Getting locked out of your car is a frustrating and embarrassing situation. Whether you’ve lost your keys or accidentally locked them inside the vehicle, most of us have no patience for this kind of emergency. We need to get to work, get to the store, get home. There’s nothing worse than getting locked out of your car at the end of a long day and having to wait around for a locksmith.
What’s your plan of action? Most of us might pull out our phones and click on Google’s first hit, but that’s not always a benefit. The internet is a great way to access a host of reputable businesses, but it also lurks with imposters. When it comes to locksmith scammers, there are a few things you can watch out for that will save you time, grief, and money.
How Do Locksmith Scammers Work?
You fire up Google, find the number of a locksmith, and give them a call. If this is the number of a scammer, your call will become rerouted through a call center. The price quoted to you will be inexpensive—too good to be true. Then, they’ll deliver your information to a local subcontractor who will come out to help you out, but at a price well beyond the one quoted over the phone.
Even if you call the scammer, figure out what happened, and call a regular locksmith instead, the scammer will figure out a way to get to you first. The scammer will get your location as quickly as they can, deliver your quote, and attempt to get paid. This contractor is, of course, not an actual locksmith. They might also try and fix your issue with less than reputable means, telling you the car is too new, too old, or they can’t pick the lock without a drill. They don’t have the proper tools they need.
At the end of the job is the real crux of the scam—they will attempt to weasel you with a quote that is several times greater than whatever they told you over the phone. Locksmith scammers now greatly outnumber real locksmiths, and the industry has spread into a nationwide grift. If their scam is pointed out by the victim, the scammers can easily create a new website, get a new phone number, or serve a new area.
How Do I Avoid Locksmith Scammers?
Steer Clear Of Toll-Free Numbers
If the locksmith you’ve found is reachable via a 1-800 number instead of a number with your local area code, stay extremely wary. More than likely you’re dealing with a call center that’s out of town or out of state, making this ripe for a scam. A good mobile auto locksmith will happily arrive on the scene, pick your lock, and fix your frustrating situation.
Avoid Locksmith Companies With Dubious Names
The scammer company will likely answer the phone with a wooden and unconvincing title, calling themselves something general such as “local locksmith services.” The scammer won’t provide an easily searchable legal business name, and if they don’t, hang up.
Scammers will avoid giving you an address. Ask the locksmith company to reiterate their location.
Keep An Eye For Legitimate Company Branding
Since scammers attempt to work with a low profile, they will tend to arrive at the scene driving an unmarked vehicle. Locksmith companies are local services—they will proudly display their name, logo, and phone number on their vehicle.
Ask for identification from your servicing locksmith, including phone number and address. A locksmith should also ask for your identification when working on your vehicle because they legally need to know that the car belongs to you. A scammer won’t care about any of these things.
Low Prices Are Too Good To Be True
A scammer will quote you something very low over the internet or phone—a price that is sub $50, and as low as $20. They advertise these low prices to get your attention because you’re already in a panicked situation and you want access to your car. The scammer will feed you lies during the fix, telling you that it was more complicated or that your type of vehicle costs more money to work on. Prices might change during any vehicle job, but scammers will massively inflate their costs and attempt to charge you ten times more than the initial quote.
Local locksmiths are often small businesses and have to manage their tools, workers, and overhead costs. Transportation, employee training, and local licensing are not cheap things, and real locksmiths cannot possibly charge you $20 and stay in business.
Reputable, upstanding locksmiths will be open with you from the first phone call. Your locksmith might make addendums to the final price depending on the situation, but the receipt will list everything they did and why, with the actual costs. A real locksmith will update you on any major changes, and help you understand the situation.
Avoid The Drill
There are many ways to pick a lock, and your locksmith is trained on exactly how to do it. If a locksmith insists that the only way in is a drill and a new lock, be cautious. Well-trained locksmiths can handle most situations without using a drill. Drills are for complex, high-security locks—or a scammer that doesn’t know what they’re doing.
Know Your Area, And Take Friendly Advice
Depending on where you live, there might actually only be a few reputable locksmith companies or small-time locksmiths. While some situations might not allow you to call ahead and find the best locksmith, there’s a good chance that friends, family, or coworkers have already used them. Instead of reaching immediately for Google and attempting to handle the situation on your own, call around. Make a Facebook post or text someone and ask for help.
Stay Smart, And Don’t Get Scammed
If you keep vigilant and avoid the obvious signs of the scammer, you can steer clear of a truly bad situation. Don’t let scammers get away with their grifts when your money and business should be going to reputable local locksmiths that want to help you get on your way. Remember, don’t panic and go with the very first hit on Google. It’s not worth it.
If you’re the type to want to handle these frustrating situations yourself, PartsAvatar has the tools you need to get on your way.
About the Author:
Kathryn Fowler is the Marketing Manager at PartsAvatar. She’s been passionate about cars since childhood. She loves examining different components of cars to understand their operation. Kathryn started writing blogs on automobile parts to share her love for cars and educate automobile enthusiasts worldwide.