Beware of locksmith scams

Warning signs to watch out for

For most homeowners, there are a few life events that call for the services of a locksmith:

  • When you're moving into a new home (or someone in the home is moving out) and
  • When you've accidentally locked yourself out of your home or car.
  • A locksmith is a professional contractor who specializes in entry systems such as locks, door knobs and other security features. Today, a modern locksmith may offer much more expansive technologically advanced products such as closed-circuit TV monitoring systems, residential fire and burglary alarm systems, remote keyless entry fobs for cars and digital access systems.

    While most locksmiths are likely reputable contractors, a number of scams have cropped up over the years from locksmiths who offer emergency lockout services. Often flooding phone books with local listings, these sham locksmiths often don't carry the licensing or credentials required.

    Angie's List Tips: Be on the lookout for these warning signs:

    "Beware of locksmiths that show up in unmarked cars and not in a company uniform and if you ask for ID they fail to deliver it. If any of these scenarios happen you should choose another locksmith," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

    • Be wary of companies that answer calls with generic phrases like "locksmith services," rather than a specific name. If a locksmith cannot or will not provide the business' legal name, find another locksmith.
    • Most legitimate locksmiths will arrive in a clearly marked vehicle and/or in clothing that carries the company logo. At a minimum, the locksmith should have some sort of company identification.
    • When the locksmith arrives, ask for identification, including a locksmith license where applicable.
    • If the locksmith's on-site price doesn't match the phone estimate, don't allow work to be performed. Fraudulent locksmiths often inflate the final bill and insist the customer pay in cash.
    • If you're locked out, be cautious of companies that recommend or insist on drilling or replacing the lock up front. Most experienced locksmiths have the skills and tools to unlock almost any door.

    Angie's List Tips: Picking a locksmith

    • Find a reputable locksmith before you need one: In most cases it's relatively easy to shop around for a locksmith if you're moving into a new home, but getting locked out is almost always unexpected. Before you're ever locked out of your home or vehicle, find a reputable locksmith before you need one. It's much easier to be taken advantage of when you're in need of quick help and at the mercy of the first locksmith you call.
    • Do your homework: Check reports on Angie's List, rather than relying on the phone book, an Internet search or directory assistance. Then, call a few companies to get an estimate on their services before you agree to have work done.
    • Check licensing: Locksmiths are required to be licensed in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Some cities may also have licensing requirements – check with your local licensing authority.
    • Check credentials: Ask for proof of affiliation with a credible industry organization, like the Associated Locksmiths of America, as well as proof that the locksmith is insured and bonded.
    • Know the details beforehand: Get an estimate before any work begins, including emergency service. Ask about extra charges for things like emergency hours, mileage, or service call minimums before you agree to have the work performed. Pay with a credit card so you can have some potential recourse if you run into problems.
    • Store the contact information: Once you find a service provider you're comfortable with, store that company's information in your purse, wallet, or cell phone — some place you're likely to have access to if locked out.