Angie’s List: Locksmith Scams


UPDATED: Monday September 17, 2012 1:22 PM

Those of us locked out of our homes or cars, a locksmith can be your lifeline, but make sure you hire the right one to avoid being ripped off.

While most locksmiths are likely reputable contractors, a number of scams have cropped up over the years from locksmiths who offer emergency lockout services. Often flooding phone books with local listings, these sham locksmiths often don't carry the licensing or credentials required.

“One common complaint we hear about in the locksmith category is when consumer call what they believe to be a local locksmith only to find out it’s been routed to a national call center,” says Angie’s List founder, Angie Hicks. “And the locksmiths aren’t delivering on time nor on budget from what they anticipated.”

To help you avoid such scams, Angie has provided a list of things to watch for when looking to hire a locksmith.

Be wary of companies that answer calls with generic phrases like “locksmith services,” rather than a specific name. If a locksmith cannot or will not provide the business’ legal name, find another locksmith.

• Most legitimate locksmiths will arrive in a clearly marked vehicle and/or in clothing that carries the company logo. At a minimum, the locksmith should have some sort of company identification.
• When the locksmith arrives, ask for identification, including a locksmith license where applicable.
• If the locksmith’s on-site price doesn’t match the phone estimate, don’t allow work to be performed. Fraudulent locksmiths often inflate the final bill and insist the customer pay in cash.
• If you’re locked out, be cautious of companies that recommend or insist on drilling or replacing the lock up front. Most experienced locksmiths have the skills and tools to unlock almost any door.

Angie says find a reputable locksmith before you actually need one, that way you won’t be at the mercy of the locksmith you call.

Make sure you get an estimate before you begin any work, including emergency work.  And ask about extra charges for things like emergency hours, mileage, or service call minimums before you agree to have the work performed. Pay with a credit card so you can have some potential recourse if you run into problems.

It is also important to check the credentials of the locksmith by checking in with your local licensing authority before you actually hire one.

“Beware of locksmiths that show up in unmarked cars and not in a company uniform and if you ask for ID they fail to deliver it,” she warns. “If any of these scenarios happen you should choose another locksmith.”

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