For those trusting souls, here is a piece of shocking news: In the USA there is an epidemic on the rise. No it isn’t a virus, but the one which deals with fake online locksmiths. There are a few shady characters that are out there to make a quick buck by scamming people who just want to get home or into their locked out car. Those who are locked out are in no position to negotiate so they become an easy target.
Locksmith scammers are real
There are questionable businesses which go by the name of ‘lead generators’ who create non-existent websites for locksmith companies that do not exist. The websites at first glance do not come off as suspicious. Everything expected from a legitimate business is present on the sites including the pictures, customer testimonials and contact details. These websites, additionally, have a google listing. The first reference to the presence of online scam locksmiths was made in an article titled ‘Picking the Lock of Google’s Search’ in 2011.
The first reaction when you’re locked out is to conduct a Google search for nearby locksmiths. The presence of these fake locksmiths ensures that their website pops up. Calling the listed number will only redirect you to the customer care helpline, usually based offshore. An executive will then redirect you to a sub-contractor in the area closest to you with the lowest quote.
There are high chances that the locksmith who shows up is an imposter. They will start by drilling into the lock while you stand gaping. What required a simple breaking and entering with a master key will now cost you a fortune!
Tips on avoiding these scam artists
Look for these signs to spot a scam:
- If the call is answered by a dispatcher who uses the terms ‘locksmith’ or ‘services’ instead of the company name, ask for the specific name. IF don’t get one, hang up.
- When asking for the price, if the dispatcher gives you a ball park figure and not a clear estimate, then you need to reconsider the choice. There have been many issues reported where the dispatcher had given and estimate of $18 and up, where the ‘up’ went to a $100.
- An imposter will not carry an ID and is generally not in uniform.
- If the locksmith uses terms like ‘commercial locks’ or ‘high-security locks’ don’t gave a nod to proceed to drilling. Only a vault in Area 52 will have high-security locks, not the one in your front door.
- When it comes to payment, offer to pay only through credit cards. If the locksmith is legitimate, he will have no problem with accepting payment in any mode. Imposters are in the fear of being traced so they avid credit card payments.
- If the services on the website reads ‘prompt service in 15 minutes’ and the agent is late by 2-3 hours, send them back. The delay is because the sub-contractor is not as close as indicated by Google maps.
- Look at the car the locksmith drives. If the van is unmarked, there is something amiss. Legitimate locksmith services drive around in the company car with their branding on it.
- If the work is on the car, an imposter will give you a high quote blaming age of the car.
- The estimate you receive on call does not match the onsite estimate, ask for clarifications. If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, you are not obligated to pay. If the contractor demands a payment for wasting their time, report them.
- Pay only when you’re satisfied with the job.
Only quick thinking and presence of mind can keep you from getting duped. Keep your wits about you when dealing with locksmiths.