Finding a trustworthy and competent local locksmith shouldn’t be a difficult process, but it has come to our attention lately that some rogue people claiming to be locksmiths are behaving in a criminal manner and taking advantage of people such as yourself. What should be a smooth process is leaving some people in even worse situations and hundreds of dollars poorer for their trouble. As a result, we decided to expose their scams to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
If you haven’t already noticed them, a lot of people calling themselves locksmiths create Google Ads that say things like:
There are a couple of concerns with an ad like this.
One, it’s highly unlikely that anyone could get to you in 15 minutes.
Two, the charge they eventually hit you up with will not be $15.00.
What they are appealing to is your sense of urgency and frugality and what they aren’t telling you is that the $15.00 is just their “Service Call Fee” and isn’t even close to what they will eventually charge you in “Labour Fees”. You can search online for examples of horror stories about people who were presented with bills of up to $800.00 after having fallen for the locksmith’s original pitch.
Many of these companies are located in the United States and route calls from their main offices. They also tend to have reviews (bad ones) on their websites from American residents, which is impressive when you consider that they claim to be locksmiths in Durham Region.
One guy even claims to have “grown-up” in at least a dozen different areas (that span Canada and the United States) on his “About Us” pages. He’s lying, but you’d think that he is a friendly local guy who offers $15.00 locksmith services when viewed individually. None of it is true.
They also rent P.O. Boxes at the local Money Mart (or wherever) and use them as their “local” business addresses, which tricks Google into thinking that they have an actual storefront somewhere and gives them preference in the local search engine results.
A proper business representative will identify himself or herself upon answering the telephone and will provide the potential customer with as much information as possible at the time. These things would include an explanation of services and costs, estimated arrival time, their name (if asked), etc.
However, a lot of these companies tend to answer the telephone by saying “Locksmith” and rush you into agreeing to have them come out to you. They will say something like “$15.00 service fee + $35.00 to open your car’s lock”, for example, and leave you with the understanding that you will be paying them $50.00 to
have your car door unlocked.
Most company vehicles will be marked with the company address, telephone number, website address and a logo. But not these folks. They arrive in cars, trucks and vans that have no identifiable information whatsoever on them. It’s not a good look and it usually doesn’t get any better for the customer.
Of course they advertise “15 Minutes”, but we all know that’s not true and when you call to enquire where they are, they just stall you by saying that the “driver is on his way”. Well, he’ll be “on his way” for an hour or even longer and whoever is answering their phone will just continue to stall you. It’s all part of the scam.
The “locksmith” will typically arrive wearing anything BUT a company uniform, which at that point should probably raise a red flag to the customer. Larger companies insist on their employees wearing some form of identifiable clothing and smaller businesses usually do so as well (if for no other reason than to promote their company). Not wearing one smells of unprofessionalism at the very least.
An adequately equipped mobile locksmith van will have all of the tools you would expect to see and not just a hammer, vice grips, and some electrical tape. If the person is pulling some lame tools out of their trunk, you should probably start to worry.
This is especially true for things such as electronic transponder keys and fobs. They are purchased overseas for a fraction of the cost and, as you might guess, tend to fail quickly. The types of keys they are using bend and break much easier than the standard versions and their ability to properly program them is suspect as well.
A legitimate locksmith will have invested tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, many hours of training and gaining restricted clearance for key-code access.
The scammers enlist the help of one rogue Locksmith and share codes with dozens of other Locksmiths.
This is important, because before you have the chance to walk away they will intentionally damage or render your locks useless in order to keep you engaged before hitting you up with the next phase of the scam.
At this point they will inform you that your particular lock is a special kind of lock that requires special tools and knowledge and will no longer be $50.00.
Nope, this job is going to cost you $480.00. Sorry about that.
A ‘real-world’ example of this would be the person in Ajax who called the scammers to come out and change nine (9) locks at her house. Normally, this would have probably cost less than $400.00.
The scammers charged her $5,000.00.
For the scammers, this is serious business. Their goal is to charge unsuspecting and vulnerable people up to 1,000% more than the service should actually cost and falling victim to them can be absolutely devastating.
Of course, you would openly object to their inflated pricing at that point, and they will then threaten to call the police or crowd your personal space to persuade you to pay them. They may begin to negotiate at that point and offer you a reduced fee as long as you pay them in cash.
And there is no receipt, invoice, or estimate in writing.
If you decide to pay them and plan to call and complain later, they will either ignore your call or eventually answer and deny that they sent anyone out to see you in the first place.
If they receive enough complaints and start to feel the heat, so to speak, they will just shut down that particular operation and create a new one with a new name. We have seen this several times throughout Durham Region, unfortunately.
This would include (but certainly isn’t limited to) a business card, legitimate business name, written invoice, local business address, certification, proof of commercial insurance, or anything else, really.
If the heat becomes a little too much for them and they have alienated enough residents to the point that remaining open for business would be difficult, they just shut down and open another locksmith company under a different company name. One day they are there, and the next, their phone numbers no longer work. Sad yet true.
Here is what you can do protect yourself:
CALL AL & GORD’S MOBILE LOCK & KEY!
We just had to throw in a plug for ourselves, as shameless as it might be and all.
In all seriousness, we’re a legitimate and local mobile locksmith company that is bonded, insured, certified, and trained in all of the latest technologies that are being used today. We also care about our customers and do our best to work within their budgets while providing them with the best locksmith services that we can.
We’ve been doing it this way since 1997, and your safety is the only thing that matters to us.
But if you have to use a different locksmith company.
FIND A LOCKSMITH BEFORE YOU NEED ONE.
It’s always easier to call several locksmith companies and choose what’s best suited to you than to wait until you are in an emergency and fall victim to the first one you find. The bad ones count on your urgency and play on it with your money and sense of safety. Go by their store or have a mobile locksmith come out to meet you. A reputable, local locksmith will gladly spend some time introducing themselves and the services they offer.
DO A LITTLE BIT OF RESEARCH.
Of course, this is easy to say if you’re locked out of your car in the middle of nowhere during the winter, but take an extra minute to scan their website and look for a physical address, or Google their business name for a Google+ Business page, customer reviews, warnings, etc. Real companies have a real presence online, so look for an active Facebook or Twitter page and see what others have to say about them as well.
INSIST ON A FULL QUOTE OVER THE PHONE.
You can give them all of the information they need over the telephone, and they should be able to provide you with an accurate estimate at that time.
For example, a 2012 Honda Accord doesn’t suddenly present a locksmith with something that he or she wasn’t already aware of, so showing up and claiming otherwise to inflate the costs is an underhanded move.
INSIST ON PAYING WITH A CREDIT CARD.
Having a paper-trail will help you later, and any reputable company will accept major credit cards. Refuse to pay cash unless you are provided with an authentic receipt.
CALL THE POLICE YOURSELF.
If all else fails and you feel as though you are being threatened or extorted, feel free to call the police and let them decide what should be done. In all likelihood, they won’t be able to do much, but it will get the crooked locksmith’s attention. After all, crooks usually don’t want to involve the police.
If you want to see some of these fraudsters in action, check out this video about locksmith scams in the Greater Toronto Area, aired initially on Global News. These guys are doing all of the things we’ve mentioned here and should be easy to spot if you do need to hire a locksmith at some point.
Did we miss something? Let us know about it, and we’ll be glad to add it!
Pickering & Ajax
Whitby & Oshawa
Bowmanville & Newcastle