How To Protect Yourself From "Locksmith Scammers"

Our industry association, the ALOA Security Professionals Association, Inc. or simply ALOA, created a 10-point “locksmith scam check-list” to help detect if a company is engaging in scammer tactics. While some of the items on the list are legal and innocuous by themselves, such as a locksmith operating out of an unmarked service vehicle, if several are used together it may be an indication that you are dealing with a locksmith scammers.
Here is ALOA’s locksmith scam check-list in it’s entirety:
Not Familiar with Your Area . To ensure that the company is local, make sure that they are familiar with your area of town .
“Locksmith Service.” Unscrupulous individuals often operate under many business names/aliases. Thus, they must answer the phone with a generic phrase like, “locksmith service.” If the call is answered this way, ask, “What is the legal name of your business.”
ALOA Logo. Does the Yellow Pages ad contain a logo that makes them appear to belong to ALOA? While many locksmiths do belong to the Association, some unscrupulous individuals trick the consumer by falsely using the ALOA logo. You can always check to see if in fact these businesses are members by calling ALOA, (800) 532-2562 or www.findalocksmith.com .
Unclear Business Name. Look closely at the ad(s). Is the specific name of the business clearly identified? Does it appear that the dealer actually operates under several names? If a Web address is listed, does the name on the Web site match the name on the ad?
“Under Same Ownership” This confusing statement, often found in small print at the bottom of a full-page ad in phone directories, give consumers a sense that the firm has been in business for awhile. The statement itself may be a warning sign that the company operates under several aliases. Also, the ad sometimes lists association memberships for organizations that do not exist, (i.e. American Locksmith Association).
Service Vehicle. Some legitimate locksmiths will work out of a car or unmarked van for quick jobs, but most will arrive in a service vehicle – a van or truck that is clearly marked.
Identity. A legitimate locksmith should ask for identity and some form of proof that you have the authority to allow the unlocking to be done. You have the right to ask for the locksmith’s identification as well. Does he have a business card? Does he have an invoice or bill with the company name printed on it? Does it match the name on the service vehicle?
Estimate. Find out what the work will cost before you authorize it. Never sign a blank form authorizing work.
Invoice. Insist on an itemized invoice. You can’t dispute a charge without proof of how much you paid and what the payment was for.
Refuse. If you are not comfortable with the service provider, you can, and should, refuse to work with the locksmith.

Additional Advice

A majority of people believe that high prices qualifies as being scammed but, in reality, that isn’t always the case. Higher prices, or rates, are both normal and reasonable for locksmith services, such as lockouts, when they are utilized during non-business hours, such as on weekends or late at night. Pricing is also dependent on a number of other additional factors, such as the type of job and the location of the job. The best, and perhaps only, way to know if what you were charged was within the norm of your area is to contact reputable locksmiths in your area and ask their rates for the same job on the same day and at the same time. If what you paid was far removed, there is a very good chance you were scammed.

By |2018-04-06T09:00:12+00:00April 6th, 2018|All, Industry|0 Comments

How To Find A Reputable Locksmith

Finding a reputable locksmith doesn’t have to be a hard task. There are numerous sources available to locate a reputable locksmith. Before we list those sources, let’s talk about why it’s important to locate a reputable locksmith before you need their services. Locksmiths are often needed during stressful situations, such as a lockout. Alleviate some of the stress of the situation by already knowing who to call. Take a few moments to locate a reputable locksmith, if you haven’t already, and save their contact information in your phone so that in the event you need their services, you already know who to call.
Here are a few sources and additional advice for finding a reputable locksmith:

Ask friends and family for a referral.

This is perhaps the best source for finding a reputable locksmith, or any contractor for that matter. Trusted friends and family members provide valuable feedback on their experiences, pro or con, with service companies, such as locksmiths.

FindALocksmith.com

Created and maintained by our industry association, ALOA Security Professionals Association, Inc. or simply ALOA, FindALocksmith.com is an interactive website that lets you locate reputable locksmiths in your area. These locksmiths have passed background checks and industry vetting in order to be listed on the website so you can rest assured that you are dealing with reputable locksmiths.
It should be noted that only ALOA members are listed on FindALocksmith.com. In other words, there are reputable locksmiths in business who are not members of ALOA and therefore would not show up in a search on the website.

Hey-Locksmith.com

Hey-Locksmith.com is also an interactive website that lets you locate reputable locksmiths in your area. Each listing has been thoroughly vetted to ensure that you are able to locate a legitimate locksmith in you area.

Clearstar Security Network Yellow Pages

Much like FindALocksmith.com, the Clearstar Security Network Yellow Pages lists reputable locksmiths that have been vetted. Consumers can select their state, hit submit, and view a list of reputable locksmiths. Unlike FindALocksmith.com, however, the list is not restricted to ALOA members but rather members of the Clearstar Security Network. The Clearstar Security Network has earned a reputation in the industry as being the “creme de la creme” so it’s members are highly regarded by their peers.

