If you’ve ever locked yourself out of your car or home, you know what a hassle it can be. Your first thought is to get someone to help you out of your situation. If a family member or friend can’t deliver a spare set of keys, your next call might be to a locksmith. But before you make that call, consider this: According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, some locksmiths advertising in your local telephone book may not be local at all. They may not have professional training.
If you find a locksmith in the phone book, on the Internet, or through directory assistance, and a business address is given, confirm that the address belongs to that locksmith. Some disreputable companies list street addresses to give the impression that they’re local. But the addresses may belong to other businesses or vacant lots, if they exist at all. You can verify addresses through websites that allow you to match phone numbers with street addresses. Some legitimate locksmith companies may not include a street address in their listing either because they operate a “mobile” business or they operate their business out of their home and may be reluctant to list that address. If you call a locksmith who doesn’t list an address, ask why. If the answer is that it’s a “mobile” business, you will understand they have no storefront.
- Ask about additional fees before you agree to have the locksmith perform the work. Companies may charge extra for responding to a call in the middle of the night. Ask if there is a charge for mileage, or a minimum fee for a service call.
- If the price the locksmith provides when he arrives doesn’t jibe with the estimate you got on the telephone, do not allow the work to be done.
- Never sign a blank form authorizing work.
- Find out if the locksmith is insured. If your property is damaged during a repair, or if faulty work leads to loss or damage, it’s important for the locksmith to have insurance to cover your losses.
- When the locksmith arrives, ask for identification, including a business card and, where applicable, a locksmith license. Nine states require locksmiths to be licensed: Alabama, California, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. In addition to a business card, check to see if the invoice includes the company’s name, and whether the locksmith’s vehicle has a name that matches the business card, invoice, and/or bill.
- Expect the locksmith to ask you for identification, as well. A legitimate locksmith should confirm your identity and make sure you’re the property owner before doing any work.
Some locksmiths will work out of a car for quick or emergency jobs, but most will arrive in a service vehicle that is clearly marked with their company’s name. After the work is completed, get an itemized invoice that covers parts, labor, mileage, and the price of the service call.
Once you’ve found a reputable locksmith, keep the company’s name and contact information in your wallet and address book at home or at work. You also may want to program this information into your home and cell phones. This can save you time and trouble the next time you need these services