You and thousands of others who may have called a locksmith when keys were locked in the car or a home door lock stopped working may have unwittingly been the victim of a phony locksmith. In fact, if trying to find a locksmith, Bloomingdale residents may find that there is an epidemic of fake locksmiths in the area. If this is the case, what can an average person possibly do to prevent being ripped off by these scam artists?
The first step is not to be misinforming by any Yellow Pages ad placed by a locksmith. Bloomingdale residents shouldn’t be overly impressed by enormous ads. It is simple to suppose that a large ad means a company is reputable, is doing high-quality business and can afford to pay for that ad.
But phony locksmiths may easily find that the large ad is worth the money if it draws plenty of customers. Even if they do shoddy work, they make money by the sheer number of people who are fooled by those large ads and believe they’ll be getting good service.
So don’t go on the size of an ad and also be wary of internet ads. Phony locksmiths often put fake addresses on the internet, even though they may have someone answering the phone (perhaps someone who is really in a home or answering from a call center, not an office). The fake locksmiths give the impression of having a storefront when they aren’t paying a dime for rent, utilities, real estate taxes or anything associated with a real store front. It takes little effort to put ads online and no one is the wiser.
Even worse? Any cheating locksmith company may have picked up tricks used across the country, including taking the name of a reputable locksmith company and passing it off as their own. While this may seem amazingly nervy, it happens more often than might be believed. Not only does this allow the phony locksmith to get business by using the reputation of the good locksmith but when the fake locksmith does a shoddy job, it can hurt the reputation of a good company.
So what can consumers do to protect themselves? First, be extremely well-informed and always ask for proper proof of certification and licensing. When checking out a locksmith citizens should not only ask for credentials but make sure there is a liability policy. If not, stop right there because you won’t have protection against damages. Make sure the locksmith has a real store and that you can walk into it. It doesn’t have to be large or impressive but it should be a real store, not a fake address without a matching store.
Check out any record of complaints by checking with consumer reporting agencies in the state. Ask for the locksmith company to provide references and be sure to call them. If a locksmith finds that a lock is damaged but wants to replace it with a less secure lock, don’t accept the replacement lock. It isn’t uncommon for phony locksmiths to damage a lock and then insist a new one is necessary when a simple fix would have kept the old lock in place.
Always get a written quote, even if one was given over the phone first. When the locksmith shows up, get the quote before any work is done. If the locksmith balks or tries to inflate the figure by hundreds of dollars, walk away from the deal. If the locksmith gets angry or threatening, don’t hesitate to call authorities.