Locked Out? Avoid Locksmith Scams Before You Hire

Leave a Comment - 51


Patrick Martin

Subject: I am a licensed locksmith

I am not against a locksmith being licensed. However, in Oregon we have to have the same license as a person who builds houses. There is little on the exams or continual education that is required that has to do with being a locksmith. Add to that the cost involved. Because of all of the state rules and what we locksmith are forced to go through, we have had to raise our charges. I have been a locksmith for over 35 years and an owner. But the cost of doing business in Oregon has run a lot of locksmiths either out of business or they have moved to other states. Again, I am for a license and the person should know what they are doing. But why does it cost a small business owner so much money, just to stay legal? By the way, for the record, there are still a lot of rip offs out there. Why should they care? When they are caught up with, they just move somewhere else and operate under a new name. The police should go after the ripoffs.

Robby Stout

Subject: Best advice Possible

Ask for the locksmith's name.. Call another locksmith ask if they have heard of that company or person..we know our competition and qualification to be a locksmith with the skill required to provide service of value for you takes years. We know each other either by company name as our competition or thru associations. Not all are members of national or state but may only be local association members. Aloa claims to be good place to start however they only will refer those that pay to be members.. There is no evaluation Aloa can claim as accurate for skill only memorization of their test. But if other locksmiths know the locksmith in question its because they could compete it takes skull to do that.

christopher scholes

Subject: im a locksmith

I am a locksmith I think it is disgusting that there are some people claiming to be a Locksmith and some are genuine Locksmiths but how can they justify ripping people off. I charge next to nothing for a lockout, I know we have to make a living but charging extortionate rates put people like me out of a job.


Subject: Google it.

Google the locksmith's address on Google maps and do a street view. If it's an apartment building, an intersection or a restaurant you know they are bogus.

Matt Vaughan

Subject: That is not always the case

An apartment building or any other residential address does not automatically determine one to be "bogus". Many reputable locksmiths are independent mobile operations and are not working out of the traditional brick and mortar shop. In my state many of us are working solely out of a van and home office,

Roger in KY

Subject: ALL locksmiths should be regulated

I'm not one for lots of government and ever-growing piles of regulations, but just from a safety and security perspective -- all locksmiths should be certified.

If a locksmith changes the locks on your house and is unscrupulous -- they now have keys to your house.

To me that's an even bigger issue than the price -- though I'm glad to see this tip. I'll be sure to ask for a written estimate UP FRONT from now on with any new firm I deal with for home rerpairs.


Subject: Few Points

Someone stated that locksmiths are required to be licensed in most states. Last time I checked only 14 states required licenses.

One other thing I wanted to point out has to do with the comments equating locksmiths in unmarked vehicles to scammers.

In our particular area of the country you will not find any locksmith or alarm technician with a marked vehicle. This is for their own safety, as many have been robbed. Every locksmith I know utilizes an unmarked pickup truck or van, usually white. And this applies to the small one-man operations all the way up to the largest locksmith company in our state. Just because the vehicle is unmarked doesn't mean they are scammers.

Tom King


Ca. has licensing requirements also. They also have contactors lic. requirements for jobs totaling over $500, both license numbers should be on all ads and paper work.

Jim Kubin CML


Another part of stopping the illegal and scam locksmiths is the phone books or internet advertising sellers. For them it seems to be all about the money and when they are questioned about why they allow bogus companies to advertise they almost always blame 3rd party resellers for the ads. Just my opinion but I think they just want the ad revenues. That needs to change.
In addition it seems that some states such as Illinois, doesn't have the money in the budget to aggressively go after the scammers.



FYI locksmiths in Virginia are licensed, and you can visit the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services to view the list

Ralph Forrest-Ball, CML


You left out Oregon. Oregon passed a law in 2009 requiring all locksmiths to be certified by the Oregon CCB no later than July 1st of 2010. All locksmith companies in OR must have CCB licenses and individual locksmiths must have locksmith certificates. Consumers may contact the CCB to find out who is licensed or to make complaints. http://www.oregon.gov/CCB/

Robert Knueppel, CRL


Another tip; If the locksmith you call asks for your zip code, hang up because you have reached a call center which will reroute you to a local so-called locksmith. If you call one of these people out and they demand excessive payment, refuse to pay. Even if they call police. They must stick to the quote given over the phone. If you don't get an accurate quote, again hang up.


Subject: zip code

Not true. I live in a metropolitian area and I ask for zip codes. This helps me (through years of experience) identify where they are located and if they are within my service area. This also lets me know if I can service there area with maybe a bit higher service charge to cover the trip costs. This is especially true when they call from a rural area outside the main city that can be 70 miles but still have the same city name.

