Keep An Eye Out For Locksmith Scams
Locksmith scams are a rising problem in Houston as well as other parts of the nation. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and the BBB (Better Business Bureau) have received more complaints than they can count. The great thing is that Texas works hard to protect consumers by making it necessary for all locksmiths to be licensed and requiring a background check as part of the process. We will inform you of several locksmith scams you should be on the lookout for. While some of them are clearly against the law, others are considered bad business practices. These are typically performed by people who are not worried about repeat customers.
The biggest scam of them all is pretending to be a locksmith when they are not.
CBS provided some local coverage of this issue. They noted the fact that many locksmiths in Texas have an F rating on the BBB website. That is only a tiny fraction of the total, but it proves that people need to be very careful when they are seeking assistance. While working from home is common, many of these “businesses” are located in apartments. Some of them do not even have a physical location. There is only a man in a van moving from place to place. Some of these unlicensed locksmiths have been victims of scams, but others are part of a much larger network of fraudsters.
There was an article in the New York Times about the problems people face when dealing with online locksmiths. Businesses need websites, but some are nothing more than that – a web page that advertises for many different companies for a nominal fee. You may believe you are getting in touch with a pro, but you are actually directed to a call center where an agent pretends to work for an actual company.
These people are likely to be running a scam on you. Many of them are not skilled and they use methods that are no better than a common burglar. There is a chance they can cause some serious damage in the process.
Abusive Locksmith Practices
There are licensed locksmiths that are not very nice to customers. One common problem is being quoted one price on the telephone and being charged much more when the job is complete. When you ask about this, they usually give excuses about emergency service fees, mileage surcharges and things that should have been told to you in the beginning.
Another scam is drilling out locks and replacing them when there is a chance that the problem could have been solved quicker and cheaper.
Texas Locksmith Licensing
All locksmiths in Texas need to register with the Texas Board of Public Security. There are background and FBI fingerprint checks conducted during the licensing process. People also have to show proof that there is a liability insurance policy in place. This has to be renewed every other year and continuing education is required. This applies to locksmith companies and every person they employ. All marketing materials have to display the license number of the locksmith in question.
There are some pros who decide not to register. Imagine being in the industry for 3-4 decades then you have to take a course led by someone who has only been around for a couple of years. Even so, you should run for the hills if you do not see a valid license number.
Keeping Yourself Safe
The best way to protect yourself from being a scam victim is to do your homework. Always find a company before you need one and have their information readily available. You should always call them ahead of time and verify their registered business name and license number. You should also take note of their demeanor on the phone.
If you are in an emergency situation and you don’t know who to call, it is easy to lose your cool. Instead of panicking, you should take a deep breath and pay close attention to these tips. A smartphone and a clear mind are your best tools at a time like this.
- Be suspicious of bargain basement pricing. $25 for a lockout typically means you will be charged for extras later or it is a scam altogether. In areas with tons of competition, Google charges companies more than that every time someone clicks one of their search ads.
- Look up their BBB rating and take note of their license number.
- Search Google and directory listings to see if you can find the locksmith in question. There should be a decent number of reviews and they should appear to be legitimate. Keep in mind that even the best companies have a few bad reviews.
- Pay attention to the way they answer the phone when you call. Do they identify the name of the business you are supposed to be calling?
- Always ask about all of the fees you will be charged.
- Request a copy of the locksmith’s ID and certification. You should also request a written estimate. Make sure that you let them know you need this prior to them dispatching a technician.
- Let them know that you are only able to use a credit card to pay for services. Yes, use your card to pay after the work is done. This will give you a traceable record and a bit of proof if you need it later. No business will ask for cash up front in order to protect themselves.
- Be careful. Do you see any business markings on their car? You should write down the license plate of the vehicle when it arrives. Be suspicious if someone tells you they need to drill a lock. This is something that is only done in cases when there is extreme damage.
If you realize you have been the victim of a fraudulent locksmith, help others by making a report.
Before deciding on who to use for locksmith services in Houston, please make sure to do your homework on which Houston emergency locksmith is right for you! By contacting us or calling us today at 713-722-0060 we are confident making this decision will be much easier for you!