Do you know a neighbor with some wild-sounding story about getting ripped off by a locksmith? It’s sad to say that those instances are more common than you might expect — but they weren’t ripped off by a locksmith, they were caught up in a scam.
Locksmithing is one of the most frequently scammed industries out there, especially in states that do not require a license to operate as a locksmith. Fortunately, here in Redlands we’re protected at least a bit by California laws, which require a state-issued license to work as a locksmith. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry! Here are some key signs to look for in a reputable locksmith:
Look for Local Locksmiths
You’ve probably heard how important it is to shop local and support local businesses. Well, on top of the economic and sustainability benefits, keeping it local is also a great way to avoid locksmith scams. By and large, many locksmith scams are perpetuated by groups that span the country. The way this type of scam works is, essentially, that you would call a 1-800 number and the dispatcher will send a local operative to your location. If you later try to dispute shoddy work or a too-high bill, you’ll be told that they don’t have records for who provided service, or there will be some other reason they can’t connect you with the provider — and because they are just a dispatcher, there’s really no recourse. So, when you’re looking for a locksmith, start by looking for a local address and phone number.
Check for a License, Insurance, and/or Bonding
In California, a state-issued license is required to perform any locksmith work, so if you’re here in Redlands or anywhere in the state, you can ask to see a locksmith’s license before they begin work. You can also ask for their license number over the phone and run an online check with the state’s overseeing board to verify their legitimacy.
But what about places where a license isn’t required? The next best bet is to ask about insurance and bonding. Bonded locksmiths in particular are a great option if a license isn’t required in your area because the bonding process provides a more in-depth check into their services and customer satisfaction. In addition, any locksmith who carries insurance shows that they care about the overall wellbeing of their business and employees, as well as customers’ property protection.
Watch for Consistent Branding
It’s easy enough these days to build a website, which is another way locksmith scams keep growing. In order to verify that you’ve found a reputable locksmith, look for consistent branding both digitally and in person. The company name should be clearly visible — and, more importantly, distinct. Many locksmith scams choose overly generic names and will have branding that just says “locksmith.”
When the locksmith technician arrives at your location, look for continuations of that branding. It may be a hat, a uniform shirt, branded paperwork, or a vehicle wrap with the business information. Basically, the more signs of specific branding you see, the better the likelihood that you’re working with a professional.
Seek Out Referrals, Read Reviews
Another surefire way to sort out the good from the bad is to go for a locksmith company who has done great work for someone you know. Ask your neighbors or coworkers if they have someone in the area that they recommend for locksmith work.
Barring that, read through online reviews for a company — but do so with a grain of salt. Try to avoid reviews sites that are known for allowing companies to hide poor reviews or boost good ones. But, overall, look for a local locksmith with good ratings. Also, check through the reviews for any mentions of price-gouging or low-quality work. Reputable locksmiths will stand behind their work, and often offer some kind of warranty.
Say No to Price Hikes
Another common locksmith scam is to make up a falsehood that your lock is “too complicated” and will take extra time, requires specialty tools, or cannot be opened and needs to be drilled. We are the lock and key pros, so it’s a very rare case indeed that we cannot open a lock with our standard tools — and it’s even rarer that we have to drill a lock open. That’s mostly an excuse to get customers to pay for a new lock and the cost of installation. When the locksmith technician arrives, ask for a quote, and get it in writing if possible. That quoted price shouldn’t change, and if it does, it should be discussed and agreed upon before the work begins. Feel free to say no to service if an unexpected price hike happens!