Beware the Locksmith Scam!
It’s a situation you never want to be in, but it’s all too common: you’ve lost your keys. Without them, you can’t unlock your bike, get into your car, get to work or even go home without a replacement key. Worse than that, your lock’s broken and your house can’t be entered. You frantically make a Google search for ‘Locksmith’ and click the first decent-looking result, what looks like a local company that can provide the service. You call them up, most likely being directed to an overseas call centre, who quotes a good price and quickly sends out an employee to help you with your dilemma.
It’s here where things get strange. Your ‘employee’ arrives, but he’s already haggling with you on the price, bumping it up several times due to what he says are complications. Suddenly, the price quoted on the call was just the cost of the guy getting here to look at it. He looks at your lock, declaring it to be too high-tech for the price of a basic repair, or simply bargains with you for a replacement key, saying he needs to replace the pins inside the lock so they fit. Without mentioning more sensible approaches like picking the lock, he suggests drilling through it, which destroys the lock and adds yet more money to the procedure. And if you don’t agree or realise how much money they’re trying to wring out of you until it’s too late, threats of calling the police will likely follow.
This is the all-too-common locksmith scam, and it’s been a disreputable trade for a few years now. Abusing Google’s local business promotion system to set up fake profile for their ‘business’, frequently stealing names and contact information from actual local locksmiths, writing fake reviews that imply a good service and generally crafting an illusion that these opportunistic racketeers are real, legitimate businesses.
In collaboration with unethical lead generation firms, these overseas call centres are actually working with these scammers to find people in these unfortunate positions. When you’re facing the prospect of sleeping outside for the night, you’re not in a position to bargain with the scammer, which is why it works even when the illusion fails.
This also does damage to reputable locksmiths: When the whole debacle is over and the customer is faced with a huge bill for a cheap job, they go to the company to complain – only to realise that the scammer had nothing to do with this locksmith whose name they took. Worse, they can leave a negative review of the company on Google or Yell, dragging the company’s name through the mud despite having nothing to do with it.
So what can be done? The Master Locksmith’s Association has already started an initiative to expose these scammers and get the police to take these shysters more seriously, but these business practices wouldn’t be possible without Google. It’s still easy to set up a fake business on Google, and still quite hard to get rid of it. With each improvement in their scam-detecting bots, they find new ways to get around them, setting up new fake businesses faster than Google can catch them, resulting in a search engine-themed version of Whack-A-Mole.
Since Google is unable to help, the best approach would be to avoid taking reckless action and investigate any companies you look up before you agree on a quote. See if they’re qualified locksmiths, if they haven’t just stolen a website: see if the phone operator you’re speaking to knows what the company’s name is or the employee being sent to you. Get the employee to agree on a price before he starts working. He might arrive in an unmarked vehicle much later than the phone operator said he would, or lack any form of work uniform. He might ask for cash up front, as he wants to avoid being traced via credit/debit cards. These aren’t all definite proof of a scam attempt on their own, but together they’re a massive warning sign that they might not be what they seem to be.
As a well-established locksmith in Darlington, MJS Locksmiths takes a firm stand against these fraudulent businesses. MJS Locksmiths offer services for everyone in Darlington, Middlesbrough and Country Durham: homeowners with a broken front door lock, businesses with malfunctioning uPVC locks, emergency boarding for shattered windows, all within 24 hours of calling.
For help call MJS Locksmiths on 01325 482692
MJS Locksmiths provides Locksmith services throughout Darlington, Bishop Auckland, Middlesbrough and Durham.