My company would give a cost based on what you said on the phone. Best bet is to call multiple companies and compare for like rates. We tried very hard to make it as exact as we could but it wasn't always possible. If we differed in price it was generally because something not expected (malfuctioning lock) that had to be replaced. We made it a point to find out early and let out customers know what was the issue. We had no surprises and would still do whatever work they optioned. I had to deal with these call agencies myself as customers called us to fix what they messed up.

Kristy Emerick


In response to Ms. Johannsen's comments. Consumer awareness is a very real solution to the problem. If the public is aware of the "scam" issue then one can guard against being taken advantage of. ALOA, the largest association of locksmiths is an excellent source in finding a legitimate locksmith you can trust.

Gary Ford


Several ways to confirm you if the locksmith is real or a scammer are:
When you phone them ask them where they are located, if they will not tell you or want to know your address first most likely a scammer. Ask for business card. Look at their invoice before they do any work to see if it's got company info on it or it's just a cheap note pad type invoice. Pay by credit card you can get your money back from the credit card company if you are ripped off. If they show up in unmarked car or truck might be a scammer. Any questions call the Police, write down the license number of the car or truck. Ask for ID when the locksmith arrives, write down driver license number or State locksmith ID number. Get full cost estimate before they start working, get it in writing. You do not have to pay them anything if they do not have a state license. Eleven (11) states have licensing. If you do not feel comfortable or they threaten you call the Police. Most of the scammers do not have drivers licenses because they are illegal aliens. And the thought of the police will scare they away.

Tim McMullen, JD, CAE


The Associated Locksmiths of America is the largest association for locksmiths. We recommend you find a locksmith before you need one and put that person's phone number in your cell.

Mike Bronzell


I would like to thank Emily for spending the time to do a QUALITY story regarding this huge scammer locksmith problem. It does alot to warn consumers about the locksmith impersonators that are operating all across this nation. It is also being perpetrated in Canada, England and other parts of the world.

I have been a locksmith for 20 years, I am a single father who was able to get by raising two kids and spending time with my kids also. Now it is almost impossible to compete for business against the lies, deceitful advertising that is being allowed to proliferate in yellow pages, internet search engines, 411 etc. Many Locksmiths are fighting this battle but need much help from the media and a whole lot more from Law enforcement. I am glad that MO and the postal Inspectors have spung into action. There is a whole lot more to do all across the nation.



We are very concerned about this epidemic, and as a locksmith business we are asking our customers to ask more detail over the phone before deciding on a company. An honest locksmith service will be knowledgeable and upfront with you.



Jeff's suggestion to contact BBB because they are consumer watchdogs is incorrect. BBB is a business advocate - read their mission statement. A company can have an A rating despite complaints as long as they provide a written response to complaints. The response does not have to be truthful and the company does not have to correct the problem. A company receives a B rating if they do not respond in writing. I know all of this from experience with the BBB and have my information in writing from BBB.

Carl Carick


When I need my dead bolts re-keyed it was easy to go down to our local locksmith. He has a shop in town. Quick and easy.

Lisa Hawkins


WHY are all these people taking this crap? If you feel like you're beng ripped off, CALL THE POLICE YOURSELF, ON YOURSELF! You can bet your last penny, that a scammer will NOT hang out and wait on the police to get there when you feel you're being "robbed". Come on people, take a stand for yourselves and stop letting these people get away with this mess.



I noticed that this industry was "infiltrated" with scammers when I did a google search for locksmiths in my area. I got about 6 hits for locksmiths on the main street of my town... long story short - there are no locksmiths in my town (something I already knew). This article sums it up - find out the legitimate places before you need them!

Jeff Pugh


There are several things you can do to protect yourself from getting scammed. One is to check credentials. Most states will require a license. Check your state's official website and research the locksmiths license status. Another resources is the Better Business Bureau (BBB). They are consumer watchdogs. Another sources for you to check is ALOA (Associated Locksmiths of America. This is a member group of locksmiths. Finally, ask your family, friends or colleagues for referrals.

Angie's List staff



Beginning in the fall of 2009, Angie's List began asking all companies on our list, and requiring all advertisers, to attest to their compliance with state and local licensing laws governing their trade(s). In addition, we’ve required our magazine advertisers to provide their license number(s) to display in their advertisement where it is required by law.

If a contractor is not properly licensed, it impacts their presentation on Angie's List, regardless of their relationship with us (rating, advertising status, award winner, etc.).

