Your key has broken off inside of your front door lock. Of you may have forgotten to take it with you. There you are; in front of a locked door, trying to get into your house. What to do? Call for help?
Not all locksmiths are reliable. Some will take advantage of emergencies to rip off home or car owners. Others intentionally cause damage to your property and charge you for the repair costs – “Lock demolition men” is what the Netherlands Key- and Lock specialists Guild (NSSG) calls them.
You may have seen the ads on the Internet or in the Yellow Pages about locksmiths who work 24/7 to help you out of any emergency within no time. And in most cases, this is how the problem gets fixed. Unfortunately, not every locksmith can be trusted.
Reports have come in about unexpected charges, about unscrupulous locksmiths promising low prices on the phone and then jack up the cost with additional charges when they arrive. Sometimes they charge double the regular rate, sometimes far more, says the NSSG.
If the victims object or refuse to pay, these rogue locksmiths may resort to intimidation and bullying tactics. Some of the victims will give in and pay up. Fraud Help Desk knows cases where up to 600 euros were charged for a job that took no more than 5 minutes.
Other rogue lock technicians will simply do a bad job or aggravate the problem, causing additional damage to the lock and enabling them to charge even more to put it right.
How they operate
The Dutch TV programme Opgelicht?! has found out that the telephone numbers given for locksmiths in big advertisements in the Yellow Pages will actually go to call centres. Between the caller and the call centre is a lead company which ensures that locksmiths will appear at the top of the internet ads. The technicians will pay the lead company for every telephone call they receive. Each of these locksmiths is free to determine their own price tag.
People who are locked out are vulnerable targets. They have a problem and they are in dire need of help. There is no time to compare services and costs. Yet, there are a few things you could and should to protect yourself against locksmith scams:
– Ask them for their business cards or copy their contact data. If you agree to a deal, make sure it is in writing.
– Never sign a form before it is completely filled out. If there is an agreement, make sure you have the entire correspondence and statements on file.
And you may never be in urgent need of a locksmith if you follow the following practical tips:
– Make sure your family, friends and/or neighbours have spare keys.
– Take action when it’s time to re-key or replace your locks. Call for professional help when you find your lock harder to open or when you notice signs of wear. Visit the shop first so that you know who you are dealing with.
– Watch out for the big ads on the internet or in the Yellow Pages. Look for the smaller ones instead. Remember that local professional locksmiths often won’t be able to afford expensive advertisements.