Whether you’ve been locked out of your car or home or need a car key made urgently, you’ll likely call the first number featured on Google during a local search. Unfortunately, you may not want to trust the results as tech savvy scammers have started to take advantage of this vulnerable situation. Posing as a neighborhood locksmith, scammers are able to swindle you out of your hard earned money, and possibly set themselves up for continued theft in the future.
When you dial a scam number from Google, your call is picked up in a call center or routed through to the call center when you contact the website. The person on the phone quotes you an inexpensive price usually by saying that it’s “$19 and up” for a service call. After the call, they’ll send your request to a barely-trained subcontractor in the local area who will charge you an absurd amount of money over the quoted price. Also, if you call a scammer first and choose not to use them, and then set up the job with a legitimate locksmith, many times the scammer will actually get to you first. They typically get the address up front in order to quote you the price and then immediately dispatch a scammer even if you chose to not use them. The scammer will show up and pose as the company that you actually scheduled the job with.
The contractor is not a real locksmith, and the person often fixes the problem by saying he needs to drill the lock because the job is more complicated than he expected. He’ll claim the car is too old or too new, and he’s not able to pick the lock. However, this is actually because the contractor isn’t a real locksmith. There’s rarely a lock that a real locksmith can’t open with the proper tools, and those tools are not a drill.
After the job is complete, the contractor will charge 10 to 20 times what was quoted on the phone. According a recent New York Times Article called “The Ghosts on Google,” locksmith scammers outnumber legitimate locksmiths 100 to 1. It is a multimillion dollar scamming industry. They have hundreds of phone number and websites, so when a victim calls to complain that they were taken advantage of; they simply shut down that number and website and turn on a new one. They are nearly impossible to track down. The article also compares these scammers to the mafia, stating that they can be very dangerous and are known for getting into physical confrontations with people who refuse the pay the inflated invoice. It’s a very high-level scam that preys on individuals in a vulnerable situation.
Tips for Avoiding the Scam
1. Always Get a Flat Rate Over the Phone First
Any time you hear the words “and up,” run in the other direction. A legitimate locksmith knows the price of each job and will be able to give you a flat quote and a very small price range depending on the situation.
2. Find a Locksmith Before Its Needed
Before an emergency that requires a locksmith, investigate some viable companies in your area. Reading internet reviews is a great way to verify the legitimacy of a company. Keep the information on your phone where it’s accessible.
3. Generic Answering
Instead of answering the phone with the name of the locksmith, the call center will say something like “locksmith services,” or “locksmith.” Ask for the name of the company you’re calling. At a call center, many calls are routed, and they won’t be able to give you the right name. You might ask them where they’re located too. These are two of the easiest ways to reveal a fraud.
4. Unmarked Vehicles
The fake locksmiths are contractors with no license, so they won’t have a vehicle for the company you’ve called. Unmarked vehicles are the second big giveaway when it comes to revealing a scam. You’re free to call another locksmith if the unmarked vehicle makes you nervous. They will try to pressure you into paying the service charge, but please don’t. That is part of the scam.
5. Ask for an ID
Before the locksmith begins his work, ask for ID and his license. He should be able to provide both. All legitimate locksmiths will have these.
Pop-A-Lock Locksmiths of Phoenix to the Rescue!
Our entire team is background-checked, drug-tested and we make sure that you know it’s us by showing up in marked Pop-A-Lock vans and uniforms. For your residential, commercial or automotive locksmithing needs, make sure to put Pop-A-Lock on speed dial by calling us at 602-274-1432. Also always remember, if a child or pet is ever locked inside a vehicle, we rush to you and open the vehicle for FREE!