We are auditing (and will continue to audit) a random selection of companies to ensure that the self-reported information we’re collecting is accurate.

Even in the articles that appear on magazine.angieslist.com and in our print magazine, our reporters verify that the contractors we interview are, in fact, appropriately licensed for their trade, as well.

Thanks for your comment!



Here's a tip: If it's not an emergency or lockout, such as when you change the locks on a new house, have someone stay in the house while you take off all the locks and go into Home Depot to have them rekeyed for $5 each. Depending how many doors/locks you have, this could be done in a couple hours. Call ahead to make sure the person that can do the rekeying is available that day, and go during a less busy time. You can do 8 locks for about $45. Be sure to take in the original key since that may be needed depending on the brand of lock that you have.

Byron Lutes

Subject: Doing your own locksmithing

As a Real Locksmith, I am all for DIY projects around the house, however, changing or rekeying of locks is really a job for
a locksmith or locksmith shop. Many times I have been called out to fix a DIY job done by the home owner or a friend.
Most of the time it's a lost part not installed or mixing up parts during re install, so the money saved is no longer an issue, as
it now may cost more than it would have in the first place.
Research a Real local locksmith in your area before you need them, put the number in your phone, and just remember to call us first, you will save your self a lot of agrevation and cash.
Like others, I have been called out to repair scammer jobs, even if the home owner is just concerned about the keys being in the wrong hands.
In addition to security, a Real locksmith also gives you Peace of Mind, that to is a part of our job.


Subject: Home depot to re-key

In Texas at least Home depot, etc.., can't rekey a lock. That job is for locksmiths with a license. As they do not employ locksmiths, they do not suppose to do this job. Now for the locks they sell, they can rekey them prior to purchase to match. This may not be the case in all states, but here that is the distinction. You can however take your locks to a local locksmith shop and the cost is much cheaper. The service trip is generally the most expesive part of the service call. Just food for thought.



Don't they have to be bonded?


Subject: licensing

In Va. all locksmith have to be licensed, bonded, and insured. The guys in Lowe's, Home Depot, and the local hardware stores don't have to be licensed as the are covered by the store. These stories I have read on here are just amazing. I have been in business for 27 years, and I always give an estimate for a job on the phone, and when I'm finished the job, it's usually within $5.00, of the estimate, unless they need extra keys cut.

Jeff Olson


I agree with Jonathan...changing a home exterior lock yourself is actually quite easy.

Ken Jackson


At what point did Angie's List start caring if a contractor is licensed or not? I'm a incensed landscape contractor here in Las Vegas and Angie's List allows unlicensed contractors to advertise in their Magazine as well as online. It's very hypocritical of Angie's List to point the finger at other types of advertising when they are no better.

Larry Friberg


If the locksmith that you called changes prices BEWARE ASK WHY. If you don't agree with the price change don't use them. Beware if they ask for cash or check made out to the person and not a company. if you are scammed then file a complaint with the attorney Generals office, consumer affairs.

Donna Quinn


Thank you for your input. I haven't needed locksmiths in the recent past but I do want to know how to protect my home.

Randall Reed


Another thought, check to see if they are members of ALOA (Associated Locksmiths of America) - here is ALOA's "find a locksmith link": http://www.findalocksmith.com/

Philip Sidel


It would seem reasonable to require a written estimate beforehand, with a statement that no changes will be performed or billed for without agreement from the customer. Do service companies object to this?

Randall Reed


Yes, locksmiths and locksmith companies are both licensed in California. Locksmiths and companies are licensed separately.

Here is a link to the official "look-up" page: http://www2.dca.ca.gov/pls/wllpub/wllqryna$lcev2.startup?p_qte_code=LC&p_qte_pgm_code=2420

Please note that some Locksmiths and locksmith companies have attained licenses and still operate illegally. They use fake addresses and multiple unregistered names in an attempt to look local. Also, having a license does not prevent shoddy work practices. Thanks for asking.

Donna Quinn


Are locksmiths in California licensed?


Subject: Locksmiths in california are

Locksmiths in california are "licensed".
If a locksmith is an employee of a company, the state has what the
call a locksmith "registration". If a locksmith owns the company,
then he has an actual locksmith "license" from the state. NOT to be
confused with a business license or contractors license. hope that
clarifies it for you.



Another thing to watch out for is locksmiths replacing your locks with cheap locks. The locksmith I hired from Angie's List was excellent and charged me a reasonable rate BUT I had to get my front door lock replaced in 6 months because it broke (internal components). That meant hiring someone else to fix what should have been done right the first time.

