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Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation

NEWS
 For Immediate Release:
September 26 , 2006 
  
 

Blagojevich Administration Suspends License of

Dependable Locksmith for False License Information

Regulators ask state law enforcement agencies to help fight growing number of unlicensed locksmith complaints

New locksmith resource web site created to protect Illinois consumers from illegal or fraudulent locksmith activities

CHICAGO – The Blagojevich Administration announced today that it is taking a series of steps designed to protect Illinoisans when they need to hire a locksmith.  The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), which regulates locksmiths, has noted a growing number of unlicensed locksmith complaints and has discovered that any identifiable address for these unlicensed businesses is sometimes located in another state, and that the phone number that customers may call is, in fact, a phone switch answered in another city or state. 

Today, IDFPR summarily suspended the license of Dependable Locks and its owner, David Peer, based in New York, for filing its license application with a fraudulent address that was not the location of its locksmith business and for failing to cooperate with the Department in its investigation.  Dependable Locks also failed to provide the department with a list of its licensed staff.  Last month, IDFPR suspended the license of Price Line, which was also based in New York.  Both companies listed their businesses with Illinois addresses, advertised their businesses in phone directories and used local phone exchanges and business names in their ads.   A formal hearing on today’s action is scheduled for October 19, 2006 at 10:00 a.m.  IDFPR must schedule a hearing within 30 days of issuing a temporary suspension order.

When a customer called the local number, the phone call was transferred to an exchange in New York, where the order was logged and a worker was dispatched to perform the work.  Illinois law requires that every locksmith agency employee have a permanent employee registration card (PERC) or a locksmith license in order to do business as a locksmith.  Also, each agency must be licensed under its own name.

“Illinois consumers have the right to expect that locksmiths are accountable to their customers and the laws of the State of Illinois,” said Daniel E. Bluthardt, Director of the Division of Professional Regulation at the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.  “Through the actions we are taking today, we hope that unlicensed locksmiths will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“We need to ensure that the locksmiths who have access to our homes and businesses are professional and trustworthy, stated ISP Director Larry Trent. “We depend on these individuals to provide a sense of security and a safe environment for our families. An unlicensed locksmith places the public at risk, by potentially defrauding citizens through criminal acts against the person or his property.”    

The department has requested the assistance of law enforcement agencies across the state to help shut down these fraudulent businesses.  The Private Detective, Private Alarm, Private Security, and Locksmith Act of 2004 provides that unlicensed locksmith work can be prosecuted as a Class A misdemeanor for a first offense and as a Class 4 felony for subsequent offenses. 

When unlicensed companies take advantage of Illinois customers, the profession suffers.  That’s why our organization will be working to spread the word that locksmiths in Illinois must be licensed and held accountable for their work,” said Mike Bronzell, Vice President Illinois Indiana Locksmith Association.  “We’re pleased the department is taking aggressive action against unlicensed locksmith companies in Illinois and we will continue to help consumers find out whether the company they call is licensed and in good standing in Illinois.”

Finally, IDFPR has created a special logo and landing page to help consumers find out if the locksmith they are planning to hire is licensed by the state.  State law enforcement agencies, hardware stores and media outlets are being asked to help stop the problem of unlicensed locksmith practitioners working in Illinois.

FTC Consumer Alert

 

The Keys to Hiring a Reputable Locksmith

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 local 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. What’s more, some of them may use intimidating tactics and overcharge you.

When “Local” Is Really Long-Distance

Consider this scenario: A company far away from your town chooses a name for its business that is very similar to the name used by a local locksmith. The company advertises in the phone book or on the Web using a local telephone number and local address. When you call the number, you’re actually connected to a call center in another city. What’s more, there’s no locksmith shop at the address listed.

You may be quoted a price on the phone, but when the locksmith arrives, often in an unmarked vehicle, he may want significantly more money. 

Some who claim to be “local locksmith” companies have multiple listings (sometimes 30 or more separate listings in a single phone book) with different names. But the calls to each of these numbers go back to the same central number in a distant city where operators dispatch untrained individuals to do the job.

Tips for Picking a Locksmith

What’s the best way to pick a reputable locksmith? Consider researching locksmiths before you need one, the same way you would a plumber, electrician, or other professional. That works well if you’re looking to have some security work done at your home, like installing deadbolts on the exterior doors of your house, or a safe in your bedroom.
But if you’re dealing with an emergency, like being locked out of your car, you really don’t have much time for thorough research.
Regardless of whether you are locked out of your car or home, you need new locks installed, or you require other security work, the FTC offers these tips to help you hire a legitimate, local locksmith.

In emergency situations:

 

  • Call family or friends for recommendations.
  • 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.  
  • Write down the names of several businesses, their phone numbers, and addresses for future reference, in case you don’t want to go with the first locksmith you call.
  • If a company answers the phone with a generic phrase like “locksmith services,” rather than a company-specific name, be wary. Ask for the legal name of the business. If the person refuses, call another locksmith.
  • Get an estimate for all work and replacement parts from the locksmith before work begins. In cases of “lock-outs” (being locked out of your car or home), most legitimate locksmiths will give you an estimate on the phone for the total cost of the work.
    • 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.

