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Beware of scammers; it pays to know your locksmith
October 3, 2012

You’ve locked your keys in the car, and now you’re locked out of your house too! A friend kindly takes you to their place. No worries, you say; I’ll simply pick a locksmith out of the directory or online listings and make a call. Turns out if you haven’t checked out your particular locksmith, it could be you that gets picked!

Reports of discontent with locksmiths are on the rise, as cases of fraud and scamming become ever more prevalent with unsuspecting consumers. A Better Business Bureau (BBB) alert indicates that national locksmith companies disguising themselves as local proprietors are routinely charging between $300-500 for minor jobs that valid locksmiths say normally shouldn’t cost more than $100.

One national locksmith company posing as a local outfit uses at least 15 other names and 25 telephone numbers, according to the BBB. In 2006, the Ohio attorney general sued the company for false advertising and unauthorized repairs. Illinois then suspended the same company’s license to operate in its state, saying the business had given fraudulent address information. Big states such as California and New York require anyone working as a locksmith, even if based outside the state, to procure a state license. Unfortunately, that and a smile will get you a license; no level of competency, not even a test is required. Often, unscrupulous locksmith imitators will forge fake license numbers on their ID or their vehicle.

The Tennessee Organization of Locksmiths (TOOL) recently posted a large banner in bold red type across its website, warning that “Locksmith Scammers are Operating in Tennessee!” The organization encourages customers to verify a locksmith’s license at the Department of Commerce and Insurance website.

So, what to do when locked out?!
A variation on planning for a rainy day will help. In other words, don’t wait for the rainy day—or the act of being locked out—to begin investigating the field and making a qualified decision on which locksmith to select, because the overwhelming majority of calls to locksmiths are made under emergency conditions. Customers are often placed in victim-like situations, in dire need of help—often late at night—and therefore are easy prey to shady locksmiths.

Research the track record and reviews by others who have used a particular locksmith. Look for a well-rated professional. A reliable expert will give you reasonable prices upfront and provide you with a quote before he arrives. With the depth of experience accompanying most legitimate locksmiths, sight-unseen estimates are a likelihood. Look for information from the BBB or the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) for a listing of trustworthy locksmiths in your area. Also, consider the comments and complaints of others online who have previously dealt with a locksmith. And don’t be afraid to ask for references!

Finally, if a bad situation does befall you, you can file a complaint against a Tennessee locksmith not a member of TOOL with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.

Don’t wait till you’re locked out. it pays to do your homework when selecting a locksmith.

(Sources: Colker, David. “The key to picking a locksmith.” Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2007, http://articles.latimes.com/2007/aug/05/business/fi-consumer5; Propertymanagementexecutive.com: “What to Look for in a locksmith.”; Tennessee Organization Of Locksmiths (TOOL), “Locksmith Scammers are Operating in Tennessee!” http://www.tnlocksmiths.org/consumerinfo.htm)

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