Chris Earnahrdt


Just use www.verifymylicense.com it's free.



lynn chambers, CRL

Lynn, I have gone to an auto lock out where there was no damage visible, but when I opened the car there was some huge rips in the weatherstip (that I did not do). I asked the mother how it happened, and she thought I did it to her daughters car. She was so angry she did not want to pay me. She called her daughter at work to tell her what a horrible locksmith I was, but her daughter was honest enough to tell her she did the damage using a coat hanger, trying to open it herself..



lynn chambers, CRL


Lynn, I have gone to an auto lock out where there was no damage visible, but when I opened the car there was some huge rips in the weatherstip (that I did not do). I asked the mother how it happened, and she thought I did it to her daughters car. She was so angry she did not want to pay me. She called her daughter at work to tell her what a horrible locksmith I was, but her daughter was honest enough to tell her she did the damage using a coat hanger, trying to open it herself..

Lynn Chambers,CRL


My former post-lynn chambers, CRL
"I know one thing-LOUISIANA requires ALL of us to be Licensed-INCLUDING YOU POP-A-LOCK. Stop sending our car openers to do a locksmiths job and having the customer sign a damage waver to cover your screw-ups. Get a license or don't come out! "
5/15/2010 11:03:06 PM
I need to make something clear since Pop-A-Lock has contacted me asking me to retract my statement-ANY Unlicensed company pretending to be a locksmith will be reported to Louisiana State Fire Marshalls Office.
I have verified that they do in fact have a least two licensed persons as locksmiths. My official Appology for stating that your company is not licensed.

Lisa E.


I don't think that "being aware" is the only solution to the scamming problems we're having. Scammers feel pretty confident they can get away with this behavior because law enforcement is so lax. This is all the way from the police to the states attorneys generals who have fallen prey to the Contract on America and other criminal enterprises in the hallowed halls of justice. The public needs to step up to the plate and lobby their government officials to stop looking the other way and become proactive if they want to stay in office. Maybe Angie's List could have a 30 day Hot List of companies who have recently been accused of scamming; a sort of heads up. Any company receiving a lot of complaints in one area needs to be turned in and then the scammed need to follow up to ensure that these companies are taken off the playing field. If we don't insist something constructive be done, then the police and government are going to give it a pass and the problems will just continue. It's time in this country to demand the end of all of the scamming. No such thing was allowed to go on in our parents and grandparents day. What's wrong with us?


Subject: Non licensed locksmith

There should be strict laws these guys with no license give us a bad name with shady work and some over price and some underprice the jobs if u don't have a license you should not be able to work in this field it makes it hard for us honest locksmiths to make a honest living

Brian Jones


I don't mean to burst your bubble but some of these guys are with ALOA. They even get licenses in California because there is no exam required to get a license. I have a contractors license which requires submitting proof of journeyman level work in the trade and taking a 5 hour trade and law test. ALOA offers a PRP exam but you have to be a member and unless you live in Texas the opportunities to take the test are only a couple of times a year. I'm not a member of ALOA it doesn't mean I'm not a legitimate locksmith.

Mark Johnson


Not all locksmiths are scammers, it is important to check if they are certified and ask for a written quote before they start working, thats the only way to be sure you are not going to be scammmed.




My wife locked the keys in car at the mall one day while shopping with the kids, and she was asked by the mall security guard if she had AAA. She said yes and he said I'll call them for you. A half hour later a big guy shows up and unlocks the car and then says he wants $65 cash. She just gave him the card and he said he was not with AAA. He was A,A&A or something just like AAA. She didnt have the cash so he made her lock the keys back in the car!! I wish I had been there! This kind of thing needs to stop.

