MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs is warning the public about an increasingly prevalent occurrence that is allegedly preying on local consumers who are locked out of their houses.
Upon calling a "local" locksmith, the customer receives a price quote, and when the locksmith performs the work, the price goes up significantly. The urgency of the situation often results in the consumer giving in to the higher price, states the SCDCA.
A common thread for these situations is that the "local" number in the phone book actually redirects to callers out-of-state, SCDCA states. Another red flag: the company has no address, or uses a fake address.
The SCDCA provides the tips below to avoid becoming a victim:
-Plan ahead- Research reputable locksmiths before the need arises and save their contact information. Contact SCDCA to see if we have any complaints on file. Also, do a quick internet search on the company. Other consumers may have complained about the company through online message boards.
-Do they belong to any Associations?- Trade associations often have "Best Practices" their members must adhere to. Check with the Associated Locksmiths of America by visiting www.findalocksmith.com.
-Ask for the registered name of the business- If the company answers the phone with a vague name like "locksmith services," beware. Ask for the registered name of the business and if they aren't willing to give it, hang up.
-Be suspicious of low estimates- Ask for an estimate when calling and ask for it in writing before any work begins. Contact two to three companies to compare pricing. If a very low price is quoted- $10 or $20- this is indicative of a scam.
-Ask for identification and a business card- Also, be wary of unmarked cars. Typically, a locksmith will have company insignia on their vehicles. Don't be afraid to send them away if they seem suspicious.
-Pay with a credit card- Credit cards offer more consumer fraud protections. A locksmith asking for cash only is also a sign of a scam.
For more information on this and other consumer warnings, visit:
www.consumer.sc.gov or call 800-922-1594.