Sue McConnell with the Better Business Bureau is warning the public about unscrupulous locksmiths.
"It's a very serious problem," said McConnell.
Shawna Becene of North Royalton was recently locked out of her car and called a locksmith she thought was reputable.
The locksmith gave her a quote over the phone of $40 but when he arrived he charged her $140.
"A hundred dollars to open the car, that was not talked about over the phone! Not at all," Becene said.
And there's more, the BBB also says disreputable locksmiths will steal the addresses of reputable ones.
"They are doing damage to reputable locksmiths who are doing a good job," said McConnell.
But the BBB has some safe guards: first get to know a trust worthy locksmith before you need them and make sure to get a complete quote over the phone before you commit to their service.
From the BBB:
Consumers who are locked out of their homes or cars can be at the mercy of unethical locksmiths who quote one price over the phone, then increase the price considerably once they arrive. These tactics have been typically reported about locksmith businesses that claim to be nearby, but are actually located miles - or even states - away.
A North Royalton woman who was locked out of her car (which was running at the time) searched online for a Cleveland locksmith located near her who could help. She found UTS Cleveland Locksmith who quoted her a $45 service call fee and $19 to start the work. When the locksmith arrived, she was immediately handed an invoice for the $45 service call fee and a surprising $100 "open car" fee which was never disclosed when she called.
"At this point, I needed my car to be turned off (it had been running for almost two hours by this point, I had called the police to help me first)," she told BBB. "I told him to do the work. It took him literally less than five minutes to open it. "
UTS Cleveland Locksmith lists a Cleveland address of 1924 East 6th Street on its website (locksmith-cleveland.com
BBB called UTS Cleveland Locksmith and tried to get an address for the business. The first employee we spoke to said they had "no stores" and were a mobile service. When asked where the employee we were speaking to was located, he would not reveal the address and hung up. After more calls, BBB was able to speak to someone at UTS who provided an address and email for customer service. The address is a UPS mail forwarding location in Kensington, Maryland - we still do not know the actual location of UTS Cleveland Locksmith.
To date, the North Royalton consumer's complaint has not been answered.
Local Locksmiths Also Victims of Deceptive Practices: BBB has also been contacted by local locksmiths who report their addresses are being falsely used by other questionable locksmiths. Hi Tech Locksmith alerted BBB that their Dover Center Road address was being used by an unknown business referring to itself simply as Locksmith in North Olmsted Ohio. Locksmith in North Olmsted Ohio also uses the BBB Accredited Business Logo without authorization on its website, locksmithnortholmstedohio.com. BBB's review of that website found a phone number, 216-273-6939, which cross-references online to yet another site, locksmithbereaohio.com which also contains false claims of BBB accreditation.
An Avon locksmith, Denny & Lynne's Locksmith, reported their address is being used deceptively by A 1 Locksmith in Avon on several online directory sites and even a Twitter account.
Keys to Choosing a Trustworthy Locksmith:
· Best practice is to find a trustworthy locksmith before you need one. Keep the phone number in your wallet or saved on your cell phone.
· Be cautious of businesses who answer your call with "Locksmith" or other generic terms.
· Ask for all fees before agreeing to the service. Service call, parts, labor, mileage, etc. A trained locksmith will be able to quote you their fees over the phone with no need to pile on additional charges when they arrive.
· When the locksmith arrives, ask for identification. Ohio does not require locksmiths to be licensed, but you do want to get the name of the business, its address and phone number on your receipt.
· If searching for a locksmith online, look for information about the business and also its address. Take advantage of maps and other services to make sure the company is being truthful about its location. You can also search the phone number for multiple listings under various names - this could be a clue the locksmith is falsely posing as a local business.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2012, consumers turned to BBB 124 million times for Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million companies and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at cleveland.bbb.org.
Sue McConnell, Senior Vice President
Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland
2800 Euclid Ave. 4th Fl.
Cleveland, OH 44115
p: 216-623-8964 x109
cleveland.bbb.org Start With Trust®