Undercover reporting sting stages a lockout

A technician insisted the lock needed to be drilled. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

A technician insisted the lock needed to be drilled. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

While researching locksmith scams, Angie's List Magazine found what appeared to be multiple companies in Indianapolis using bogus addresses occupied by a Chinese restaurant, a parking lot and other unrelated businesses. We decided to call one and stage a lockout scenario at an Indianapolis home.

On a weekday morning, the homeowner called a company advertising online as "A to Z Indianapolis Locksmith" with an address of 111 Monument Circle and a local phone number. There are no locksmith businesses at that address, which is a high rise in the center of downtown.

The initial quote and service call

On an initial call, a dispatcher quoted a price of $24.99 for the service call and $30 per hour for labor. On a second call, the dispatcher referred the homeowner to the technician, who offered an estimate of $95.

Avoid locksmith scams

The technician, who arrived in an unmarked vehicle and identified himself as an Israeli immigrant named Matthew Levi, examined the lock and insisted it couldn't be picked and needed to be drilled. He finished the work in about 10 minutes and presented a bill for $150.

Boss defends quality of service

When questioned about his employer, Levi called his boss. The man, who gave his name only as Ricki, says his company shuttered their downtown Indianapolis office and were considering opening a new storefront. He says he manages a company office in Jacksonville, Fla., and has locksmith technicians like Levi in multiple states.

"That has nothing to do with the [quality of] service we are giving," Ricki says.

Related: Locked out? How to avoid a locksmith scam

But Kevin Freund, co-owner of highly rated Welworth Lock Company in Indianapolis, evaluated the lock and said it may not have needed to be drilled.

"I would at least try to pick it first," says Freund, who also pointed out the technician installed the wrong kind of latch bolt, which left a gap between the lock mechanism and the door's edge. "Security-wise, that's about useless."


Comments

This is a business model used by scammer locksmiths all over the country. They use UPS and USPS mailbox addresses to create search engine listings on Google Maps, Yahoo! Local, Yellowpages.com, Kudzu.com, citysearch. These fake addresses hide the fact that these "locksmiths" are dispatched from distant cities - and there is no guarantee that the person who arrives is licensed or ethical. Would you look for a locksmith at a pizza place, a burger joint parking lot, a private home, a mailbox? Not in the real world. Then don't go to cyberspace to find them there either. They use unpublished phone numbers and fake addresses. Watch out for the same scams in "duct cleaning" "carpet cleaning" "auto towing" "limousine service" "flood remediation" and "plumbers" - it's a nasty world out there in cyberspace. Don't believe everything you see on a search engine listing!

In California if you have been scammed, send a report with a copy of the invoice to scambusters@mylockschool.com and it will get to law enforcement. Or fax to 650-227-2280. Include date, place and the phone number you called to get locksmith service.

I encourage every victimized consumer to file a report on the form at www.TheLocksmithPolice.com The more reports that I get, the more response I'll be able to achieve from local and federal government officials. When in doubt, do a google search on the PHONE NUMBER of the company and see what pops up, how many names and addresses. Also check the reviews - NOT CURSORY - In depth - click on name of reviewer then see if they have reviewed multiple locksmiths in different cities on same day... Its simple once you put your mind to it... Thanks, Charley

CONSUMER ALERT TO ANOTHER SCAM! We have been in business for 60 years and another locksmith used our company name and changed phone number to his on google places. It took months to have it removed while consumers tought they were calling Flam's. Scamming at its best.

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