Here is a recent story NBC did on locksmith scams. If you find yourself locked out and in an emergency situation, you need to be able to use the proper tools necessary to identify these threats. It’s not just going to be a large bill, but you may also be allowing people with very unethical, untrustworthy, and dangerous standards into your home or car. Being prepared can keep you safe. The Associated Locksmiths Of America (ALOA) has created a helpful checklist to help determine if the locksmith is conning you.
1. Not Familiar with Your Area. To ensure that the company is local, make sure that they are familiar with your area of town.
2. Generic Locksmith Service. Unscrupulous individuals often operate under many business names/aliases. Thus, they must answer the phone with a generic phrase like, “locksmith service.” If the call is answered this way, ask, “What is the legal name of your business?”
3. Legitimate use of ALOA Logo. Does the Yellow Pages ad contain a logo that makes them appear to belong to ALOA? While many locksmiths do belong to the Association, some unscrupulous individuals trick the consumer by falsely using the ALOA logo. You can always check to see if in fact these businesses are members by calling ALOA, (800) 532-2562 or www.findalocksmith.com.
4. Unclear Business Name. Look closely at the ad(s). Is the specific name of the business clearly identified? Does it appear that the dealer actually operates under several names? If a web address is listed, does the name on the website match the name on the ad?
5. Under Same Ownership. This confusing statement, often found in small print at the bottom of a full-page ad in phone directories, give consumers a sense that the firm has been in business for a while. The statement itself may be a warning sign that the company operates under several aliases. Also, the ad sometimes lists association memberships
for organizations that do not exist, (i.e. American Locksmith Association).
6. Unmarked Service Vehicle. Some legitimate locksmiths will work out of a car or unmarked van for quick jobs, but most will arrive in a service vehicle – a van or truck that is clearly marked.
7. Identity Assurance. A legitimate locksmith should ask for identity and some form of proof that you have the authority to allow the unlocking to be done. You have the right to ask for the locksmith’s identification as well. Does he have a business card? Does he have an invoice or bill with the company name printed on it? Does it match the name on the service vehicle?
“Check for a valid state license number. The states that have licensing for locksmith services (AL,CA, IL, LA, NJ, NC, OK, TN and TX) may require the licensed locksmith company to include a state license number on their vehicles, advertising, and all paperwork. If your state requires licensing, then the technician must show you his/her identity card, which is a good indicator of legitimacy. These licensed locksmiths and their companies have been investigated by the state and found free of criminal activity in their past, and are required to have current valid liability insurance policies in force. States with a licensing law typically have a consumer protection hotline number to call and a mailing address for complaints to be sent to. Do not pay anyone that will not provide you with this information. If your state does not have a licensing law to protect you, ask your legislator for that protection. ALOA supports state licensing for the purpose of protecting the consumer and can assist your legislator in drafting laws to protect consumers from locksmith scams.”
– via (ALOA.org)
8. Get an Estimate. Find out what the work will cost before you authorize it. Never sign a blank form authorizing work.
9. Get an Invoice. Insist on an itemized invoice. You can’t dispute a charge without proof of how much you paid and what the payment was for.
10. Refuse Service. If you are not comfortable with the service provider, you can, and should, refuse to work with the locksmith.
There are still other things you can do to protect yourself. If you have a roadside assistance service, call them first. Depending on your state, you may even have a state-wide roadside assistance number located on the back of your driver’s license. Beyond that, your auto insurance company or cell phone service provider may also have roadside services. For home services, you may want to call family and friends for local recommendations ahead of time to be prepared. Then program that company into your phone. You could also put the ALOA, (800) 532-2562 or www.findalocksmith.com in your phone’s contact information or even download their iPhone application.
More information on hiring reputable locksmiths and reporting fraudulent services can be found at the Federal Trade Commission.