Locked Out – What to Know Before Calling a Locksmith

Locked Out – What to Know Before Calling a Locksmith

We now live in a world of keyless car locks, combination door locks and other advanced technology to make our lives less dependent upon our keys which we lose or leave in the locked car or home.  But seniors often don’t have and don’t want the latest technology, so they are relying on their keys.  What do they do when they are locked out of their home or car?  They call a locksmith.  How do they find the locksmith?  If they use a smartphone and its internet capability they likely turn to google. If not, they often receive help from someone who has access to the internet.

The ‘businesses’ that are behind locksmith scams often are out of state or even outside the U.S.  They are call centers known as ‘led generators’ (‘lead gens’).  They have technologically sophisticated websites that use “search engine optimization” (SEO) tools.  They are experts at Google Maps and other sites to scam the site into thinking they are local business owners.  They direct you to a telephone number that goes to the call center.  The ‘lead gens’ use local, poorly trained subcontractors. Leads are sent via text to one of their local people who comes to your home or locked car.   The call center ‘quotes’ a reasonable price, but when the local person arrives, they demand three to four times as much – and they want cash!  The sub-contractor claims the work was more complicated than expected.  They often use the most expensive techniques such as drilling the lock on the car door.  This is a classic ‘bait and switch’ – but in this case the person in need is stuck and pays up.

What to Do. 

 

Be prepared.

Don’t wait until an emergency to know what to do and what locksmith to call if needed.

  • Have a family discussion about who (if there is someone) would be the best person to have a set of keys.
  • Find a reputable locksmith through referrals from trusted friends and neighbors; call or visit their location and speak to the owner or manager; ask how they charge for home and auto lockouts. Ask to see their business license and sales tax certificate which is a requirement to business in each county in Florida (or have them send or email it to you.  Put their telephone number into their cell phone and into the telephone of a family member or friend.

If there is an emergency before a referral is obtained:

  • First call a friend or neighbor to find out if they have someone to refer; if the internet is the only option, look for a local business that has customer reviews
  • Get an estimate, ask if the estimate covers the service call, emergency hours, ‘tool usage’, ‘paperwork’, ‘fuel surcharge’, or other fees.
  • Tell them you want to see their business license when they arrive.
  • Be cautious of locksmiths who recommend or insist on drilling during the initial telephone conversation; generally lock professionals have the tools and skill to unlock most doors.
  • Tell someone you know you have locked yourself out, your location and that you will contact them when the locksmith arrives; when the locksmith arrives, call them when the locksmith arrives and talk to them until the work is done. Tell them in front of the locksmith you will call them the locksmith has left.

Be careful!

  • If locked out of a car, especially in a parking lot, NEVER let any locksmith block your vehicle as it’s the only escape method. Scammers use this technique to threaten or intimidate the owner.  If one ever feels uneasy, leave the vehicle, find a public area and call the police.
  • If locked out of a home and they have an uneasy feeling, go to a neighbor’s home.

There are many legitimate locksmiths in every community.  The locksmith scam business is at a point that is jeopardizing these legitimate business owners.  Follow the recommendations to keep safe and support the legitimate ones