Beware of scammers. How to avoid bad “locksmiths,” and find quality local service.
For as long as I have been a locksmith, “24/7 locksmiths” as professional locksmiths have come to refer to them as, have been a thorn in the side of the locksmith industry. A serious blow was dealt to many small locksmith businesses across the United States & Canada in the early 2000’s when scam locksmith companies began to rapidly grow out of control.
How do they stay in business?
These scammers take advantage of a customer’s willingness to jump at a false-promises of rapid response times and cheap discounted prices. These companies primarily rely on Google Adwords. Any organic rankings the have are falsely created by PBNs + 2.0 spam websites + GSA SER. For those of you who don’t speak fluent geek, they use every dirty internet trick to put their ads in front of you. When your business model is to rip off every customer you have no other choice. They most likely do not have a Google maps or Google business listings as these have become more restricted in recent years. These companies operate under ever-changing company names, which severely undermines the concept of accountability. They don’t have any actual reviews online, testimonials added to pages are only valuable if the company also has good reviews elsewhere.
How Does it work?
When you call a locksmith scamming number, first your call will be directed to a large national call center, rather then the individual locksmith companies themselves. You will often be prompted to give them your credit card number before they will dispatch a locksmith (untrained person) to your location. Next you wait for someone to show up, and when they do you’re guaranteed over-priced, sub-par work. The 15 minute response time they boast in most ads, too good to be true. That would make them about as quick as your local Fire department.
While the call-center may quote a price of $49 and up for a home-unlock, when the “locksmith” is done with the job you’ve requested, the price is suddenly a lot higher than you expected. They may give vague reasons why your $49 job is suddenly $300, when really the standard rate is a third of that. The young men they hire sometimes work in pairs, doing everything possible to pressure and intimidate you into paying. They refuse to leave until you agree to pay what they ask, threaten to harass you and call you everyday, threaten to call the cops… I’ve heard it all.
Dirt Directly From an “24/7 locksmith”
A “24/7 locksmith” I met through a mutual friend told me he worked under 8 different company names at once. He would receive a text with dispatch information including which company name he was expected to greet his customer with! He told me he had four days of training and then he was off on his own taking calls. They taught him how to drill and replace locks, and open cars in a simple, but possibly damaging way. Most alarmingly, he said that he was paid based on commission and was pressured by the company to overcharge on every call. He would leave the customer with a generic receipt that had no contact information, and leave with as much money as he could wrongly convince the customer to pay. These kids are getting ripped off, so they have to rip you off to make money.
How to avoid being scammed
Look for a Youtube channel, Facebook page, or twitter! A good locksmith is working hard to put his business out in front of potential customers. Today great advertising means using many platforms to reach your customers. You have some great resources at hand to pick out the winners, use them.
Ask for a price
If your quoted a “starting at $29” price try calling a different locksmith. I for example prefer my customer to know the exact costs of a particular service when possible. Exact quotes are not possible with every job, but real locksmiths will be able to give you a ball park price.
Take “Mr. Locksmith” in Canada for example, he shows around 30 reviews averaging around 5 stars. This is clear social validation, positive social signals are normally very dependable.
Talk to them
Do they sound like they know what they are talking about? Except a friendly well educated voice to greet you. Even when our companies have dispatchers those dispatchers who are able to give you general information. If you feel uneasy about a company go elsewhere, you should be able to trust your locksmith.
Here they are in action:
Check out ABC’s “The Lookout”