 

  • 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.
  • 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.

 

  • In the case of a lock-out, be cautious if you’re told up front that the lock has to be drilled and replaced. An experienced legitimate locksmith has invested in the tools and education to provide quality service, and can unlock almost any door.
  • After the work is completed, get an itemized invoice that covers parts, labor, mileage, and the price of the service call.
    In situations where you have more time, check out locksmiths with your state Attorney General (www.naag.org), local consumer protection agency (www.consumeraction.gov), and the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) to make sure there are no unresolved complaints on file. (You can get the phone numbers for these organizations in your phone book, through directory assistance, or through Web directories.) This is true whether you need a locksmith for a one-time job, or you want to hire someone to work for you on a continuing basis. You must be able to trust your locksmith. You don’t want to give access to the locks for your home, car, or place of business to just anyone.

In Case There’s a Next Time

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.

For More Information

If you have a problem with a locksmith, try to resolve the dispute with the company first. Make sure you act quickly. Some companies may not accept responsibility if you fail to complain within a certain time. If you can’t get satisfaction, consider contacting your local consumer protection agency for information and assistance.

You also can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Although the FTC does not intervene in individual disputes, the information you provide may indicate a pattern of possible law violations requiring action by the Commission. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. 

 

February 2008

 
BBB Warns Consumers of Nationwide Locksmith Swindle
You may have been a victim and not even know it.
For Immediate Release
 

Arlington, VA – July 10, 2007 – The Better Business Bureau (BBB) today is warning consumers to beware of untrustworthy locksmith companies that are ripping off consumers across the country.

Victim complaints to the BBB reveal that several locksmith companies, all using similar methods, are significantly overcharging consumers, charging consumers for unnecessary services, using intimidation tactics, and failing to give refunds or respond to consumer complaints.

“Ironically, these companies operate under names like ‘Dependable Locksmith’ but in reality they exploit the vulnerable situation of consumers who are locked out of their house or car,” said Steve Cox spokesperson for the BBB System. “We’ve found that some locksmiths have made taking advantage of consumers’ misfortune part of their business model.”

Complaints about locksmith services to the 114 BBBs serving the U.S. increased almost 75 percent from 2005 to 2006, and have continued to come in steadily during the first half of this year.

The BBB has identified Dependable Locksmith – which operates under more than a dozen different names – as a particularly disreputable locksmith. This company poses as a local locksmith in cities across the country and advertises in the yellow pages using local phone numbers and fake local addresses. A consumer might think they’re dealing with a local locksmith but their phone call is actually connected to a call center located in the Bronx borough of New York City.

Consumers are quoted a reasonable price over the phone but when the locksmith arrives – typically in an unmarked vehicle – he demands significantly more money than originally quoted, often only accepting cash.

A complaint from Cleveland, OH, where Dependable Locksmith was operating under the name “Superb Solutions,” alleges the company quoted fees of $39 and $84 for separate jobs, but the bill ended up at $471, which included add-on fees such as a $65 breaking in fee and a $58 fee to uninstall old locks.

Another complainant reported that the locksmith sent to let her into her car demanded she pay twice the price quoted over the phone. The locksmith offered to drive her to an ATM to get cash – feeling unsafe the victim refused. The victim was ultimately forced to write a check made out personally to the locksmith as he would not let her into her car until she did so. She cancelled payment on the check the next morning, but eventually filed a police report after the locksmith harassed her with continuous phone calls about payment.

The BBB has also heard many complaints from victims who say they were charged for unnecessary services. For example, complainants suspect locksmiths sent over by Dependable Locksmiths of pretending they couldn’t simply pick the lock so that they could charge more and install all new locks in homes.

Some of Dependable Locksmith’s aliases include, Superb Solutions, Locksmith 24 Hour, Inc., USA Total Security, Priceline Locksmith, and S.O.S. Locksmith.

Two other locksmith contractors fleecing consumers are Basad, Inc. – which operates under more than 50 names nationwide, such as A-1 Locksmith Service, A-1 24 Hour Locksmith, A-1 Lock & Key Locksmith, and AAA Locksmith 24 Hour – and Liberty Locksmith. Similar to Dependable Locksmith, they pose as local locksmiths and run full-page yellow pages ads with multiple phone and address listings. The phone numbers appear to be local, but connect to national call centers such as Liberty’s in New York City, while the addresses end up belonging to other established businesses in the local area, or are simply non-existent.

Liberty Locksmith had been a BBB member in Tulsa, OK, but during normal BBB member validation processes, it was discovered that the addresses provided by the company were false. In June 2007, the BBB terminated the membership of Liberty Locksmith for providing false information in its membership application and providing misleading advertisements to the public.

Like others, Liberty Locksmith and Basad, Inc. use common cons such as quoting one price over the phone, but then charging significantly more on site.

“These companies are very good at posing as trustworthy locksmiths,” said Mr. Cox. “Before you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being locked out of your car or house, do your research and find a truly dependable locksmith in your area. Ask around and always check with the BBB first to find reputable businesses.”

If you feel you’ve been taken advantage of by Dependable Locksmith, Liberty Locksmith, Basad. Inc., or others, please contact the BBB to file a complaint, or do so online at