Over the weekend, the New York Times took a look at the rise of scammers in the locksmith industry. These scammers create fake business and map listings online for several locksmith companies in one city. All of the listed phone numbers are routed to a single call center. When the consumer requests a locksmith, the call center dispatches a poorly trained contractor, who is told to get as much money out of the customer as possible.

How do you know if you’ve contacted a scammer or a legitimate locksmith? How does the business answer the phone? If they don’t answer with the name of the company, ask for the name of the business. The scammers’ answering services will say that they answer the phone for many companies and don’t know which company you’re calling. Like many legitimate locksmith companies, Pop-A-Lock of Greater Rochester sometimes uses a call center. But unlike the scammers, our call center knows which company they work for.

Can you get an estimate for the service you need? If you can’t even get a price range for a service, beware. And watch out for low price quotes with an open end — if your quote ends with the phrase “or more,” you’re about to be scammed.

Does the person on the other end of the phone sound knowledgeable about locksmithing? Are they able to answer your questions? If not, will they let you talk to a locksmith before sending one out to you?

Does the business list an address? Many locksmiths run mobile businesses, meaning they don’t have a storefront. Their online listings and websites might display a mailing address or no address at all. But if you ask them for their address or if they are located at the address listed for their business, they can tell you. Scammers either give an address that doesn’t exist or is the location of another business. Unsure? Drive by the address and see what’s there.

Are the locksmiths employees or contractors? Are they bonded and insured? Do they wear a uniform with a company logo? Will they arrive in a marked vehicle? Will they show you their ID?

When you’re in an emergency situation, you want a locksmith as quickly as possible. But spending a few extra minutes to ask questions can prevent an already stressful situation from turning into a nightmare. Better yet, find a locksmith you trust before you need one. For automotive issues, ask you car dealership or mechanic for a recommendation. For residential needs, ask your realtor, a home improvement specialist or your friends.

And you can always call Pop-A-Lock for a free quote!