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Locked Out? Avoid Locksmith Scams Before You Hire

Shady locksmiths accused of misleading customers with false “local” addresses and price misrepresentations.

What would you do if you found yourself locked out of your car or home without a spare key? Odds are, you pull out your smartphone, search for a term like "locksmith near me" or perhaps something specific and local like "locksmith NYC" or "locksmith Houston."

At the top of the search results, you discover a company with your city's name and an address listed not far away from your home. What luck! You call, thinking it's a local locksmith, and the person on the phone gives you a reasonable estimate.

Then the technician arrives in an unmarked vehicle, sometimes well after the swift arrival time promised over the phone. And once they complete the job, they present you with a bill for many times the quoted price and demand cash payment.

“At the mercy” of a locksmith

It may sound outrageous, but that's exactly what happened to Tigard, Oregon, member Patricia Newman when she locked herself out of her house last year. A cell phone with no charge forced Newman to call for help from a neighbor's house and she found Tigard Locksmith, in an online search.

“Because of the name, I figured it would be nearby,” Newman says, adding she later learned the company also goes by the name 24/7 Portland Locksmith. “In fact, it’s very unclear where they are. They’re in whatever city you put in your Google search.”

Newman says the company’s website promised a $15 fee and arrival in 15 minutes. Instead, she says the technician arrived an hour later, “hammered” on two doors before finally getting one open, and then charged her $46 for "labor and tools" and $99 for "house lockout," for a grand total of $160.

Later, Newman says she found other locksmiths at the same phone number, making her suspicious, and when she called to complain, she says the manager hung up on her. “You’re at their mercy and they know you’re at their mercy,” she says.

Calls to Tigard Locksmith/24/7 Portland Locksmith for comments regarding Newman’s complaint were not returned.

Colorado AG action leads to locksmith shutdown

In another large case in 2009, former Colorado Attorney General John Suthers reached a $100,000 settlement with Englewood, Colorado-based locksmith company Basad Inc. after filing a lawsuit alleging it misrepresented its prices, failed to honor its advertised “20-minute response time” and led customers in several states to mistakenly believe it operated local offices under 73 different trade names.

Basad Inc. also dissolved in 2011 but not before paying customers who filed complaints amounts ranging from $100 to $1,100, according to Colorado Department of Law communications director Roger Hudson. “We’ll turn over every rock to try to find someone who’s ripping folks off when they’re in a vulnerable position,” says current Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

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