The Society of Professional Locksmiths’ (SOPL) Locksmith Search

The Society of Professional Locksmiths’ (SOPL) Locksmith Search lists reputable locksmiths that SOPL has vetted. Unlike FindALocksmith.com and the Clearstar Security Network Yellow Pages, SOPL’s Locksmith Search isn’t restricted to it’s members; it lists reputable locksmiths regardless of whether or not they are members of SOPL.

Additional Advice

Exercise caution if you find a “directory page” or similar “locksmith search” web page other than the ones listed previously. Some of these websites utilize a “pay-to-play” model which allows for inclusion in exchange for a monthly or annual fee.
If searching for a locksmith on a review website, such as Yelp or Google, watch out for fraudulent reviews. Locksmith scammers will often generate their own reviews to increase their rating. These reviews are usually easy to spot, fortunately, because they often contain numerous grammatical errors and the account leaving the review will have only reviewed that business and no others.

By |2018-04-05T09:00:18+00:00April 5th, 2018|All, Industry|0 Comments

Tools Update: Key Blank Cross-Reference App Added

We’ve just added our first app to our Tools page. The Key Blank Cross-Reference will allow locksmiths to cross-reference both OEM and aftermarket key blank part numbers, which will allow locksmiths to research purchasing alternatives as well as source or cross-reference keys/blanks that a customer may have.
At the time of launch, we’ve included nearly 200 unique OEM key blanks across nearly 50 brands. These entries represent the most common blanks in use today, both in residential and commercial sectors. In addition to the OEM manufacturers and part numbers, we’ve included their aftermarket equivalents. Aftermarket manufacturers include:

  • Axxess
  • Cole
  • Curtis
  • Dominion
  • ESP
  • Hillman
  • Ilco
  • Jet
  • JMA
  • Orion
  • Silca
  • Star

How To Use The App

Using the key blank cross-reference program is straight forward. Simply type in a manufacturer’s, OEM or aftermarket, part number into the search box and either hit “Enter” on your keyboard or click the magnifying glass icon. The program will then return results that show not only the part number you searched but all available equivalent blanks and their respective part numbers.
In addition to equivalent blank part numbers, you’ll also see Jet Hardware Manufacturing’s illustration of the key blank as well as the keyway. Simply scroll over this image to enlarge it. If you require the full size image, right-click on the image to open it. It’s as simple as that!
We’ve also included an option to allow users (you!) to submit suggestions for new entry. If we don’t have a blank included that you think we should, simply click on the “Suggest New Entry” button in the bottom right hand of the screen, complete the pop-up form, and click “Done!”. We’ll do our best to update based on requests.

Future Updates

Speaking of updates, this is only the start for this programming. We plan to add more OEM and aftermarket key blanks to this program soon. In other words, this will be an ongoing project.
 

By |2018-04-03T09:00:56+00:00April 3rd, 2018|All, Keys, Tools Update|0 Comments

I Think I Was A "Locksmith Scam" Victim, What Can I Do?

If you’ve found this page, you or someone you know has more than likely been the latest victim of a locksmith scammer. Don’t feel bad, it’s a growing problem in the locksmith industry and it’s happened to thousands of other consumers around the United States. We’re going to do our best to lay out your options and offer some advice on what you can do next.
Before we proceed, take a moment to read our How To Protect Yourself From “Locksmith Scammers” to help determine if you were truly scammed. As we mention in the article, “A majority of people believe that high prices qualifies as being scammed but, in reality, that isn’t always the case.”

Legal Options

Most consumers believe that their first, and perhaps only, option is to call the police to resolve the matter. In reality, most consumer protection laws are enforced by government agencies and not city or county police departments. The police officer(s) will more than likely tell you that it’s either a civil matter and needs to be addressed in a civil court or that you need to contact the appropriate government agency, or agencies, that deal with consumer protection laws in your city, county, and/or state.
Note: We have heard of multiple instances of locksmith scammers using intimidation and threats to coax immediate payment and on their terms, usually cash. In such a case, call the police immediately.
I’ve spoken with a few consumers who were adamant about speaking with a lawyer and pursuing the matter in a civil court. That’s definitely your prerogative and a lawyer will know best about your legal options. I bring that point up to say this: whatever your choice, DO NOT threaten litigation against others. Do not tell the locksmith scammer and/or anyone in his/her company that you’re going to sue them. First, it’s not ethical (yes, I know that’s ironic given the situation but take the high road). Second, it’s more than likely going to ruin any chance of a resolution with the scammer company. If you decide to go the legal route, let your lawyer handle it.
You also have the option to pursue the matter in a small claims court. Most states will usually have a consumer guide available for those considering using the small claims court system. These guides can be very useful for someone who might not be familiar with the court system and/or process. I’ve never heard, directly or indirectly, of any consumer using small claims court with regards to locksmith scammers but don’t let that dissuade you, I simply have no experiences or stories to offer.
With that said, here is what you can also do if you’ve been a victim of a locksmith scammer:

1. Document everything.

The first thing you need to do is to document everything. Sadly, we live in a society where a person’s word no longer means much, if anything. Evidence does mean something, however, so you need to start accumulating it. Start by writing down the events as you best remember them. Write down the phone number you called. If you found the number online, write down their website’s URL as well.
Save any invoice or paperwork you receive from the “locksmith” who shows up. If possible, take down, or relay from memory, information about the “locksmith” such as his/her appearance, the make and model of his/her vehicle, and the vehicle’s plate if possible. If you had someone at your business or residence at the time of service and they can corroborate your story, ask for a written statement. Take pictures of any door and/or locks that were serviced while on site.
Evidence will be your strongest ally as you start the process to right the scammer’s wrong. Make your ally as strong as possible.

