Better Business Bureau recommends finding a trusty locksmith now, before you need one, to avoid being deceived or charged exorbitant rates when you find yourself in a pinch.
Locksmith scams have been on the rise for years, and many have to do with low ball telephone quotes for $25 that end up swelling to as much as $350 once the work is complete.
The problem is that the quoted price may not disclose all fees, and consumers complain to Better Business Bureau that they felt they were misled about the price they would have to pay. Unfortunately, most victims do pay because they are at the mercy of the locksmith in order to back into their car or home.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says locksmith companies may use similar names to raise their ranking or prominence in directories and search engines, and cautions consumers to be wary of locksmiths that respond to calls with generic phrases such as "locksmith services" rather than a business name.
Better Business Bureau recommends eight tips when hiring a locksmith:
Critique their advertising - Look closely at the business' advertisements. Is the specific name of the business clearly identified? Does the ad look similar to other ads but have a different name? Does it appear that the dealer actually operates under several names?
Check their reputation - Keep the telephone number of a reputable locksmith on hand before an emergency. Visit www.bbb.org to verify a locksmith's reputation and any complaint pattern, or select one from a list of BBB Accredited Businesses.
Ask lots of questions - Most consumer complaints concern fees that were not disclosed when they called the locksmith. Ask about the cost of a service call, mileage and parts before you agree to have the work performed. Get an estimate before any work begins, including emergency service. If the on-site estimate doesn't match the price quoted on the telephone, have the job done by someone else.
Check identification - Most legitimate locksmiths will arrive in a clearly marked vehicle and provide identification. Remember that you would be allowing a stranger into your home.
Does the lock have to be damaged? - Be wary of a locksmith who insists on drilling the lock to open it, since most locksmiths have the skills to open almost any lock.
Demand an invoice - You can't dispute a charge without proof of how much you paid and what you paid for. Insist on an itemized invoice that includes parts, labor, mileage and service charges. The invoice should also include the business name and address.
Find out about insurance - Ask if the locksmith is insured. If your property becomes damaged during a repair, insurance is important to cover your losses.
Use a safe payment method - Use your credit card to pay for locksmith services for added security. Many credit cards have built-in fraud protection.
If you feel you have been deceived or cheated by a locksmith or any other professional or business, you may file a complaint at www.bbb.org.