Consumer Alert: Locksmith scams

Published: Apr. 21, 2015 at 11:37 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2015 at 12:08 AM EDT
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It's late, you're locked out of your car or home and you're desperate. You are an easy target for locksmith scammers who could charge you so much that you might as well just break down your door.

When it comes to finding a good locksmith, do not wait for an emergency. If you do, you might unlock a scammer.

People who have not planned ahead often overlook extra charges and don't notice red flags.
Red flag number one: be wary of locksmith companies that are not locally owned and operated.

"Ask where their dispatch location is. If it's out of state, that's a problem," said Mary Tiner, who owns a locksmith shop.

Red flag number two: a locksmith who refuses to give you an estimate or price range over the phone.

"When interviewing your locksmith make sure you understand any extra fees that might be associated with hiring them. For example, do they charge extra for a late night visit? Also, do they charge by the lock or is it a flat fee?" said Angie Hicks of the consumer referral website Angie's List.

Red flag number three: a locksmith who arrives in an unmarked vehicle.

Red flag number four: a technician who doesn't care about ID.

"The technician doesn't even ask you for ID and they're going to let anybody into your house? That's a red flag. If they can't provide ID. That's a red flag. They should have the company name listed fairly prominently," said Tinder.

Red flag number five: a locksmith who immediately says he or she needs to drill your lock. That should be a last resort, not the first.

"A professional locksmith has the tools that they need. They have the training, the experience. Frankly, they take a lot of pride in being able to get into your lock without doing damage," said Tinder.

If the locksmith's on site price doesn't match the phone estimate, don't allow the work to be performed.

You should also research reputable locksmiths and keep their information handy before you're facing an emergency.

You can find them on the Better Business Bureau website.

The FTC has a number of tips as well.

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