Locksmith scams are one of the biggest and most common frauds because of the necessity of the service and the ease of the scam. Very few locksmith companies actually take advantage of people, but con-artists use the service to capitalize on the vulnerability of people locked out of their house or vehicle to make quick money. Most of the time these ‘companies’ show up charging much more than the advertised price leaving people in a lurch.
There are several things you can do to avoid being scammed by one of these con-artists. You have to do your research upfront, be cautious, plan ahead, and pay attention. Below are 10 important tips that will help you avoid locksmith scams.
1. Have a Locksmith in Mind
The best thing you can do to avoid being scammed is research a locksmith in advance. Have their phone number in your phone so that you are prepared. Start by looking up local locksmiths in your area. Call them, ask them questions, get some initial information, and save their number in your phone for emergencies. Rather than looking up locksmiths during an emergency, have it ready when you need it. Another thing you can do is look up the advertised address to make sure it is a legitimate business.
2. Get an Estimate
Always get an estimate on the phone prior to allowing a technician to meet you. Do not believe the $15-$25 guaranteed prices. Those are never right and a major red flag. Always ask what the labor costs are, emergency costs, and service fees. Never allow anyone to start work on our home or vehicle without having full knowledge of the expenditures you could incur.
3. Ask for Identification
Always, always ask to see a technician’s identification prior to allowing them to start work. It is okay to be suspicious up front. Obviously, you would never allow a random person to put a needle in your arm. You want a registered nurse to do so. The same goes for someone working on your vehicle or your home, it is perfectly normal to ask for identification. Ask to see their certification or ID card that proves who they say they are and get a business card as well.
4. Check the Vehicle for Identification
Always be observant of your surroundings. If someone shows up in an unmarked vehicle claiming to be with a specific locksmith company definitely do not allow them to start work. Legitimate locksmith companies will have a marked vehicle with logos, phone numbers, and brand named tools. The technician will also be in uniform with a name tag and/or logos. An immediate red flag is someone claiming to be a technician in an unmarked vehicle.
5. Get a Written Estimate
Written estimates will cover you from hidden fees and additional labor. If a locksmith is not willing to give you a signed written estimate then do not allow them to start the job. Clearly, they are not a reputable locksmith company and are just wanting to make a quick buck. Written estimates allow you to dispute their work and, obviously, if they are not reputable they will not allow this to happen.
6. Onsite Estimate should Match Phone Estimate
Most reputable locksmith companies will provide a detailed estimate over the phone including cost of arrival, labor, and parts. This estimate will match what the onsite estimate is. Dishonest locksmiths will change their estimate upon arrival adding extra hidden fees even before the work begins. This is a huge red flag that you should watch for.
7. Avoid Low Quotes
A classic sign that a company is fake is one that advertises at a conspicuously low fee such as $15-$25. You can automatically knock them off the list as reliable because it will always cost well more than that with labor and service costs. You can expect the fee to be much more once they are onsite.
8. Locksmith Companies that Answer with Generic Phrases
Be cautious of locksmith companies that answer their calls with generic phrases such as “locksmith services”, “locksmith”, or “locksmith at your service” rather than a specific business name such as “San Diego Locksmith Services”. Honest, legitimate locksmith companies always have a specific name to help them stand out from the rest. Steer clear of the generic.
9. Don’t Allow Drilling and Replacement
Any locksmith company that says your lock needs to be drilled and replaced is a fraud. Experienced locksmith technicians can unlock just about any door. If they want to drill on your lock, do not allow it. There is a high probability they are scamming you and looking for more money. Reputable and legitimate locksmith companies have been trained to properly unlock any door.
10. Insisting on Cash Transactions
If a locksmith company insists that you pay in cash you can bet it is a scam. All companies today allow customers to pay cash, check and/or credit. A company that requires you to pay cash is not a legitimate company. This is also a question you should ask upfront. Make sure you know how they take payment BEFORE they start work.
These tips are here to provide you with the tools you need to avoid being scammed. Not all locksmith companies are out to get you, but it is important to be aware, be cautious, and ask all of the right questions. You are the one paying the bill; therefore, you are entitled to due diligence.
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