If a locksmith showed up at your door responding to your emergency call for assistance, how would you know just how experienced or reputable that individual might be? Unless you planned ahead and had already researched reputable local locksmiths, you are probably like hundreds of others each year who leave it to chance and end up victims of locksmith scams.No one likes to be taken advantage of, unfortunately, the risk is a growing concern across the U.S., including right here in eastern Nebraska. According to U.S. Postal Inspector Dan Taylor, it is just a matter of time before one of these scammers hits close to home.
“Over the phone, the [victim] would be quoted a price of around $50 then after the locksmith showed up they would get a story about how they had a unique lock or more difficult [issue].”
Once the victims were let back in, they are told the price would be several hundred dollars. Pay it, or face the wrath, sometimes threats, of the “locksmith” and his accomplices. In this case, the suspects created several phony companies in the same city and advertised in the Yellow Pages to increase the chance one of their operations would be called.
“Nationwide there were thousands of victims and by following the money,” said Taylor. “We found the scammers made millions and millions of dollars.”
How do you protect yourself from becoming a victim? There are a few things to watch for. Most important, even though you may be in an emergency situation, it pays to take just a little time to make sure the professional you call is indeed, professional.
Examine the advertisement closely and follow any website links provided.
If they don’t have a website, if their website isn’t functioning, looks unprofessional, or plants any seed of doubt, move on to the next listing. While some mom and pop shops may be small, with the age of technology, professional locksmiths understand the importance of reputation management and providing their customers with a sense of peace by investing in an easy to use website.
Look online for reviews and/or complaints.
When shopping for locksmith services, it’s in your best interest not to stop at a phone call or printed advertisement. Instead, Search Google and Yelp for customer reviews. Review their social media accounts and see if they are community focused and provide tips to help their customers. Check out the local Better Business Bureau. And, lastly, look for proof of Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) membership.
Pay attention when you make the call.
Who answered the phone? Did it sound like a legitimate business? Were they nice and treated you accordingly? Are you calling into a real, brick and mortar office? If something doesn’t sound right, we recommend you to move on to the next call.
Get clear numbers upfront.
When you are arranging for a lockout or key replacement services, do they hesitate to give you a preliminary quote, or respond quickly with a low-ball number that sounds too good to be true? If either of those is what you receive, this is not a good sign. When you call, even if you are in a stressful situation, the locksmith should be respectful and upfront. They should understand you’re in a moment of panic and their mission is to help in the best way they can versus figuring out how to make a high amount of money off your inconvenience.
Any reputable locksmith or technician will be willing to produce ID and certification upon request. No proof? Don’t let them in or near your home or vehicle. Tell the dispatcher you’ll be asking for this information and if they resist, don’t book that appointment.
Don’t pay with cash.
Locksmiths that demand cash payments signal a potential scam in the making. If you pay with a credit card, you have some recourse and financial protection. And, don’t give them your card until the work is done to your satisfaction.
Appearances are everything.
When the locksmith arrives, pay attention to their mode of transportation and personal appearance. Their vehicle should be properly licensed and identifiable. They should be clean and professional looking.
If you get yourself into a situation where you don’t feel comfortable or the responding locksmith is exhibiting questionable or threatening behavior, your next call should be to the police.
Take the risk out of choosing a local locksmith. Big Red Locksmiths has been serving customers since 1992 and has built a reputation around providing responsive, professional service throughout Omaha. Call 402-554-0499.