BBB Warns Public about Locksmith

March 30, 2009

6/1/2007

Media Contact
Felicia Overton, Director of Marketing & Community Relations        
602-212-2237
foverton@arizonabbb.org                                      

The Better Business Bureau of Central/Northern Arizona is warning the public about a locksmith conducting questionable business practices in Arizona and four other states.

Basad, Inc., which uses over 50 different trade names (Reporters, editors: see a complete listing of names at the end of this release), has an unsatisfactory record with the BBB of Central/Northern Arizona for unanswered complaints, and has unanswered complaints in Colorado, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. 

“We became concerned when we began seeing a pattern of complaints in a short period of time,” stated Matthew Fehling, CEO/President of the BBB of Northern/Central Arizona. “We have made numerous attempts to contact the company by phone and mail but have received no response.”
 
According to the BBB, the company’s pattern of complaints and a failure to correct the underlying reason for the complaints is cause for concern.  The BBB has received similar complaint scenarios as follows:

Complaints center around the amount quoted over the phone versus the amount that is actually paid.  Consumers are quoted $55.00 on the initial call and upon arrival, consumers are asked for personal information: name and credit card information prior to any service performed.  When presented with the final cost of services, it has doubled, sometimes tripled.  Consumers who generally find themselves in these situations have an immediate need for the service due to calls being placed on the weekends, late at night, or in unfamiliar areas.  Therefore, feeling forced to pay the higher cost.

Complaints also center on the locksmith’s failure to make adjustments or address customer concerns as promised. Some of Basad Inc.’s locksmith technicians suggest customers unhappy with the final cost of services call the
company and request to speak to a manager for possible adjustments.  However, consumers calls made to the company are never returned. 

Complaints also include unprofessional customer service which includes:

  • Technician appearance

  • Foul language

  • Implied intimidation by service technicians

  • Consumers allege service vehicles do not identify the business by name

“While several states in the country require that locksmiths be licensed, Arizona is not one of them,” Fehling said.

The BBB offers these tips for choosing a locksmith:

  • Shop around before you have an immediate need for a locksmith and save the phone number in your cell phone. Check with the Better Business Bureau for a report on the company and look for a list of member companies in the locksmith industry.  Reports are available at www.arizonabbb.org or by telephone at (602) 264-1721 and (928) 772-3410 in Yavapai County.

  • Ask for an estimate from each company you shop around with.  Ask if the fee quoted will cover just the service call or if it also includes all labor and parts.

  • A knowledgeable locksmith will know of any potential circumstances that may arise which would incur extra charges, so always ask for a “worst” case scenario.

  • Find out if the locksmith has a shop rather than just a website or an ad in the phone book.  Ask how long he or she has been in business.

  • Determine if the locksmith is insured and bonded.  Consumers are encouraged to request proof of bonding.

  • Be cautious if a locksmith immediately tells you he has to drill and replace the lock. A BBB member locksmith explained that drilling a lock is usually a last option.

  • If possible, ask for customer references and call them before making a final decision.

  • Get an itemized invoice.  Never sign a blank form authorizing work.  Make sure to get a copy for your records. 

  • File complaints with the BBB (www.arizonabbb.org) and the Attorney General’s Office (www.azag.gov).

The Keys to Hiring a Reputable Locksmith

March 30, 2009

If you’ve ever locked yourself out of your car or home, you know what a hassle it can be. Your first thought is to get someone to help you out of your situation. If a family member or friend can’t deliver a spare set of keys, your next call might be to a local locksmith. But before you make that call, consider this: According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, some locksmiths advertising in your local telephone book may not be local at all. They may not have professional training. What’s more, some of them may use intimidating tactics and overcharge you.

When “Local” Is Really Long-Distance

Consider this scenario: A company far away from your town chooses a name for its business that is very similar to the name used by a local locksmith. The company advertises in the phone book or on the Web using a local telephone number and local address. When you call the number, you’re actually connected to a call center in another city. What’s more, there’s no locksmith shop at the address listed.

You may be quoted a price on the phone, but when the locksmith arrives, often in an unmarked vehicle, he may want significantly more money. The locksmith also may accept only cash.

Some who claim to be “local locksmith” companies have multiple listings (sometimes 30 or more separate listings in a single phone book) with different names. But the calls to each of these numbers go back to the same central number in a distant city where operators dispatch untrained individuals to do the job.

Tips for Picking a Locksmith

What’s the best way to pick a reputable locksmith? Consider researching locksmiths before you need one, the same way you would a plumber, electrician, or other professional. That works well if you’re looking to have some security work done at your home, like installing deadbolts on the exterior doors of your house, or a safe in your bedroom.
But if you’re dealing with an emergency, like being locked out of your car, you really don’t have much time for thorough research.
Regardless of whether you are locked out of your car or home, you need new locks installed, or you require other security work, the FTC offers these tips to help you hire a legitimate, local locksmith.

