The locksmith scam is a serious issue that targets people who call out of desperation – often because they are locked out of their home or car at night. Scammers have been reported in the United States, U.K., and New Zealand – all with similar methods for pulling off this crime!
These criminals will flood business listings on services like Yelp by posting numerous fake service provider profiles under different names (often without license or address). All these numbers eventually link back to one location. The customer will be offered help at an unusually low price from someone claiming they’re legitimate but really aren’t anything more than fake employees working together as part of a large scam.
The so-called locksmith who turns up will do the absolute minimum, often included substandard work, and then overcharge for the service and parts.
Since the firm doesn’t really exist, the most the customer can do is ask for a single phony listing to be removed – a process that takes time and does not negatively impact the scammer much, as they can simply create more fake listings.
The side-effects of this scam are painful for legitimate locksmiths. They lose business and often receive angry phone calls from people who think they’ve been called in relation to the situation, when it was actually nothing more than just a coincidence!
Google says that it has removed billions of advertisements that violated its policies, and to have improved its verification systems to combat listings fraud. However, although Google now requires people advertising locksmith services in the US or Canada to complete its “Advanced Verification” process, it does not do so in New Zealand.
Here’s how to avoid being scammed.
- Get to know a local locksmith before you need one
Like almost all of the other professional services you use, the relationship is what matters. You have a local garage and you know them by name. Same with your sparky and plumber. Do yourself a favour and get to know your local locksmith.
- Check Their Reviews
So if you can find them online and read their reviews. That will usually tell you everything you need to know.
- Make Sure They’re a Legitimate Locksmith
A genuine locksmith will have a shop or street address. If they won’t tell you their address, or you can’t independently verify it yourself online, don’t use them.
- Get all of the prices and charges up front.
Their usual method is to offer a low price, and then “discover” that more work or more parts are needed to help you. And there may be some truth to this. But get prices up front and if you are worried, call someone else.
- Check the Locksmith’s Vehicle
A genuine locksmith will have a vehicle that has their business name, logo and phone number on it. If your locksmith turns up in an unmarked, private vehicle, he may spin you a line about his van being in the workshop. Its up to you, but you may want to send him on his way.
- Don’t Pay Until You’re Happy
If something seems wrong to you, or there was unnecessary damage, tell them you will come into their office to discuss it with the manager tomorrow. Don’t pay on the spot if you are suspicious.
- Don’t pay with cash
Let them know beforehand that you have no cash on you and that you will be paying by credit card. If they don’t accept this, call someone else.
- No funny business
Don’t tolerate anything that sounds obviously dodgy or unnecessary. No, they do not need to break your window to get in!
- Test their work before they leave
Make sure that the lock works nicely, smoothly, and better than before. Make sure you are happy that you have received a high level of workmanship.