If you’ve been driving long enough, you’ve undoubtedly experienced it. You’re about to get into your car when you realize that your keys are already in the car, and the car is locked! Luckily, most of us know what to do in that situation. With modern technology, it’s easy to look up a locksmith who can come to you in just a few minutes. There are dozens to choose from, and they’re just a phone call away. But before you go ahead and call the first one on the list, we have a few words of warning.

A New Hope

When you’ve just realized that your keys are on the inside of your locked car and you are on the outside, it may seem like there’s no hope. But a quick online search can raise your spirits. Within seconds you can easily find dozens of locksmiths who promise to meet you at your car in just minutes. It seems like you won’t be locked out for long.

What isn’t apparent from the search results, however, is that many of these companies are actually owned by the same people. They are multiple fronts for one company running one scam. And they do it all over the country.

Thinking you’ve found a great way back into your car, you call one of the listings and, being a responsible consumer, ask for the price. When one of our producers went undercover as a locked-out citizen, she called and was told that the price to get into her locked care was $85. That seemed reasonable, so she agreed to the price. The locksmith said it would be about 20 minutes until he got to her car.

The Locksmith Strikes Back

After 30 minutes, no locksmith had arrived, so our producer called back. This time they told her it would be just ten more minutes. Again, ten minutes passed, and no locksmith showed up. Finally, an hour after she first placed the call, a locksmith showed up to rescue our undercover producer.

It seems like the wait is part of the scam. By keeping customers locked out of their cars for an hour or more, always expecting that the locksmith will be there any minute, they make people desperate. By the time a locksmith arrives, the consumer is just relieved that someone is there to help. And they are likely willing to put up with some pretty shady pricing.

In our case, the locksmith took less than a minute to get into our producer’s car. But when he handed her the bill, it was more than the original $85 promised over the phone. Somehow, between the time she called and the moment she was handed the bill, a $35 fee was added for the service call. Of course, when she asked for the price over the phone, the operator never said anything about a service call fee. The locksmith assured her that $85 was a good price, and the service fee is included in every call, despite it never being mentioned over the phone.

At this point, most people are just relieved to have their car open and will fork over the extra cash so they can get on their way. In other undercover investigations, we’ve seen locksmiths hold onto the car keys until the customer paid. And when the customer balked at the inflated price, the locksmiths threatened to lock the keys back in the car and leave. That’s about as far from customer service as you can get.

Return of the (Reliable) Locksmith

If you want to avoid a lockout nightmare this holiday season, you have to be prepared. There are plenty of locksmiths on the internet, but far too many of them are simply out to separate you from your money. To keep from getting scammed, all you have to do is make sure you are prepared with the phone number of a reliable TrustDALE certified mobile locksmith.

Every business in the TrustDALE Circle of Excellence has to pass Dale’s 7-point investigative review. The very first step in that review is ‘price’:

The Company must honor the price it advertises, and not use unavailable products to lure and trap customers into more expensive products.

In other words, no bait and switch, no changing prices at the last minute, and no unannounced mystery-fees.

So if you want to stay safe from a holiday lockout horror show, look up a local TrustDALE certified mobile locksmith near you and add their number to your phone. We hope you never need it. But if you do, you’ll be glad you went with TrustDALE.

Dale's New Book:
Don't Get Scammed: Get Smart!