In emergency situations:

  • If you’re locked out of your car and have a roadside assistance service, call them first. These services sometimes are included with the purchase of a car, or as an add-on through your insurance company. You also can buy this service separately. Roadside assistance plans often have a list of pre-approved companies to perform services like unlocking cars, jump-starting batteries, changing flat tires, delivering gasoline, and towing.
  • Call family or friends for recommendations.
  • If you find a locksmith in the phone book, on the Internet, or through directory assistance, and a business address is given, confirm that the address belongs to that locksmith. Some disreputable companies list street addresses to give the impression that they’re local. But the addresses may belong to other businesses or vacant lots, if they exist at all. You can verify addresses through websites that allow you to match phone numbers with street addresses. Some legitimate locksmith companies may not include a street address in their listing either because they operate a “mobile” business or they operate their business out of their home and may be reluctant to list that address. If you call a locksmith who doesn’t list an address, ask why. If the answer is that it’s a “mobile” business, you will understand they have no storefront.
  • Write down the names of several businesses, their phone numbers, and addresses for future reference, in case you don’t want to go with the first locksmith you call.
  • If a company answers the phone with a generic phrase like “locksmith services,” rather than a company-specific name, be wary. Ask for the legal name of the business. If the person refuses, call another locksmith.
  • Get an estimate for all work and replacement parts from the locksmith before work begins. In cases of “lock-outs” (being locked out of your car or home), most legitimate locksmiths will give you an estimate on the phone for the total cost of the work.
    • Ask about additional fees before you agree to have the locksmith perform the work. Companies may charge extra for responding to a call in the middle of the night. Ask if there is a charge for mileage, or a minimum fee for a service call.
    • If the price the locksmith provides when he arrives doesn’t jibe with the estimate you got on the telephone, do not allow the work to be done.
    • Never sign a blank form authorizing work.
  • Find out if the locksmith is insured. If your property is damaged during a repair, or if faulty work leads to loss or damage, it’s important for the locksmith to have insurance to cover your losses.
  • When the locksmith arrives, ask for identification, including a business card and, where applicable, a locksmith license. Nine states require locksmiths to be licensed: Alabama, California, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. In addition to a business card, check to see if the invoice includes the company’s name, and whether the locksmith’s vehicle has a name that matches the business card, invoice, and/or bill.
  • Expect the locksmith to ask you for identification, as well. A legitimate locksmith should confirm your identity and make sure you’re the property owner before doing any work.
  • Some locksmiths will work out of a car for quick or emergency jobs, but most will arrive in a service vehicle that is clearly marked with their company’s name.
  • In the case of a lock-out, be cautious if you’re told up front that the lock has to be drilled and replaced. An experienced legitimate locksmith has invested in the tools and education to provide quality service, and can unlock almost any door.
  • After the work is completed, get an itemized invoice that covers parts, labor, mileage, and the price of the service call.
    In situations where you have more time, check out locksmiths with your state Attorney General (www.naag.org), local consumer protection agency (www.consumeraction.gov), and the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) to make sure there are no unresolved complaints on file. (You can get the phone numbers for these organizations in your phone book, through directory assistance, or through Web directories.) This is true whether you need a locksmith for a one-time job, or you want to hire someone to work for you on a continuing basis. You must be able to trust your locksmith. You don’t want to give access to the locks for your home, car, or place of business to just anyone.

In Case There’s a Next Time

Once you’ve found a reputable locksmith, keep the company’s name and contact information in your wallet and address book at home or at work. You also may want to program this information into your home and cell phones. This can save you time and trouble the next time you need these services.

For More Information

If you have a problem with a locksmith, try to resolve the dispute with the company first. Make sure you act quickly. Some companies may not accept responsibility if you fail to complain within a certain time. If you can’t get satisfaction, consider contacting your local consumer protection agency for information and assistance.

You also can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Although the FTC does not intervene in individual disputes, the information you provide may indicate a pattern of possible law violations requiring action by the Commission. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

BBB Warns Consumers of Nationwide Locksmith Swindle

March 30, 2009
You may have been a victim and not even know it.
For Immediate Release
Arlington, VA – July 10, 2007 – The Better Business Bureau (BBB) today is warning consumers to beware of untrustworthy locksmith companies that are ripping off consumers across the country.

Victim complaints to the BBB reveal that several locksmith companies, all using similar methods, are significantly overcharging consumers, charging consumers for unnecessary services, using intimidation tactics, and failing to give refunds or respond to consumer complaints.

“Ironically, these companies operate under names like ‘Dependable Locksmith’ but in reality they exploit the vulnerable situation of consumers who are locked out of their house or car,” said Steve Cox spokesperson for the BBB System. “We’ve found that some locksmiths have made taking advantage of consumers’ misfortune part of their business model.”

Complaints about locksmith services to the 114 BBBs serving the U.S. increased almost 75 percent from 2005 to 2006, and have continued to come in steadily during the first half of this year.

The BBB has identified Dependable Locksmith – which operates under more than a dozen different names – as a particularly disreputable locksmith. This company poses as a local locksmith in cities across the country and advertises in the yellow pages using local phone numbers and fake local addresses. A consumer might think they’re dealing with a local locksmith but their phone call is actually connected to a call center located in the Bronx borough of New York City.