Peter, Zephyrhills locksmith

Subject: I believe you are a tad confused there Steve

Sometimes people decide to put any number of A's in front of their name when they register their business, this stems wayyy back to when there was no internet and everyone had their business listed alphabeticaly in this old obsolete thing called a phone book. What it sounds like is the lot jockey called the first locksmith in the phone book, mistook his business name as somehow being an "aaa" contracted station when in fact he was just a private business. When I am working for my (AAA contracted) station the customer may call aaa, get approved for service then the local AAA call center will dispatch the nearest contracted station to you... I will simplify that, a AAA membership card is NOT a credit card and if you'll read your paperwork you get with It you get amazing roadside assistance. However If you call a private shop and have a locksmith dispatched out to you to render private service, and no word is said about your roadside assist club, then clearly you haven't followed instructions, and you may have gotten one of many shops not even associated with AAA. Still in that event I believe AAA will reimburse members when they cannot be contacted. As far as locking the keys back in the car and leaving... what else would you have us do? That is pretty much standard operating procedure for locksmiths as long as I've been doing this, in 11 years I've written up maybe 5-6 receipts to people who will call us up and when we complete the job they'll say they dont have any money. Only one have I ever had actually pay and that was months on down the road. I liken it to ordering a pizza. You call your pizza place, have them cook up a feast for you, but when the pizza guy shows up you pull out your pockets and say something to the effect of "well im sorry but I'm all out of money, but if you leave the pizza with me Im sure your boss will be ok with me coming buy with money at some future point..." as far as 65 $ being concerned that is quite a reasonable rate depending on the size of your metro area. We charge 48-58 here but not 20 miles away other shops are charging 85-95 $ due to cost of doing business in a much larger area with now much tighter regulations and more overhead imposed upon them by the county.

lynn chambers, CRL


I know one thing-LOUISIANA requires ALL of us to be Licensed-INCLUDING YOU POP-A-LOCK. Stop sending our car openers to do a locksmiths job and having the customer sign a damage waver to cover your screw-ups. Get a license or don't come out!



Larry, in response to your comment:

I am a Locksmith in Phoenix, Az. I hate checks. If I get a Chase check, sure write it to my business name. My bank won't charge me if it bounces. If I get a check from any other bank, they won't cash it if it's made out to my business name, because I have to have a Business Account with them. Sorry, but I am not going to eat a $35 bounced check fee because someone didn't have the money in their account. It works both ways with this issue.

View Comments - 51 Hide Comments

Post New Comment

Offers <
Popular <
Answers <


I second the original question (still unanswered). Speaking as someone who logged in today to try to find an attorney, I see this category as one that's exactly what I have my Angie's List membership for:

1. It's important that I find a good one
2. I'm not an expert enough to know myself who is a good one
3. The industry is full of advertisements and misinformation
4. I wish I knew what experiences other people have had

I don't care about lawns--I planted mine in clover and don't have to mow it. When I do need to mow I use a rotary Fiskars mower, which is great--or a scythe. That's right--a scythe (the European type, which is smaller, and it's very good exercise). Gas-powered mowers, chemical fertilizers and weed killers--all nasty stuff that gets into everyone's air, soil, and water. I'm sure my neighbor doesn't like my wildflowers, semi-wild pockets of fruit bushes, and unmown areas and yes, dandelions (I have 10 acres) but that's too bad. It's better habitat for wildlife, especially the pollinators on which our food supply depends. I think this obsession with the Great American Lawn is a waste of time and resources. Plant some food instead.

I'm not sure Angie et. al. want you to have a complete answer to this question. By re-subscribing at the Indiana State Fair in 2012, I think I paid $20.00 per year for a multi- year subscription. Maybe even less. At the other extreme--and I hope my memory isn't faulty about this--I think the price, for my area, for ONE year was an outrageous $70.00. And they debited me automatically without warning. I had to opt out of that automatic charge. I like Angie's List, but if some of the companies they monitor behaved the way they do in this respect, they'd be on some sort of Pages of Unhappiness. I'll be interested to see if this comment gets published or censored out of existence.

That's very difficult to answer without seeing the house. As one poster said, the prep is the most important part. On newer homes that don't have a lot of peeling paint, the prep can be very minimal even as low as a couple or a few hundred dollars for the prep labor.

On a 100 year old home with 12 coats of peeling paint on it, then the prep costs can be very high and can easily exceed 50% of the job's labor cost.

A 2100 sq ft two story home could easily cost $1000 just for the labor to prep for the paint job. That number could climb too. Throw in lots of caullking  or window glazing, and you could be talking a couple or a few hundred dollars more for labor.

Painting that home with one coat of paint and a different color on the trim could run roughly $1000 or more just for labor. Add a second coat  and that could cost close to another $1000 for labor.

For paint, you may need 20 gallons of paint. You can pay from $30-$70 for a gallon of good quality exterior paint. The manufacturer of the paint should be specified in any painting contract. Otherwise, the contractor could bid at a Sherwin-Williams $60 per gallon paint and then paint the house with $35 Valspar and pocket the difference. $25 dollars per gallon times 20 gallons? That's a pretty penny too.

That was the long answer to your question. The short answer is $2000 to $4000 and up, depending upon the amount of prep, the number of coats, the amount of trim, and the paint used.