The Massachusetts Locksmiths Association wants to alert the public to an ever growing epidemic throughout the country. This epidemic targets consumers in emergency situations when the most common issue is being locked out of your home, office, or vehicle. This problem exists when the consumer turns to the best way they know how to find information, the phone book, internet, or their smart phones. Here's the problem:
Nationwide Locksmith Scam
Massachusetts is not one of 15 states that require locksmiths to have a license. In the states that require the locksmith license, this problem still exists, showing that requiring the license doesn't stop the problem. The Association recommends you keep the following in mind when in need of a legitimate, professional locksmith within Massachusetts.
- Ask the locksmith you call, "where are you located?" Even if the company is a mobile service, they will tell you where they work out of whether it be their own home or in an office building. Just because the locksmith you call doesn't have a storefront location, does not mean they are not legitimate.
- Ask "how much will it cost?" A legitimate, professional will be able to give you a price quote over the phone to let you back into your home, office, or vehicle. There will be some cases in which a lock needs to be drilled or otherwise compromised to get you back in. Just because a lock needs to be drilled does not mean you have hired an unprofessional locksmith. However, a legitimate locksmith can tell you over the phone what to expect with the pricing. "Well if I can pick the lock its this price. If I need to drill it, it will be 'X' additional. And finally a new lock or cylinder will be 'Y' additional, but may not be needed.
- If you are concerned over the price jumping at the conclusion of the work, get a written estimate. It may simply be on the back on the locksmith's business card, but a written estimate will avoid surprises. The locksmith should also ask you for your permission not only for performing additional work, but any additional costs that you should expect over the initial estimate.
- Find a legitimate locksmith before you need one and make sure you have their number when you need it. Use our "Find a Locksmith" page and talk to our members. See which ones can help you out in an emergency and find out what their rates are. Rates may vary from day and night service, weekends, and holidays. Again, your legitimate locksmith would be able to give you firm rates, not an "an up" price.
Who is to Blame
While the Massachusetts Locksmiths Association cannot confirm or deny any guilty party in letting this problem become an epidemic, there are some parties that should be looked at.
Google - Google allows these illegitimate locksmith companies to buy ad space on a "pay-per-click" system. This means these "locksmith companies" show up at the top of search results for a local locksmith. The consumer in dire need would then call on the first listing they saw. They also do not verify that the listings they do post as a "local locksmith" are legitimate businesses with a physical address. They allow the "pay-per-click" listings to entice the consumer to choose them by listing unrealistic low rates and very fast response times. So at the end; the illegitimate company shows up first, with an unrealistic low rate, and a promise of a fast response. This is all courtesy of Google.
Yelp - Yelp allows and lists the illegitimate locksmith companies without verifying that they are in fact a legitimate business, located at the address they say they are, and list illegitimate companies before legitimate ones. For iPhone users that use Siri, did you know that it relies on Yelp to find listings of businesses near you? This creates a whole new problem, especially when you are in a dire need for a locksmith. They will show you a "locksmith company" that has an address listed up the street from you, but in reality it may be another type of business, a residential address, or even an address that does not exist. But to the untrained eye, looks like the local neighborhood locksmith. Because Yelp does not verify their listings, they put the consumer directly at risk. Even though Yelp denies it, they strong-arm companies to advertise with them. Companies who do not advertise do not appear in search results and if a company gets a negative review it gets made front and center. If that review turns positive , it gets listed as a "review that is not currently recommended."
YP.com and SuperPages.com - These online companies list illegitimate companies without verifying that they are in fact a legitimate business, located at the address they say they are, and list illegitimate companies before legitimate ones. They claim it is not their responsibility to validate listings on their sites. They are only a publisher of database information they receive.
If you have been Scammed
If you have been the victim of a locksmith scam please accept our deepest apologies. Regrettably there is not a lot the Massachusetts Locksmiths Association can do other than point you in the right direction to file a complaint with the appropriate State and Federal Agencies.
Massachusetts Attorney General
Better Business Bureau
Federal Trade Commission
Thank you for reading out Consumer Alert page and do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of service to you in the future.