2. Ask the business for a refund.

They’re almost certainly not going to give you a refund. Locksmith scammers aren’t known for their ethics, after all. Be that as it may, you need to at least make an attempt. Why? All but one of the remaining items in this article this rely on it. If you have not asked for a refund, you’ll put a delay in your ability to request a chargeback through your bank or to file a complaint with consumer protection agencies. Banks and consumer protection agencies expect the consumer and merchant to resolve disputes between themselves first; they are only there as a last resort. If you admit to either that you haven’t at least taken initiative on your end to resolve dispute then they’re more than likely going to tell you to come back only after you have.
If possible, make the request in writing. Locksmith scammers are notoriously elusive but if, by chance, you get either an email or physical address then send the request there. Lay out your experience, reasoning, and request. Make an honest effort. As I said, it’s more than likely going to be fruitless but you must make an attempt.
If the refund request falls on deaf ears or gets you nowhere then it’s time to start involving other groups in the matter.

3. Contact your bank to initiate a chargeback.

If you used a credit card to pay for the services you are guaranteed reversal rights by Regulation Z of the Truth in Lending Act of 1968. If you used a debit card you are guaranteed the same rights by Regulation E of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. That’s not to say you are guaranteed to get your money back but rather you are guaranteed the right to dispute charges on your card.
Keep in mind that banks take fraud VERY, VERY seriously and will treat your transaction dispute (the premise behind chargebacks) with equal seriousness. You bank is very much your ally in this situation – they’re on the side of the law. Banks rely heavily on available evidence when investigating disputes to transactions; this evidence is used to make a decision. This is why it’s very important to document every single thing associated with your situation.
It’s impossible to know what the bank will decide to do but per Wikipedia:

The 2014 Cybersource Fraud Benchmark Report found that only 60% of chargebacks are disputed by merchants, and that merchants have a success rate of about 41% with those they do re-present.

At worst, you’ll be left in the exact same situation you were prior to contacting them. In other words, you have nothing to lose and, potentially, much to gain.

4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

While the Federal Trade Commission cannot resolve individual complaints, they can use your information as a resource for larger enforcement or penalties. The Federal Trade Commission is well aware of the locksmith scam problem and providing additional evidence and testimony helps.
You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online by visiting their FTC Complaint Assistant web page or by calling the FTC’s Consumer Response Center at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

5. File a complaint with your state’s consumer protection office.

Next, file a complaint with your state’s consumer protection office, which will usually be your state’s attorney general’s office although some states have separate offices. Below is a list of links to the complaint page of each state’s consumer protection office. Some states may have offices for specific areas, such as cities or regions. In such instances a list of applicable websites is linked.

Alabama     Alaska      Arizona     Arkansas     California     Colorado     Connecticut     Delaware     Florida     Georgia

Hawaii     Idaho      Illinois      Indiana      Iowa      Kansas      Kentucky      Louisiana     Maine     Maryland     Massachusetts

Michigan      Minnesota      Mississippi      Missouri      Montana      Nebraska    Nevada     New Hampshire     New Jersey

New Mexico     New York     North Carolina     North Dakota     Ohio     Oklahoma     Oregon      Pennsylvania      Rhode Island

South Carolina     South Dakota     Tennessee     Texas     Utah     Vermont     Virginia     Washington     West Virginia    Wisconsin     Wyoming

Unlike the Federal Trade Commission, your state’s consumer protection office can resolve individual and collective complaints, usually through restitution and penalties. For example, Georgia’s Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection ordered the owner of one these locksmith companies to pay $11,897.40 in consumer restitution and $100,000 in penalties and investigative expenses to resolve allegations of unfair and deceptive practices in 2013.

6. If you found the locksmith scammer’s information on the Internet, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Division. IC3 investigates internet crimes, which includes the use of the Internet to communicate false or fraudulent representations to consumers. If you found the locksmith scammer’s information on the Internet and they communicated false or fraudulent representations to you, such as “bait and switch” pricing, then you should file a complaint with the IC3. As a bonus, the IC3 routinely works with the other federal, state, local, and regulatory agencies. This means the more information consumers provide to them about scammers, the more other agencies can benefit from this volunteered information. In other words, your complaint could potentially prevent this from happening to someone else.
You can file a complaint with the IC3 via their website.

7. Tell your friends and family.

Believe it or not, you can turn a negative into a positive in this case. Use your situation to alert your friends and family of locksmith scams and how they can avoid them. Educate them. No one wants their friends or family scammed or taken advantage. Use your newfound knowledge to help protect them from similar scams and predatory businesses.
 

By |2018-04-01T13:15:35+00:00April 1st, 2018|All, Industry|0 Comments
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