. Properly researching a locksmith company beforehand will help you to avoid such characters.
The thing is that sometimes we are in the need of a locksmith away from home such as in the case of a car lockout. If you are stuck on the side of the road in the middle of the night in winter then engaging in in-depth online research on locksmiths is simply not an option.
If you are locked out and have no choice but to go with whatever you see listed in the Yellow Pages or online then there are a couple of things to look out for when trying to identify a scam:
1. They don’t answer the phone using the name of the company.
If you call a locksmith and they answer with a “Yo!,” Yeah!,” or “What?” then you might want to call another number. Scammers will generally advertise a number of fake company names and addresses and they will utilize a number of numbers that all feed into one call center. The person they have answering the phones is not likely to know which of their fake companies that you are calling for and thus will answer the phone by saying “locksmith” or just “hello.”
2. Prices quoted in their ads or on the phone are too good to be true.
A general rule of thumb: “If it is too good to be true then it usually is.” The most effective scamming tool used by dishonest locksmiths is the old bait and switch. They’ll advertise or quote you a low price and the locksmith will jam you for additional fees after the work is done. A common trick is to say that the price quoted only covered the actual service and not the labor costs. If you feel as if the person on the phone is not being honest or trying to be evasive when answering your questions then you might want to try a different company.
3. The locksmith arrives in a private car.
Seeing a locksmith arriving in a private car and not a clearly marked company vehicle should set off alarm bells. Dishonest companies will often employ out-of-state call centers that will be in contact with local contractors. These local contractors are often poorly trained, unlicensed, inexperienced and improperly equipped, never mind dishonest.
4. The locksmith starts pumping up the price before he starts working on the lock.
It is important to close on the price for everything before the locksmith begins to work on your lock. A dishonest locksmith will try and tack on all kinds of additional fees and you could find yourself paying far more then you originally thought you would.
5. Locksmith immediately pulls out a drill and wants to go to town on your lock.
While it is true that there are those instances when a locksmith is just not able to pick a lock and is required to drill; however, they are few and far between. If a locksmith starts to work on your lock and immediately tells you that he needs to use a drill then DO NOT LET THEM! If they drill the lock then you will be required to pay for a new lock and its installation. This could run you into the hundreds of dollars.
Dishonest locksmiths can be a real nuisance and I have been on a number of calls over the years to repair the shoddy work of some quacks. Just remember to keep your guard up and look out for the above five signs in the event of an emergency situation where taking the time to do background checks is simply not an option.