AG: Dishonest locksmiths invading search results, preying on des - CBS46 News

AG: Dishonest locksmiths invading search results, preying on desperate, locked out customers

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This guy showed up two hours after saying he would be there in 30 minutes. This guy showed up two hours after saying he would be there in 30 minutes.

Getting locked out of your car or your house can happen to anyone, and when it does, chances are you won't be in an ideal situation to look up the best locksmiths nearby.

Maybe you'll be in a part of town where you don't know the local businesses. Maybe you'll have to depend on a stranger to look one up because your phone is locked in the car, or your computer is in the house, along with your keys.

That's the type of environment where a dishonest locksmith thrives.

If you start calling the first numbers you find on the internet in any part of the metro area, chances are you're going to be disappointed.

"All of these sites advertise we'll be there in fifteen minutes," explained legitimate locksmith Burt Kolker. "That's part of the scam to begin with. And usually people call him back, and call him back, and call him back."

Kolker says so many suspicious characters have hijacked his profession and given it a bad name, he's had to change the name of his business to the "Real Sandy Springs Locksmith" just to differentiate himself from imposters.

He says they start by making a person wait much longer than 15 minutes until a good amount of time has been invested. The idea being if a customer is locked out long enough, they may agree to anything once the locksmith actually shows up.

Kolker is one of the locksmiths across the country who are suing the major search engines for letting other businesses appear like they have an office nearby, when in real life, they don't have any office at all.

Thousands of businesses appear on a map around the city, but in real life, Kolker says there's less than 50.

"They set up shop for a month just to get the Google verification," he says.

Sometimes Kolker sends letters to the addresses just to see if they're real, and sure enough, many come back return-to-sender.

If the Georgia Attorney General catches a business operating like this, they will issue a major fine.

Also troubling, CBS46 discovered businesses with different names and addresses turned out to have the same people answering the phone.

Some of the supposedly top-rated locksmiths we tried had a really hard time giving us an estimate.

Everyone gave us a different excuse. Some would say it depended on the tools they need to open the door. That's like a mechanic saying he charges by the wrench and by screwdriver.

When they finally did arrive to open our doors, it took them less than 90 seconds. The process just didn't seem too complicated to predict a price for in advance.

Even when we offered to tell the locksmiths what type of car they were coming out to service, they wouldn't budge on withholding an estimate. One even said it's unprofessional to talk prices on the phone.

When they finally quoted their prices in person, they were as high as $165. Kolker says a fair price for opening a simple car door is less than half that number.

When we revealed that we were a news crew and confronted the locksmiths with a camera, they couldn't give us a good explanation for what went into the prices they charged.

Here's are signs to watch out for:

  1. The locksmith is taking too long to get there.
  2. The locksmith won't tell you a price over the phone.
  3. The price is suddenly higher than you expected once the locksmith arrives in person.

If any of these three things happen, you should call someone else.

Experts suggest joining an auto club like AAA or choosing an auto insurance that provides free roadside assistance to avoid running into this predicament. Some people have already have access to these free services and don't know it.  Some cars have services like OnStar that can remotely unlock a car door without anyone having to meet you in person.

The Better Business Bureau also has a list of the locksmiths they've verified to be operating professionally.

If you think you are the victim of a dishonest locksmith's tactics, you can make a formal complaint to the Georgia Attorney General here.

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