One of my neighbors needed a lock replaced on her front door. We were fully booked that day, so instead of waiting until the next day, she called another locksmith she found online. The person who answered the phone told my neighbor she would have to pay a $19 service charge. What a deal, right? Two hours past her appointment time, a man showed up in an unmarked car and no uniform. The locksmith hastily installed a new lock and then presented the homeowner with a bill for $300. When she pointed out that the bill was much higher than the price quoted over the phone, she was told that the $19 she was initially quoted was simply the fee for him to come to her house. The rest was the price of actually replacing the lock.

Stories like that are becoming all too common. Google “locksmith” and you’ll see listings for many locksmiths touting low prices and 24/7 availability. Most of those are scammers – people who advertise ridiculously low rates and then present customers with outrageous bills. Some even use intimidation when the customer objects to the final bill. Somewhere in the midst of a sea of unscrupulous scammers are legitimate locksmiths who provide great service at reasonable prices.

But how do you know who is legit and who is out to bilk you? First, take a look at their website. Are there lots of spelling and grammatical errors? Does the wording sound a little off? Does their service area include locations you’ve never heard of or list neighborhoods as towns? What do prior customers have to say about the company? Does it have mostly positive reviews on Google and other search engines? Is the company an accredited member of your local Better Business Bureau? If so, is the locksmith an accredited member? What is the company’s rating? If any complaints are listed, how did the company respond and how was the issue resolved?

Next, call the locksmith. Do they answer with the name of the business or simply say “locksmith”? Are they able to provide a firm quote and explain the pricing? Make sure to find out if there are extra fees, such as mileage, service call, programming (for car keys), emergency rates, etc. You may also want to ask whether the locksmiths are employees or contractors. Some of the scammers doing business in Rochester use “contractors.”

When the locksmith arrives, look at his vehicle and clothing. Did the locksmith arrive in a clearly marked vehicle? Is the locksmith wearing a uniform? Does the locksmith seem professional? Ask for an estimate before the locksmith starts the work. If the price doesn’t match what you were quoted on the phone or the locksmith can’t give you a price, refuse the work.

Finally, trust your gut. If anything seems strange, an unbelievably good deal or simply gives you a funny feeling, find another locksmith. The best way to avoid being scammed? Research locksmiths before you need one. When you find one you like, save their number in your phone