Consumers are quoted a reasonable price over the phone but when the locksmith arrives – typically in an unmarked vehicle – he demands significantly more money than originally quoted, often only accepting cash.

A complaint from Cleveland, OH, where Dependable Locksmith was operating under the name “Superb Solutions,” alleges the company quoted fees of $39 and $84 for separate jobs, but the bill ended up at $471, which included add-on fees such as a $65 breaking in fee and a $58 fee to uninstall old locks.

Another complainant reported that the locksmith sent to let her into her car demanded she pay twice the price quoted over the phone. The locksmith offered to drive her to an ATM to get cash – feeling unsafe the victim refused. The victim was ultimately forced to write a check made out personally to the locksmith as he would not let her into her car until she did so. She cancelled payment on the check the next morning, but eventually filed a police report after the locksmith harassed her with continuous phone calls about payment.

The BBB has also heard many complaints from victims who say they were charged for unnecessary services. For example, complainants suspect locksmiths sent over by Dependable Locksmiths of pretending they couldn’t simply pick the lock so that they could charge more and install all new locks in homes.

Some of Dependable Locksmith’s aliases include, Superb Solutions, Locksmith 24 Hour, Inc., USA Total Security, Priceline Locksmith, and S.O.S. Locksmith.

Two other locksmith contractors fleecing consumers are Basad, Inc. – which operates under more than 50 names nationwide, such as A-1 Locksmith Service, A-1 24 Hour Locksmith, A-1 Lock & Key Locksmith, and AAA Locksmith 24 Hour – and Liberty Locksmith. Similar to Dependable Locksmith, they pose as local locksmiths and run full-page yellow pages ads with multiple phone and address listings. The phone numbers appear to be local, but connect to national call centers such as Liberty’s in New York City, while the addresses end up belonging to other established businesses in the local area, or are simply non-existent.

Liberty Locksmith had been a BBB member in Tulsa, OK, but during normal BBB member validation processes, it was discovered that the addresses provided by the company were false. In June 2007, the BBB terminated the membership of Liberty Locksmith for providing false information in its membership application and providing misleading advertisements to the public.

Like others, Liberty Locksmith and Basad, Inc. use common cons such as quoting one price over the phone, but then charging significantly more on site.

“These companies are very good at posing as trustworthy locksmiths,” said Mr. Cox. “Before you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being locked out of your car or house, do your research and find a truly dependable locksmith in your area. Ask around and always check with the BBB first to find reputable businesses.”

If you feel you’ve been taken advantage of by Dependable Locksmith, Liberty Locksmith, Basad. Inc., or others, please contact the BBB to file a complaint, or do so online at www.bbb.org.

# # #About the BBB System

BBB is an unbiased, non-profit entity that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses and charities that earn BBB membership contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business Reliability Reports and charity Wise Giving Reports, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 128 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 3 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about the BBB System. 

# # #
Reporters and journalists may contact Steve Cox, CBBB’s Vice President, Communications, or call 703.276.0100 to request an interview or additional information.If you are a consumer who is seeking additional information, or need assistance with a complaint against a business, please contact your local BBB, visit the BBB web site (www.bbb.org) or call 703.276.0100.

Scam Alert: Price-Gouging Locksmiths Rip Off Customers

March 30, 2009

When the woman left her friend’s house late one night in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, she discovered she’d locked her keys in her car. Noelle found “Locksmith 24-Hour, Inc.,” in the phone book, and the person who answered her call quoted a price of $40.

But when the locksmith showed up, he announced it would be an additional $80 plus tax to unlock the car door with a Slim Jim tool. Noelle, who does not want her last name disclosed, would also have to fork over a fee for paying by check. The total came to nearly $200, and the man made it clear that Noelle would not get her keys until she paid.

The next day, intent on disputing the charges, Noelle investigated further and found that there was no locksmith at the local address listed in the phone book. She cancelled the check. That’s when the locksmith and his associates started calling her “like five times a day,” Noelle says, threatening to destroy her credit and even drive by her home.

After agreeing last year to pay fines and restitution for violating consumer protection laws in Ohio and Illinois, New York City–based Superb Solutions, which did business under the name 24-Hour, among others, closed up shop. But other rogue locksmiths are turning up around the country, according to the Better Business Bureau. The number of complaints about locksmiths received by the bureau’s 114 U.S. offices rose by 75 percent from 2005 to 2006, and were up again in 2007.

The locksmith’s modus operandi is this: Cram yellow pages and websites with listings for generic-sounding lock and key companies, such as A-1, 24-Hour and Dependable, at sham local addresses. In fact, the businesses operate from a single call center often located far away and often in other states. They quote an attractive price over the phone, but once on the scene, jack it up to well above the going rate. And if the customer complains? The scammers simply dig their heels in—and often prevail because most customers, especially if they’re stranded as Noelle was, are entirely dependent on their help.

The best defense is to find a good local locksmith before you’re locked out of your house or car. Ask friends or colleagues for recommendations and verify the company’s address. The Associated Locksmiths of America offers tips on how to avoid being scammed.

If you’ve been ripped off, file a complaint at the government’s Internet Crime Complaint Center by clicking here.