Consumer Alert: Locksmith price gouging scheme

LEXINGTON, Ky (WKYT) - The next time you need a locksmith, keep this story in mind. Some con men have turned the locksmith business into a get-rich-quick scam at your expense. As we found, customers have been duped all over the country.

We've all been there. You've locked yourself out of your house. Now, you need a locksmith. Dan Taylor, a US Postal Inspector, says that some locksmith customers can be conned in to paying more than originally quoted.

"Over the phone they would be quoted a price of around $50 then after the locksmith showed up they would get a story about how they had a unique lock or more difficult," Taylor said.

Once the victims were let back in to their homes, "...they would be told the price would be several hundred dollars," Taylor said.

This price gouging scheme is common. In this case, suspects created several bogus companies in the same city and advertised in the Yellow Pages.

"For instance if there were 30 locksmiths in one area, they would make sure to have 15 mentioned in those yellow pages," Taylor said. "This insured the odds that one of the suspects companies would be contacted."

Postal inspectors started following up on hundreds of consumer complaints in dozens of different cities

"Nationwide there were thousands of victims and by following the money, we found the scammers made millions and millions of dollars," Taylor said.

If you're in need of a locksmith, how can you protect yourself?

"Anytime, you are quoted something, even in an emergency service or not, you want to get that quote in writing," Taylor said. "Because once that service is been done, you are vulnerable to price gouging."

It's also important to report the crime, even if it doesn't feel like you lost a lot of money.

"Whether it is the Better Business Bureau, local police or postal inspectors. Postal inspectors draw upon many different sources in order to build cases to learn how many victims there are," Taylor said. "However, if you don't report it, we have no way of knowing you are a victim in one of our cases."

Whenver you are in a desperate situation, beware of businesses taking advantage of you. Even if you don't get an esitmate in writing, talk price before the work begins.

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