Be Aware: Locksmith Scam
May. 30th, 2008 | 02:43 pm
The following is from a co-worker would like to help others avoid being scammed:
I wanted to make you all aware of a locksmith scam that has swept/is sweeping the country, and that I happened to get scammed by when I was locked out of my apartment recently. The scam is run by a company called USA Locksmith, which has many different aliases.
They list fake local addresses in the phone book all around the country that are all connected to a phone bank in Hackensack, NJ (their "local addresses" in Hoboken are actually a Chinese food restaurant and City Hall). The phone bank then routes the calls out to often-unregistered, untrained "locksmiths" that operate out of unmarked cars in communities all around the U.S. They will give you a low estimate before they come out, ask for your credit card information, and then when they get there they virtually immediately tell you that your lock can't be picked, then will say they have to drill through your existing lock in order to get you in. This is often unnecessary (it should only be a last resort), and requires you to buy highly marked up locks from them that are of shoddy quality (for example, a $20 lock for $150). In several cases (including mine), they said there was a woman with a baby locked in the car and they had to rush, so they rush the job before they give you a final estimate and then hand you a bill that is much higher than the initial estimate (in my case, close to 600.00, in some cases over 1500 dollars).
In most cases, people get the numbers for these fake local businesses from 411, in other cases, people call one of hundreds of numbers in their communities that get routed back to the same call center in Hackensack (many of the "businesses" in the phone book are not listed as USA Locksmith in the phone book and have names like "Anytime Anywhere Locksmith" or "Emergency Locksmith", but the calls are routed to USA Locksmith's Hackensack location.
The company has over fifty complaints against them with the Better Business Bureau, they have had their BBB affiliation revoked in several areas, multiple state attorney generals have successfully prosecuted them, and they are being investigated by numerous consumer protection agencies for fraud. They are known as the "locksmith mafia" because there are indications they are connected to organized crime networks, and because they use threats to intimidate both their competition and unhappy clients. However, they have proven very difficult to shut down completely.
Warning signs that you may be dealing with a local "arm" of this company:
*They answer the phone "locksmith" instead of the particular business name that you think you called *They are evasive when you ask for a physical address or the physical address they give you belongs to another business or doesn't exist *They are evasive when you ask for a full estimate prior to the work *They show up in an unmarked vehicle *The locksmith cannot show you his/her registration number *They say almost immediately that they'll have to drill your lock.
*They do not ask for personal identification to make sure that you have authority to have the particular lock opened (i.e. that you live at your house).
Please protect yourself and your pockets. This is a serious crime ring that has affected thousands of people, including acts of physical intimidation. They are very savvy at the kind of fraud they engage in, and it is best to just avoid getting involved with them in the first place.
USA Locksmith is either simply another arm of one of these companies or a company operating under the same model. You can also google "USA Locksmith scam" and see numerous personal stories of people that were affected by this scam.
Montrose, New York