Locksmith Scams and How to Avoid Them

Locksmith scams are an unfortunate reality in today’s world. Whether you’re locked out of your home, car, or office, the stress of the situation can make you vulnerable to scam locksmiths looking to take advantage. This guide will help you identify common locksmith scams and provide tips on how to avoid falling victim to these locksmiths.

Understanding Locksmith Scams

Locksmith scams can happen to anyone. These scams typically prey on individuals who are in a panic and desperate to gain access to their property. One of the reasons this is so easily done in the UK is that there's no regulation of locksmiths. This might be hard to believe given the nature of the job but at the time of writing this is 100% true and has always been the case. Literally anybody can advertise to be a locksmith! By understanding the common tactics used by fraudulent locksmiths, you can better protect yourself and hopefully find yourself a local reputable locksmith.

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Types of Locksmith Scams

Bait and Switch Pricing. The scam begins with an appealingly low quote over the phone, often between £39 and £49. Once the locksmith arrives, the price suddenly skyrockets due to unforeseen complications or additional services. Some times the actual price can be as much as 10x the price originally quoted.

What are the warning signs? Extremely low initial quotes, lack of a firm price range, or reluctance to provide an estimate in writing.

Fake Locksmith Companies

Fraudsters create fake locksmith websites and listings with local addresses and phone numbers. When you call, you are directed to a call centre, often out of town, where the operator dispatches a so called locksmith.

Things to look out for.

Generic company names, multiple listings for the same phone number, and lack of a physical business address. Sometimes an address is listed but for a different city to the one you are in. A good tip is to google the name of the company and see if they have any online reviews. These businesses change there name often due to bad reviews but a quick Google search will often return some for of online reviews. 

Unnecessary Drilling

The locksmith tells you that the lock cannot be picked and must be drilled, which then destroys the lock. This results in you needing to purchase an expensive replacement. Immediate suggestion to drill the lock without attempting to pick it, refusal to show ID or credentials should all be huge red flags.

Cash Only Payments

If the locksmith insists on cash only payments then this is to stop any paper trail leading back to them. This should certainly be looked at suspiciously. This tactic makes it harder for you to dispute the charges or report the scam to the authorities.

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Inflated Pricing for Emergency Services

Scam locksmiths will exploit your urgent need for assistance by charging huge prices for after hours or emergency services. Excessive fees for emergency services, refusal to provide a detailed invoice should all set alarm bells ringing.

How to Avoid Locksmith Scams

While locksmith scams are common, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself. By staying calm and vigilant, you can make sure that you hire a reputable locksmith and avoid becoming another victim of these locksmith scams.

Research and Verification, Do Your Homework

Research local locksmiths in advance. Save the contact information of a reputable locksmith in your phone for emergencies. This could be via Google reviews, trust pilot or local Facebook groups. Especially paying close attention to the reviews.

Verify Credentials

A legitimate locksmith should be able to provide photo identification, including a business card and company logo. They can even point you in the right direction of there online presence and show you some of there reviews from referral sites, such as Checkatrade, Trust Pilot or there Google business profile.

Ask for an Estimate

Whilst talking on the phone, request an estimate before the locksmith arrives. Be wary of vague or extremely low quotes. Get a written estimate that includes all potential charges, such as labour, parts, and service fees before any work actually starts.

On-the-Spot Precautions

Keep an eye on the locksmiths vehicle and tools. Are they carrying just a drill? Or do they have a wide array of specialist tools? Observe the tools and equipment used. Professional locksmiths use specialized tools and techniques and in many cases will not need to damage your locks.

Ask To See Proof Of Insurance 

All tradesman working at your home or business including locksmiths should have a bare minimum of public liability insurance. This type of insurance will cover the cost of any accidental damage caused to your property. A genuine locksmith will have no problem showing you a copy of there public liability insurance, so don't be afraid to ask to see it. If they say they don't have insurance or cant prove it, then do not allow them to touch your property. If the worst should happen and the locksmith is not insured, you could be left paying for any damages.

Monitor the Work

Stay Informed by asking questions and watch the locksmith’s work. A legitimate locksmith will explain the process and be happy to answer your questions. Insist that the locksmith attempts to pick the lock before resorting to drilling. Most locks can be picked by a skilled professional. This is not always the case as sometimes faulty locks might need to be drilled. However, you can use your judgement to determine weather or not you think they are telling the truth.

Payment and Documentation

Use a credit to leave a payment paper trail and give you more peace of mind. Avoid cash only transactions where possible. Request a detailed invoice that includes the company name, address, phone number, and a breakdown of charges.

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What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed

Despite your best efforts, you may still fall victim to a locksmith scam. If this happens, there are a few steps you can take to prevent further damage.

Immediate Actions

Contact Your Bank or Credit Card Company. This is why we advised earlier paying by card if possible. If you paid with a credit card, contact your card issuer to dispute the charges and request a chargeback. Inform your bank or credit card company about the fraudulent transaction to prevent further unauthorized charges. It might also be a good idea to cancel the card you paid with just incase.

File a Police Report

Local Authorities. Report the incident to your local police department. Provide all relevant information, including the locksmith’s name, company details, website address and any other supporting documentation.

Consumer Protection Agencies. File a complaint with consumer protection agencies, such as trading standards. You can also take free advice from the Citizens advice if you are in the UK.

Prevention for the Future

Educate Yourself and Others

Inform friends, family, neighbours and local Facebook groups about your experience to raise awareness and prevent others from being scammed. Help them to keep up to date with common scams and new tactics used by fraudulent locksmiths.

Choose a Reputable Locksmith

Ask for recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues. A trusted referral is often the best way to find a reputable locksmith. Alternatively sites like Checkatrade and trust pilot are great for finding genuine locksmiths.

Locksmith scams can be stressful and very costly, but by understanding the common tactics used by fraudulent locksmiths you can take steps to protect yourself and you can avoid falling victim to these scams. Remember to do your research, verify credentials, and stay informed about the locksmith industry. If you do fall victim to a scam, take immediate action to report the incident and protect your financial interests. By following the tips and advice outlined in this guide, you can ensure that you hire a reputable locksmith and avoid the pitfalls of locksmith scams. Stay vigilant and proactive, and you’ll be well equipped to handle any lock related emergency with confidence.

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