Shocking locksmith scams are alive and well in Naples. Learn what to do if you are caught in a scam and how to avoid one in the first place.
- Honey, I Hired the Mob – Organized criminal enterprises are setting up locksmith scams nationwide. Rampant in Florida and New York, these enterprises make money off run-of-the-mill locksmith services and even have huge YellowPage ads with legitimate-sounding, yet fake addresses and dozens of phone numbers. What they don’t tell you is they make the big bucks by sending low-level criminals or even victims of human trafficking to do the “work” on your lock. Unknowingly handing over your keys, credit card information, and address to a crime ring can leave you wide open to additional crimes. They generally charge you an arm-and-a-leg to boot!What to do – Instead of relying solely on the Yellow Pages, or solely on a quick internet search, try visiting the Society of Professional Locksmiths website for a good referral. This organization does full background checks on its members and each member must uphold an oath to stay in the group.
- The Old Bait-and-Switch – You are in a jam, locked out of your own house, so you hop online and find a locksmith with a decent website and a great low advertised rate. You call for a quote and get the same great price, just $19 for a lockout! The guy arrives on scene and you feel a little uneasy. Then he springs it on you, it is going to be $1,200 to finish the job and he needs to get paid now. You tell him he’s crazy and that you aren’t going to pay that much, so he takes matters into his own hands, bully-style. These guys will often threaten to call the cops on YOU if you don’t pay. It isn’t uncommon for these guys to snatch your credit card or set of keys and high-tail it out of there or they simply refuse to leave at all! I’ve even heard about a grandmother who was conned into letting a con artist break her car window instead of using a locksmith tool and then charge her $800! These scammers often end up swindling their customers for $1,000 or more for a service that should run you about $100, now we can see how they afford to dominate all of those $19 lockout ads at the top of Google!What to do – If you are intimidated, call the police. Don’t fall into the $15 / $19 / $29 locksmith scam and insist on a full quote over the phone. If the tech arrives in an unmarked car, don’t even allow work to be done. All of the legitimate locksmiths in Naples have clearly marked vehicles and most wear uniforms.
- We Only Take Cash – If you pay using your credit card and there are any shenanigans, you can usually dispute the charge with your card issuer and get your money back. If you pay with a check or cash, you are out of luck unless you go to court. Shady locksmith companies advertise that they take credit cards, but once they get there they will tell you they will not accept credit card payments and usually demand nothing but cold, hard, cash.What to do – Never go to the ATM with a locksmith who is demanding cash. Insist that credit card (not debit!) is your only method of payment and most of the time, magically, a working credit card machine will appear or they will just write down the number to process later.
- Drill Baby Drill – A “locksmith” you hired takes one peek at your lock and says, “Listen little lady, the only way I’m getting’ you back in that house is if we drill out that lock”. Unless you have highly specialized high-security keys, this just isn’t true. They just want to sell you a whole new handle-set or they have no idea what they are doing. A good locksmith has the tools and training in order to gain access to your home using non-destructive entry techniques.What to do – Don’t let them drill your lock unless they have at least attempted picking it for a while using proper tools. If they tell you they need to break your window, break your lock, or drill your lock, tell them never mind, ask them to leave your property immediately, then call someone else.
- When a Local Phone # isn’t so Local – You look in your local phone book, dial a local number, and a friendly voice answers the phone… from Detroit, but you have no idea they aren’t local! Locksmith “referral services” have been swindling locals for years and raking in big cash. If the company doesn’t give you the name of their business, just says “locksmith company” or something generic when they answer the phone, then you have probably called a locksmith referral service, not from a local legitimate company. These locksmith “referral services” will dispatch your call to anyone that will go out there and do the job, and I mean ANYONE. They won’t have a marked car, they won’t have a uniform, and I can guarantee they won’t have any clue what they are doing. Some of them even use fake addresses, like empty lots, vacant homes, or unrelated storefronts. These services often employ criminals and combine one or more of the other scams listed above.What to do – Ask for the local locksmith’s address and do a Google Street View search or drive by to make sure they actually operate out of that location. Even the legitimate home-based locksmiths will have a marked vehicle parked out front.
For even more great information about locksmith scams, check out this excellent Locksmith Scam Alert video produced by the Society of Professional Locksmiths.
Stay safe out there folks, and please share this post to educate your friends before one of them falls victim to another unfortunate Naples locksmith scam!