Don’t know how to tell a real locksmith from a fake one? Locksmith scammers trick desperate home and car owners into overpaying for emergency services.
These people are often unlicensed and unqualified. Fake locksmiths can charge up to 10 times the standard rate for rescuing lockout victims.
However, their scam is easy to spot and prevent. We show you how to protect yourself against a locksmith scam.
Know Ahead Of Time Who To Call
Doing a small amount of research can save you a lot of money and headaches. By knowing who to call you will have peace of mind knowing that the job will be done right and you won’t be scammed.
The first thing to do is to ask your neighbours and friends for names of locksmiths they have used. Always double check their ratings and comments. Sites like Yelp and Truelocal, are great sites to find out about a local locksmith.
Most locksmiths show an address on their ad or website. A good idea is to try and find this address on Google or other directory listings to make sure it is a real address.
It is always a good idea to ask about their prices. If the prices are unbelievability low, it could likely be a scam or has hidden costs. For example, a good ballpark figure for a lockout is usually around $105-$135 during normal working hours.
Also, if the locksmiths answer their phone with a generic name such as “locksmiths services” ask for a specific business name. If the locksmith can’t give a specific registered business name then move on.
Is The Locksmith Licensed?
If you want to go that extra step, give the locksmith a call. You don’t need to wait till you have an emergency. Find out where their technicians are based and double checked if they are licensed.
All NSW locksmiths are required to be licensed by the Security Licensing and Enforcement Directorate (SLED) of the NSW police force.
All licenced businesses have a Master security licence number. This number must be displayed on their premises, vehicle signage and any in advertising they do. If you can’t find it, just ask.
All individual locksmiths are required to have their photo licence card on display. They must have this on their when carrying out security duties and must present it for inspection upon request.
You can check they licence number on the SLED public register at www.police.nsw.gov.au/sled
If they don’t show up on the SLED website, cut them loose and look elsewhere.
What To Do When You Need A Locksmith
The days comes and you are in need of a locksmith. If you have done your research likely you have got a good locksmith ready for you to call. However, there are some extra precausions you can take.
When calling for a locksmith, tell the dispatcher that you will want to see the locksmiths certification and ID.
Ask over the phone for a written estimate on a company letterhead prior to the service. If they don’t offer a price then move onto another locksmith.
Make sure you get all the information about any extra charges before you have a locksmith come out. Extra charges can include the distanced traveller, service call minimums or emergency hour charges.
Things To Remember When Asking For A Quote
One of the biggest mistakes customers make is they give the locksmith the wrong information, and are surprised when the cost is higher than what they expected.
Make sure you give the locksmith the correct information.
A common example is if you are locked out of your home or business and call for help. If you say you have a cheap $30 lock and it’s not, then the price will change.
For a call out to pick open a simple lock in normal hours could cost you around $130. However, if the locksmith arrives to discover it is a higher grade lock that offers pick resistance, key control and can’t be bypassed by normal methods, you just went from a $30 deadbolt to a $200 deadbolt.
This means you price is going to be significantly higher than the original quote.
Estimates can be a problem without having a locksmith on site. Most customers don’t know what to look for to make sure an accurate assessment is made. It is common for customers to say they have two doors when in fact they have four doors. They counted a number of doorways rather than the individual doors.
Other things that customers miss is the condition of the locks. They may have double cylinder locks, obsolete locks or locks the have been damaged or worn over time.
In these circumstances, it could be a case of replacing versus repair. Hopefully, the lock can be repaired, saving your money instead replacing the entire lock.
And lastly, don’t give your credit card details over until the job is finished.
Asking For A Total Price
A simple question to ask is “What is the total cost going to be when completed?
Other good questions to consider include:
- How much is the service call?
- Is there a “tool usage”, “paperwork”, “fuel surcharge” or any other unmentioned fee?
- How much will the whole experience cost, as opposed to just the unlocking?
Far too many people are shocked when they are quoted some unbelievable low price only to discover that the “add-ons” sent the bill through the roof.
What To Do When The Locksmith Is At Your Home
Before the locksmith starts, ask to see their licence. All locksmiths are required to clearly display their photo licence when carrying out locksmithing services.
It is also a good idea to ask what payment options they provide. Be cautious if they insist on cash. Many locksmiths these days allow for a credit card and EFTPOS transactions on-site.
Take Note Of The Vehicle
Be sure to take note of the locksmiths vehicle when they arrive. A lot of advice out there suggests you should be wary if the locksmith doesn’t have a clearly marked vehicle. However, don’t make a judgement on whether the locksmith has advertising on his car or not.
It is not uncommon for a locksmith to use an unmarked vehicle. In some areas, signage can make a vehicle more subject to break-in and vehicle theft. Signage is also a high cost that some locksmiths choose to forgo.
The best idea is to take note of the number plate and the vehicle make and model.
Ask For An Onsite Estimate
Always double check that the onsite estimate matches the phone estimate. If you have given the correct information over the phone, then the prices should be similar.
If the prices are different don’t be afraid to ask why. Most locksmiths will easily be able to give a breakdown as to why the two quotes are different.
Typically, a scammer will disassemble a lock and then demand more than what they originally quoted in order to finish the job. Faced with the prospect of not having any locks that work, customers are forced to pay up.
If the victim refuses to pay, a scammer will often resort to bully tactics. They may threaten to call the police, or refuse to return a credit card that you may have handed over at the outset.
Locks Need To Be Drilled? Ask Why
If the locksmith says that the lock needs to be drilled out, don’t be afraid to ask why. A professional locksmith will have the skills and tools to unlock just about any door.
However, there are circumstances where a drill and replacement lock are required based on many factors, such as the condition of the lock.
A number of locksmiths go directly to drilling as it can be faster and cheaper than trying to pick the lock. It costs less for the customer and more profitable for the locksmith.
Picking a lock is more important if the lock is of a higher price or sentimental value. Standard house door knobs may be more practical to drill and replace, rather than pay for the time to pick a lock that is already damaged from exposure and use.
Don’t Pay Until You Are Happy With The Job
When it comes to paying, make sure you are satisfied with the job. Use a safe payment method, such as your credit card, to pay for the locksmith services.
Credit cards carry the most protection should you need to dispute the charge later.
Make Sure You Feel Safe
This is a very important item that is not often mentioned. When you call out a locksmith in an emergency situation, never let any locksmith ever block your vehicle or your escape route during a service.
This a can be a common tactic for fake locksmiths who will threaten and intimidate those they intend to rip off. If you ever feel uneasy or concerned, leave your vehicle, find a very public area and call the police straight away.