Getting locked out is no fun. But what’s even worse is the idea of getting scammed by the person you’ve trusted to do the locksmith services to get you back into your home.
Locksmith scams have targeted thousands of well-meaning people who contacted what they thought were legitimate, professional businesses but wound up becoming the victim of a con artist.
Here are three locksmith scams to look out for in Hunterdon County.
The Phony Website/Phone Number
To be clear, each of these locksmith scams are all part of a larger scheme that shady “locksmiths” use to cheat people out of their money.
It starts with setting up what seems like a legitimate business in your area. The companies have been known to flood the internet and the Yellow Pages with dozens of phony business listings with generic sounding names like “A-1 Emergency Locksmith” or “24-Hour Locks.”
Other times, they’ll pick a name that’s close to that of an established locksmith. If there’s a reputable company called Hunterdon County Locksmiths, they’d call themselves “Hunterdon NJ Locks,” or something like that.
You find yourself locked out, you pull out your phone and Google “locksmiths in [your town]” or go to your neighbor’s house and borrow their phone book, and call one of these numbers, thinking you’re calling a local business.
In reality, you’re talking to a call center that could be in another time zone. They tell you they have a locksmith in your area, and then dispatch someone to do the job.
The situation appears to have improved since last year, as thousands of phony locksmith businesses have been pulled from Google. In June 2014, a Virginia locksmith sued Google, Yellowbook and Ziplocal, saying they’d cost him millions in revenue by promoting phony locksmiths.
Still, questionable locksmith services are still out there.
We found one company listing itself as a Philadelphia locksmith service. It had a phone number with a “215” area code, which you’d expect for that part of Pennsylvania, but somehow a mailing address in Nebraska.
They Name One Price, and Quote Another
Maybe the locksmith you chose had a website offering a $19 service. It sounds too good to be true, right? That’s because it is. Many customers who have fallen prey to these locksmith scams say they wound up paying $200 to $300 in extra “fees” or “service charges.”
Legitimate locksmiths say that while it’s always possible for work to cost a bit more than the original estimate, prices should never initially be as low as $15 or $20, or as high as what locksmith scammers charge for the level of work they do. A legitimate locksmith should be able to give you a firm quote over the phone.
They Don’t Actually Pick Your Lock
And that brings us to the third part of the scam. You’ve found a locksmith online, you’ve talked to a call center, and they’ve sent out one of their “locksmiths.”
But when the “locksmith” shows up, he doesn’t actually pick your lock. Instead, he just drills it open, which means you’ll now need to call another (real) locksmith.
An ABC News hidden camera investigation in 2013 found one phony locksmith asking a decoy homeowner for a library card to jimmy the door. Another said he was drilling the door open because he was afraid to break his picks.
The professional, licensed locksmiths ABC interview then picked the same locks within minutes.
Avoiding Hunterdon County NJ Locksmith Scams
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid locksmith scams.
- A Hunterdon County NJ locksmith, by law, needs to be licensed, and should show up in a marked vehicle. He or she should ask you for proof of ownership/residency for your home or car.
- If you call a number you find on-line and the person on the other end answers with “locksmiths,” be suspicious. If they can’t give you a business name, be suspicious. Chances are you’ve reached a call center.
- Be wary of anyone who recommends drilling open the lock right away. Most experienced locksmiths should have the skills and tools to get you back in your home or car without using a drill.
But the best way to avoid locksmith scams is to get to know your local locksmith in advance. Find someone in your area, visit their office, and find out their qualifications. Then plug their number into your phone in case of emergencies.
For over 60 years, Holicong Locksmiths & Central Security has provided security systems and locksmith services to people in Bucks, Montgomery and Hunterdon Counties. Contact us today to learn more about the services we provide, so you can have a qualified professional on hand if you ever do find yourself locked out.