9 Tips to Avoid Locksmith Scams

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Updated July 16, 2021
A locksmith changes a door’s lock
bluecinema/ E+ via Getty Images

These nine tips will help you to steer clear of locksmith scams and find a reputable pro

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Seeking an emergency locksmith can have you rushing for the first name on Google, but it’s wise to keep your business under lock and key until you know who you’re hiring. While there are many legitimate locksmiths out there, there are also some imposters who are less than reputable. The good news is, looking out for these red flags can help you steer clear of any locksmith scams.

1. Be Wary of Toll-Free Phone Numbers

If a locksmith company uses an 800 number instead of a local phone number, this is pretty suspect. It's often a sign you're dealing with an out-of-state call center, which is a red flag for a locksmith scam.

2. Avoid No-Name Locksmith Companies

Be on the lookout for locksmith companies that answer calls with generic phrases like “locksmith services” rather than a specific name. If a locksmith won’t provide the legal name for their business, find another locksmith.

One more thing: If you find a locksmith with a "local" address, search for that specific address online. See whether any other businesses use that same address. Ask the company to confirm its location when you call.

3. Look for Legitimate Locksmith Branding on the Car

Locksmith scam artists typically operate out of unmarked, unbranded vehicles. If they claim to work for a certain locksmith company, then that company’s logo should be on their car. When it isn’t, that’s a reason to give them the side-eye.

4. Check Identification

When the locksmith arrives, ask for their identification, including a locksmith license if your state requires it. A legitimate locksmith should also ask you for identification to verify that they are unlocking a home or car that indeed belongs to you.

Only 15 states require locksmith licensing, making it a crime to advertise or work as a locksmith without proper credentials:

  • Alabama

  • California

  • Connecticut

  • Illinois

  • Louisiana

  • Maryland

  • Nebraska

  • New Jersey

  • Nevada

  • North Carolina

  • Oklahoma

  • Oregon

  • Tennessee

  • Texas

  • Virginia

If you live elsewhere, be super skeptical of locksmiths who claim to have a license. Chances are, they’re putting up a front.

Locksmith picking lock
Andrew_Howe/ E+ via Getty Images

5. Watch Out for Suspiciously Low Prices

Fake locksmiths typically quote prices between $15 and $40 to start. They bait-and-switch customers by advertising low prices, then price gouge after they arrive. The usual claim is that the job is more complicated and will cost more. While it’s not abnormal for prices to change a bit if a job really does become more complicated, the suspiciously low price at the beginning is the giveaway.

When you’re paying to have a local mobile locksmith come to you, this comes with overhead costs. Tools, licensing, training, and transportation aren’t cheap. No reputable locksmith could charge $15 and make enough to keep their business afloat. Most locksmith companies will charge at least $60 for the service call.

6. Verify Prices Before the Job Starts

Find a reputable locksmith near you who is transparent about pricing from the start. Of course, things can change when your locksmith sees the problem but, if so, a reputable locksmith will be able to explain why. Before you allow them to begin the work, get a detailed cost breakdown in writing and have them note any changes that arise.

7. Don’t Allow the Locksmith to Drill Your Lock

If you’re locked out, be wary of locksmiths who insist on drilling or replacing the lock. Most experienced locksmiths possess the skills and tools to unlock nearly any door. You will almost always have the option to either rekey or replace the lock. Drilling is typically only necessary to open high-security locks. 

8. Find a Reputable Locksmith Ahead of Time

The best way to know whether a locksmith is trustworthy is to research them in advance. Call them, ask them detailed questions, and check their reviews. Once you find a reputable locksmith who checks off all the boxes, save them in your phone for future use.

In the meantime, practice proper door lock maintenance. Learning how to maintain your locks will prevent locksmith scams by eliminating your need in the first place.

Also—if you’re sick of losing keys (or having your kids lose them), a keyless lock is as good as a regular deadbolt in terms of security. This is an upgrade to consider if you’d rather not deal with any future lock-based emergencies.

9. Ask the Right Questions to Avoid Locksmith Scams

Ask these questions before hiring a locksmith. If a business can’t provide detailed answers, don’t hire them.

  • Where are you located?

  • How will you get into the house?

  • Will you need to drill my lock? Can you tell me the exact process?

  • Can you give me an estimate? What factors will cause this price to change?

  • Do you require cash, or can I pay with a card?

  • What’s the name of the locksmith who will be coming?

If you think you were overcharged or scammed by a fake locksmith, contact your state attorney general's office. They may be able to help mediate or even recoup funds in some cases. Now that you’re aware of the game that gets played, hopefully it won’t come to that.

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