A CBS Atlanta News undercover investigation exposed the sneaky tactics rogue locksmiths are using to target vulnerable customers. From phony companies to sudden up charges, rogue locksmiths have hit cities across the country leading the Better Business Bureau to call it a "nationwide swindle."
Hollie Holler, of Midtown Atlanta, said she was taken by a locksmith who charged $232 to open her car door last year.
"I was angry but there wasn't anything I could do about it," said Holler who called the first company she found when she searched Google.
Holler didn't know the company she hired, Atlanta Solution Locksmith, has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau because the company advertises under different names.
A CBS Atlanta investigation found the owner of Atlanta Solution Locksmith, Asher Asaf Uziel, runs phony locksmith company websites with local names and local phone numbers. Customers' calls to those numbers are forwarded to the office in Dunwoody.
CBS Atlanta found thousands of website domains were registered under the name Asher Uziel. According to research, Uziel's name was removed as registrant after the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Protection began investigating the company.
When an undercover CBS Atlanta producer called Atlanta Solution Locksmith to unlock a car door, she said she was told it would cost $29 plus labor. When the locksmith arrived to do the job, the total price jumped to $113.
Fred Elsberry, president of the Atlanta chapter of the Better Business Bureau, said his office has received numerous complaints about Atlanta Solution Locksmith but the company hasn't responded.
Greg Dabate, of Indigo Dart, LLC reviewed Uziel's websites and said they are stuffed with keywords and unnecessary links that help push the sites to the top of a Google search to attract more business.
"That means more money," Dabate said.
The growth of rogue locksmiths has hurt established locksmiths like Burt Kolker of Sandy Springs Locksmith on Hammond Drive in Sandy Springs. The business has been around for 45 years. Kolker is now rebranding his company vehicles to warn customers of the rip-offs.
"I think I've lost 40 percent of my business," said Kolker, who said the companies are even stealing his name and confusing longtime customers.
Uziel's business model seems to be paying off. He drives a BMW convertible and owns a home in Buckhead valued at $1.3 million.
Uziel hid in his office when approached by a CBS Atlanta reporter.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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