Consumer Alert: Locksmith Fraud

When you need a locksmith, chances are you’re not looking out for fraudsters. Get them in and out to unlock your door – whether it’s your home or car – and be on your way. But an investigation by NBC affiliate WRC in Washington D.C.found that locksmith scams are on the rise.

Watch the video for the full report from WRC

According to the Locksmith Association of America, the huge majority of locksmith ads in print and online are placed by con artists. The general idea behind the scam is to quote you a reasonable price for the service over the phone and then triple, or even quadruple that price once they show up. These scammers are banking on you, the consumer, forking over hundreds of dollars for the convenience of being let in to your car or house.

Security expert and former New York cop Bill Stanton says the increase in fraud is correlated – surprise – to the downturn in the economy. And it isn’t just locksmiths. Consumers should be extra vigilant about repairmen, plumbers and other services that have the opportunity to prey on the customer’s lack of knowledge about their job.

Stanton recommends always asking upfront for a price quote. If they don’t stick to what they quoted you, refuse payment. Also be aware that locksmiths in particular can gouge their prices in bad weather – especially if you’re locked out of your car in a rain or snowstorm since you’re that much more likely to overpay just to get home. Also make sure the locksmith you use is licensed by the state, Stanton says. One easy way to ensure that you are not caught off guard next time you forget your keys is to do a little research to find a referral to a state-licensed locksmith and keep their info in your pocket so you don’t have to worry about getting a scammer.

Of course, the best way to protect yourself in any of these consumer scams remains the same: be vigilant. Look for shady folks, note bizarre behavior and don’t be afraid to walk away from a situation that doesn’t feel right. Or, as Stanton put it, “be a lion, don’t be a sheep.”