What’s the first thing you do when locked out of your house or car? If a friend or family member can’t bring you spare key, then often you’re left to search online on your phone for a locksmith.
That’s where danger lurks. Search “West Palm Beach locksmith” and you are likely to be connected to a call center in another city. They might give you a low estimate and send an untrained so-called locksmith. Then when the worker shows up, the job ends up costing way more, and he or she asks to be paid in cash.
The Palm Beach Post told our readers about the problem of rogue locksmiths in 2o12, and as with many profitable scams, the Federal Trade Commission says it’s ongoing.
If the locksmith arrives in a personal vehicle rather than a marked company vehicle, that’s a red flag. Most legitimate locksmiths wear shirts with the company’s name on them also.
A nightmare can unfold where consumers end up someone who isn’t really a locksmith, but a con artist who can end up ruining their car door or house door and demanding a huge amount of money.
It pays to have the number of a reputable local locksmith stored in your phone. If you’re caught without that, here is what the FTC says to do when you make that call:
- Ask for the full, legal name of the business. If an operator will give you only a generic name, think about calling a different business that will identify itself.
- Run a quick internet search with the company’s name and words such as s”complaint” or “review.”
- Ask the operator to confirm the address shown in the online ad. If the ad doesn’t show an address for the business, finds out why. There are some legitimate locksmiths who operate mobile businesses.
- Get an estimate of the total cost. Describe the job and type of lock. If the estimate seems too low, ask what it includes such as a fee for a service call, labor, replacement parts, additional fees for mileage, tool fees, fuel surcharges, etc.
When the locksmith arrives, ask for identification and a business card. Does it match what is on the invoice?
Ask to see a written estimate and see if it matches what you were told on the phone.
Ask for proof of insurance.
Show your identification. A legitimate locksmith should confirm your identity and make sure you really own the property or vehicle before starting work.
Don’t sign anything without reading it.
If the locksmith says it’s necessary to drill your lock and replace it, think about hiring a different person. Most skilled locksmiths can unlock almost any door with his tools.
Before you pay, get a written invoice that shows the company name and lists labor, replacement parts, and all fees you’re being charged.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the worker, tell him to leave.