Being locked out of your home or vehicle is a stressful situation. Unfortunately, some untrustworthy locksmiths will only make matters worse. Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to beware of untrustworthy locksmith businesses taking advantage of consumers across the country.
“It is unfortunate that any business would exploit those who are in such a vulnerable situation,” said Paula Fleming, vice president of communications and marketing for BBB. “We recommend finding a trustworthy business through your BBB, doing research before hiring, and filing a complaint if you feel you have been taken advantage of.”
Victim complaints to BBB reveal that several locksmith busineses, all using similar methods, are significantly overcharging consumers, charging them for unnecessary services, using intimidation tactics, and failing to give refunds or respond to consumer complaints. To date, BBB has received 1,051 complaints against locksmiths in the US.
Deceptive locksmith businesses will often advertise in yellow pages or internet listings and provide multiple false addresses and phone numbers to look like they are a local business. In reality, the address listed doesn’t actually exist and calls made to the business are routed through an out-of-state call center. BBB discovered that the address listed for one such locksmith in Massachusetts was actually a Suffolk University dorm.
Many untrustworthy locksmiths have websites advertising their ‘emergency’ services, low rates and reliable service. Customers will be quoted a reasonable price over the phone, but will be significantly up-charged on the invoice they receive once the job has been completed.
To avoid getting ripped off, BBB offers these tips to find a reliable locksmith that you can trust: Know the name.
Unscrupulous locksmiths often operate under many business names or aliases. They may answer the phone with a generic phrase like, “locksmith service” or simply “locksmith.” If the call is answered this way, ask, "What is the legal name of your business?" Critique their advertising.
Look closely at the business’ advertisements. Is the specific name of the business clearly identified? Does the ad look similar to other ads but have a different name? Does it appear that the dealer actually operates under several names? Pay attention to the vehicle.
Generally, locksmiths should arrive in a marked service vehicle or van that clearly states the business name. Keep in mind that some legitimate locksmiths do work out of a car or unmarked van for quick jobs. Ask for identification.
A legitimate locksmith should ask for your identification and some form of proof that you have the authority to allow the unlocking to be done. A legitimate locksmith should also provide you with their identification, usually in the form of a business card or invoice with the company name on it. Identifying information should also match the name on the service vehicle. Get an estimate.
Find out what the work will cost before you authorize it. Never sign a blank form authorizing work. Ask about additional fees (such as mileage charges, minimum service fees, or late night surcharges) before you authorize the locksmith to do the work. If the locksmith quotes you a different price upon arrival, do not allow the work to be done. Demand an invoice.
You can't dispute a charge without proof of how much you paid and what you paid for. Insist on an itemized invoice that includes parts, labor, mileage and service charges. The invoice should also include the business name and address. Find out about insurance.
Ask if the locksmith is insured. If your property becomes damaged during a repair, insurance is important to cover your losses. Pay the right way.
Using your credit card to pay for locksmith services can give you added security. Many credit cards have built-in fraud protection. Plan for next time.
Once you’ve found a reputable locksmith, keep their information handy in case you find yourself locked out again in the future. Always check with your BBB to find a trustworthy business in your area.
Only fifteen states require locksmiths to be licensed: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Do your research and find a reliable locksmith before you actually need one. Visit bbb.org
to read Business Reviews about locksmiths in your area. You can find locksmiths who are affiliated with the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA)
by searching www.findalocksmith.com
or downloading their app on your smartphone.
If you have been a victim of a locksmith scam, file a complaint with your BBB at bbb.org
. You can also record your complaint with the FTC
or your State Attorney General
. If you believe you’ve found a fraudulent locksmith online, contact the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center
For more information about reliable locksmiths and other businesses you can trust, visit bbb.org