Can you really trust your locksmith?
In September 2013, SWNS published a touching story about Norman Field, a locksmith who retired at the age of 81 after working for 67 years at the same shop. He started at age 14 and made over one million keys. A man trusted and respected by the community.
At the start of his career in 1947, during one of the coldest winters in UK history, he helped hundreds of people who had been locked out of their homes.
You do not want to be locked out of your home regardless of the weather conditions, and that is why we recommend that you have the number of your local locksmith on your phone.
The only problem is that, unlike Norman, some of the locksmiths out there can do more harm to you than good. In a recent publication, the Master Locksmiths Association stated that due to lack of industry regulation and the rise of online offers, bad traders have thrived.
The Master Locksmiths Association itself has said that the “huge increase in Internet-based rogue trading in recent years has prompted Trading Standards to open a dedicated e-crime unit.”
In the same article, Andy Foster, Operations and Policy Director at TSI, says “online ‘scam’ operations are growing at an exponential rate”, while Julian Korosec, proprietor of G.K. Locksmiths, states that “the problem is endemic.”
Watch out for these scams
Here is a familiar scenario that might have happened to you or a friend:
“I was unable to get into my house on Friday evening due to a lock being broken. I tried to contact my brother who had a spare key, then I remembered that he was overseas.
“Around 11.30 pm I called a company after a Google search on my phone and a locksmith arrived 45 minutes later. He told me that the lock was broken and that it was an old lock which had probably needed replacing. He had to drill the lock to get into the house.
“Prior to doing this he had quoted me £250 for a new lock, which I said was fine as it was supposedly a specialist lock. He then charged me £450 which included labour, VAT and an emergency break-in fee.
“I was in a vulnerable position and I got scammed.”
If the story sounds familiar, it’s because it is one of the most common scams used by rogue locksmiths.
The 24-hour locksmith scam
The crooked locksmith quotes £25 to come out plus £10 labour for a basic lock.
When he arrives at your home, he might tell you that the lock needs to be drilled or pulled open, although in reality it might just need to be picked. A drilled lock is useless to you, at which point the locksmith says: “I think I have a few extra ones in my van.” It then turns out he only has — and recommends — a ‘high-security lock’. This bumps up the original price tenfold.
Some lies they use to render your current lock useless are:
- “It is an unconventional lock”
- “It is un-pickable”
- “One of the pins is stuck.”
The re-keying scam
Here is how it works:
The locksmith charges you for the new pins along with all the other charges. The only problem is that replacing the pins is actually what a re-keying job is. It’s like buying a shirt and being charged extra for the sleeves.
The crooked locksmith can also give a different price depending on how many pins are in the lock. A basic lock usually has five pins. He tells you that he can’t see how many pins there are on the lock and has to open it first. He then tells you that for four pins, the charge will be only £25 to rekey. If the lock has five pins it will be £75, and if it has six or more it will be £155.
At this point you are on your knees praying that your lock does not have six or more pins. To your relief, he tells you that it only has five pins. You are now so happy and relieved that you willingly part with your £75 and even thank him for being honest.
Four things you can do to avoid crooked locksmith scams
- Ask for referrals from friends and family. It’s a safe bet that if they are happy with the locksmith, you will be too.
- Call a reputable local locksmith. Ask detailed questions and check out online reviews.
- Find out if they are members of a national locksmith affiliate like the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA).
- Get price quotes and inquire about additional charges.
The trick is to take the time to find a reliable local locksmith before you need one in an emergency. Once you find one, keep their number on your phone at all times.
If you feel like you have been scammed by a locksmith, you can report your case to the MLA on their dedicated page for complaints.
To make your search for a reliable locksmith easy, HaMuch has created a database of local tradespeople and what they charge. It is the only place where you can compare offers from local tradesmen near you.
Photograph by José Miguel