If you’re locked out of your home or car, you might assume that googling “locksmith” or pointing to a random name in the phone book will yield a positive result. However, as it turns out, choosing a locksmith at random is a risky move. According to Gary Lekan, owner of First Lock & Security Technologies, incidents of locksmith-related fraud have increased significantly in the past 10 years, thanks in part to the rise of the Internet and mobile phone use. “These people are so unscrupulous,” he says. “They advertise heavily and emphasize their speed and ridiculously low prices. Then they send out inexperienced, untrained technicians who can’t even handle basic lockouts or repairs.” These contract workers will often break and then replace the locks on their customers’ homes or cars. In the long run, consumers end up paying hefty bills and have junky locks in lieu of quality hardware.
Luckily, with some preparation, avoiding a fraudulent locksmith is easy. First, identify a trustworthy locksmith in your area. Mr. Lekan offers the following tips to differentiate between an established, licensed locksmith and a fly-by-night scammer:
Verify the company’s license. California requires that all locksmith companies and every individual locksmith employee be licensed and receive security clearance from The Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS). The license number should be noted on all advertising, signage, websites and business cards. You can easily verify a license here.
Make sure the company has a physical location in the area. Many fraudulent locksmith companies are actually operating from out-of-state, which makes it easier to disappear quickly if necessary.
Verify that the company carries workers’ compensation insurance. If so, that means it has legitimate, presumably trained employees rather than untrained contract workers.
Make sure the company provides uniforms, vehicles and technical support for its employees. If a company values its brand and invests in its reputation, it’s far less likely to engage in shady business practices.
Once you’ve selected a trustworthy locksmith, do one simple thing to protect yourself from fraud: memorize the company name. Saving the company’s phone number in your cell phone can be useful, but only if you aren’t locked out of the car or home that contains the phone. If you memorize the company name, any passer-by can easily find and call your chosen company rather than a random, possibly fraudulent locksmith.
To read my embarrassing and yet entirely true cautionary tale about locksmith scams, click here.
To learn more about Gary Lekan and First Lock & Security Technologies, click here.