The Top 5 Signs of A Locksmith Scam and How To Avoid Them
It seems that everywhere you turn these days, there’s some sort of buzz about getting scammed. From telemarketing scams like owing the IRS money or mysteriously qualifying for a federal government grant, criminals are relentless in their pursuit to extract innocent citizens’ money at every turn.
But one scam gets a lot less attention and certainly doesn’t have the FCC‘s attention. It’s a scam that’s always been around but has really reared its ugly head thanks to the power of Google’s Business Profiles. Worst of all, if you’re not careful, you could play right into their hands when you’re at your most vulnerable. We’re talking, of course, about the rapid rise of locksmith scams.
What happens during a Locksmith Scam?
A locksmith scam involves the use of misleading local business listings, predominantly online, that pose as a local licensed locksmith. Callers needing locksmith services are routed to a call center where scammer locksmiths are deployed to the scene. In their advertisements, these listings usually advertise extremely low locksmith pricing but then significantly inflate the price once the work is completed. Unbeknownst to the consumer who’s locked out of a vehicle or is needing assistance with opening a lock, these scammer locksmiths pray upon the desperate consumers needing real, qualified locksmith services.
What Are the Signs I’m Being Scammed?
There are many ways that locksmith scammers manipulate and deceive consumers seeking legitimate locksmith services. As one of the leading locksmith services in the Mid-Atlantic, we want to warn our customers about the dangers of locksmith scams and how to spot an attempted scam. While there are a number of red flags to watch out for, this list should help you spot the most common locksmith scams that are being utilized today.
1 – Toll-Free Phone Numbers
When you’re searching the web for a locksmith, the first big red flag to be on the lookout for is listings that have toll-free numbers. With the exception of a service like AAA or concierge roadside assistance services, locksmiths typically don’t utilize lead generation services.
Another tell-tale sign that you’ve called a locksmith scammer is if they answer the phone with a generic greeting as opposed to the company’s name. If you’re calling a company called Johnny’s Locksmith but they answer with “Locksmith,” “Hello,” or “How can we help you?”, you’ve probably reached a call center. because they impersonate so many locksmiths all over the state or country, it’s easier for the scammer to answer with a generic greeting so they don’t get the company names mixed up.
2 – Extremely Low Prices
Another red flag that you’re dealing with a locksmith scammer is extremely low prices. According to the New York Times, fake locksmith listings can completely dominate local search results in some areas like Brooklyn or Manhattan. They’ll typically advertise unbelievably low rates as low as $19, easily luring unknowing victims into such a great deal and then severely inflating the price after servicing is complete. Customers had reported getting final invoices totaling over $300 when the initially advertised price was $19.
Any legitimate locksmith knows that you cannot run a sustainable business with prices as low as $19 since, like most businesses, you have to factor in taxes, fuel charges, parts, labor, and more. If you see one of these prices that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
3 – Unbranded Company Vehicles
Plain white unmarked service vans are the vehicle of choice for would-be locksmith scammers. In our society, almost any legitimate business, regardless of industry, will have company branding on its vehicles. Some companies will be more flashy than others with full vehicle wraps, but the locksmith that arrives should at least have some sort of branding identifiers such as a logo, address, and phone number visible on the vehicle itself.
While not every company will have a uniform, you can be sure that legitimate locksmiths will have appropriately marked vehicles to let their customers know who they are. This is especially important if you’re needing night service as visibility is already impaired.
4 – Insisting on Lock Drilling
Coming in at number four on our list of locksmith scam red flags is lock drilling. Now, to be clear, there are situations when a lock is so damaged or difficult to open that it must be drilled. However, this is rarely the case and you should be wary of any locksmith whose first means of problem-solving is to drill a lock. Most locksmiths are experienced and capable of getting through most locks without the need for damaging or replacing the lock. The only instance we can reasonably think of would be in the rare case of ultra-high security locks and Kwikset SmartKey.
This scam is usually pretty simple: The locksmith shows up and states that you’ve got a “high-security” or “commercial” lock that can’t be picked and needs to be drilled. This is a common tactic for scammers to state that the job is more complicated than they initially thought. And while it’s technically true that jobs can become more complicated, it’s pretty rare.
Locksmiths are usually well-aware of almost all types of locks on the market and have methods of servicing even high-security locks. While there are exceptions to this, a qualified locksmith will usually get the job done right the first time without the need to damage the lock with drilling.
When the locksmith you’ve contacted shows up on the scene, they should already be well aware of the type of locks they’re dealing with. Almost all locksmiths have a way to receive a photo of the lock prior to deploying a locksmith to the scene. Any locksmith worth their salt is going to ask qualifying questions to determine what sort of locks you may have. Be sure to ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable, and if their answers are vague or unsatisfactory, run the other way as fast as you can!
5 – An Unknown Location
It’s true that some of the best locksmiths work strickly from a van as a mobile locksmith, but they’ll still have the appropriate company branding on their vehicle and will answer their phones with the appropriate company-first greeting.
For all others, they’ve likely got at least one physical location that you should be able to verify with a quick Google search. For example, here at WFX we clearly list our address and contact information, with both a toll-free and local number as well as our branch office addresses. While we service a wider area than just around our locations, anyone wanting to verify our legitimacy can do so in three different areas.
Locksmith scammers, on the other hand, usually only have service areas. And while that alone isn’t necessarily an indicator of a scam, the odds are that when you contact them, you’re reaching a call center that covers calls for the scammer’s extremely large service area.
How to Find a Dependable and Legitimate Locksmith
With the web being the number one way most people search for locksmith services, it’s not surprising that so many people fall victim to locksmith scams.
When seeking out dependable and professional locksmith services, be sure to verify the name of the company you call matches the name on the vehicle that shows up. Don’t hesitate to ask for estimates, and always make sure that you’re fully aware of the services you’re being charged for.
Watch out for plain white service vehicles without any company branding. And don’t let any tell you they need to drill a lock without a detailed explanation and verification that they’ve actually attempted other means to service the lock.
If you’re ever in doubt, be sure to give us a call for all of your locksmithing needs. Our team of experts will answer any questions you may have and will help get you the legitimate locksmith services you need.