It’s happened to all of us. You go to get into your car and you realize you’ve locked your keys inside. In a panic, you reach into your pocket and pull out your smartphone. A quick search brings up the name of a mobile locksmith that can get you back into your car. But beware of who you call. This TrustDALE investigation has turned up some serious scammers, plus the ways that you can avoid becoming their next victim.
This is the story of Evan, an 18 year old who had just started his first job. He had left work for a quick errand and was rushing to get back. But then he realized he had locked his key into his car. He called a locksmith he found online and was told it would be $25 for a locksmith to get into his car and it would take 15 minutes for the locksmith to get there. An hour later a locksmith arrived, took 60 seconds to get his car open, and handed Evan a bill for $325! With the locksmith in possession of his keys, Evan had no choice but to pay up.
A quick search online will turn up dozens of emergency locksmiths. Unfortunately, some of those are scammers. In fact, many of them are multiple false fronts for a single call center run by a single company.
When a customer calls one of these locksmith companies, the call is picked up in a call center. The call center representative is trained to keep the call short and convince the caller to accept their service quickly. The representative offers a low price, such as $25. However, if you listen very carefully you will notice that this is the “price to get started”.
The dispatcher then sends out a call to an independent locksmith. These locksmiths can work for dozens of different companies. When the locksmith arrives, they can usually get into your car very quickly. But then they charge hundreds of dollars more than the quoted price. They may call the upcharge an “emergency service fee” or some other trumped up charge.
In reality, the independent locksmith, who may not even know who they work for or who you called, sets their own price. And they keep 30% of the fee they charge, whatever that fee may be. Once the locksmith has your keys, you have very little recourse other than to hand over the cash. If you don’t, the locksmith will simply throw your keys back in the car and lock it shut again.
How to Protect Yourself
TrustDALE certified master locksmith Kevin Wilson has the following important advice:
When you call and are quoted a low price, be sure to ask what the final price is going to be. Never wait until a job is complete to find out the final price!
In addition, before calling a locksmith, check the BBB (Better Business Bureau) for a rating. You can also look for a star rating and customer reviews on sites like Google or Yelp. The company that Evan called, Georgia Lock & Key, had an “F” rating on BBB and one star on Yelp.
With any business, a little research goes a long way. Evan learned his lesson and so can you. Of course, if you want to find the best, most reliable businesses for your needs, just search on TrustDALE for our certified businesses.