The modern age of technology provides a host of benefits to society, but also means that scams are an unfortunate reality that we all have to protect ourselves from. The locksmith industry is one that is plagued by scams, with 95% of all online locksmith ads being scams.
There are a variety of locksmith scams to look for, all of which are made easier to pull off due to the internet. Scammers can easily put a fake ad, knowing full well that unsuspecting customers will be using the internet to find locksmith services and will likely be drawn to the cheapest locksmith.
Additionally, the nature of emergency locksmith services makes it easier to take advantage of people. Scammers know that when people need emergency locksmith services, they are in a vulnerable situation and therefore easier to exploit.
Some of the most common scams to look out for include:
- Bait and Switch: Unscrupulous locksmiths advertise unbelievably low prices but end up charging 400-500% more after completing their work.
- Identity Theft: Customers may receive good service and therefore think that nothing untoward has happened, but in reality, their private information has been stolen to be resold or used for inappropriate purposes. Identity theft can also occur if you have entered your details online to request a quote, without knowing that the website is illegitimate, and end up having the information misused by scammers.
- Cash Only Scam: Scammers “fix” a customer’s lock but then claim they can only take cash payment because of a broken EFTPOS machine or the like. This is done so that the customer can’t dispute the excessive charge later.
- Replacement Handle Scam: Some dishonest locksmiths may claim that they can only fix the problem by breaking the lock or replacing it, without even trying to pick the lock or solve the issue in another way. This means the customer has to pay for unnecessary replacements.
- Burglary Scam: This is the worst-case scenario, but has been known to happen. Criminals may set up fake businesses for the sole purpose of getting access to your home, with these people typically preying on the elderly or other vulnerable people. These criminals may also make a copy of your key without your knowledge and then use it to gain access to your home when you are not there. Both situations put you, your family and property at serious risk.
So, what should you look out for to protect yourself from a scam? Some things to look out for include:
- Locksmiths who can only give vague price estimates or even refuse to quote a price
- Locations that you cannot verify: it’s imperative that the locksmith you choose should have a physical location that you can see on Google Maps’ street view function, or better yet, drive past to see the building in person.
- If you have called them and it seems like the call is being handled by a call centre, this is a major warning sign. Any local locksmith should be able to answer all your questions directly. If the call seems to have been redirected to a call centre, you may have just stumbled upon a large-scale scam operation.
- The locksmith arrives in an unmarked vehicle with no company uniform
- The locksmith demands cash-only payment or upfront payment
The best way you can protect yourself from a locksmith scam is to carefully research locksmith companies before you actually need their services. This way, you’ll know exactly who you can count on if you need emergency assistance. Remember that these scammers prey on the fact that you will most likely be in a desperate situation when looking for an emergency locksmith, and therefore fall for a scam more easily. By doing your research ahead of time, you can ensure that you won’t go for the first locksmith you stumble across online during an emergency.
Ways to determine which locksmith to go for include looking at online reviews, verifying that they have a physical location and getting a quote on their various services, which should all be done before you require their services. Before you decide to hire a locksmith, it is also wise to ask a series of simple questions to determine credibility. These could include:
- How will you get into my house?
- Are there any factors that could change the estimated price?
- Will you need to drill my lock?
By doing your research, you can protect yourself against costly and harmful locksmith scams, and instead receive quality service from a reliable locksmith.