BEWARE OF THE 'LOCAL LOCKSMITH' SCAMMERS
What to look out for and how to protect yourself
The Locksmith community all over Canada & the US has coined the term “Local Locksmith Scammers” for a phenomenon that appears to involve persons impersonating a Locksmith for the purpose of extorting money from people in a time of distress.
The term has been so coined because of the fact that the “scammers” utilize internet services to appear local and gain an advertising advantage targeting a specific service need – lockouts.
In a typical episode, a person who has accidentally locked him or herself out of a home, calls directory assistance and simply asks for the number of the nearest Locksmith. Through the advertising genius of Google, Telus, etc., a company can pay a fee to ensure their telephone number comes up first in just such a situation, and that phone number is conveyed by the 411 operator. The consumer, believing he or she is calling a local company, unwittingly calls a call center thousands of kilometers away and receives a very reassuring promise, such as “We’ll be there in 20 minutes and the fee will be $20.”. Believe it or not, some people have waited 4-5 hours for someone to fulfill that promise. When a “Locksmith” arrives, usually in a personal vehicle with out-of-province license plates, he doesn’t even try to pick the locks. Instead, he explains that the locks are a high security model and cannot be picked. He will have to drill the locks and replace them. The price is exhorbitant.
Reports have been made of anywhere from $300-$800 to drill open and replace 2 locks that retail for less than $100 and are easily picked by any competent Locksmith. Many accounts include reports of intimidation tactics used by the phoney Locksmith to coerce a consumer who is already in distress. In Alberta, we have a measure of protection not available everywhere. Locksmith firms and workers are required to obtain a license to offer Locksmith services, under the Security Services & Investigators Act (SSIA), and produce this license on request. In order to obtain and keep a license, a Locksmith must either be a Journeyman or registered Apprentice. Measures are in place to ensure registered Apprentices complete their apprenticeship within a reasonable period of time.
While it’s relatively easy for a firm to obtain a corporate license under SSIA, it’s a different matter for them to supply individual licenses for their “Locksmiths”. It’s also an easy matter for consumers to ask to see a license and refuse work based on the lack of one. All that’s really needed is for consumers to be aware.
SSIA includes a mechanism for consumer complaints. While they don’t entertain complaints regarding technical competence, pricing or promptness, they are very interested in complaints about conduct. A complaint about a worker should be directed to the company in question. That company is required to file a complaint resolution report to SSIA within a couple of days. A complaint about a company should be made directly to SSIA using their form, found online here.
The “Local Locksmith” scheme takes advantage of the simple fact that nobody plans for emergencies such as lockouts. People who use the services of a Locksmith regularly, have a good idea who they’d call in a lockout emergency. But it’s surprising how many people manage to go through life without ever meeting a Locksmith: getting spare keys cut at the mall kiosk or the hardware store (Please, go to a Locksmith! We actually know how to adjust & maintain the machines we use. We also have to use the keys we cut so we make sure they’re done right.), buying new locks instead of having locks rekeyed, buying locks off the hardware store shelf (assuming they must be good or they wouldn’t be there) and so on.
For those people, finding the right Locksmith is as easy as going to www.plaa.org and clicking the “Find a Locksmith” button. You’ll find a list of our corporate members, organized by city/town. We guarrantee none of those scammers are among our membership.