If you’re locked out of your home or car you may call a locksmith. These tips tell you what to ask about the person, the price and the business before you hire someone.
If you want to hire a locksmith to install deadbolt locks or add a home safe, you have time to check around, just like you do when you want to hire a plumber, electrician or other professional. But if you’re locked out of your car or home, you want help right away. If family or friends can’t bring you a spare set of keys — or recommend a locksmith — you may search online.
Some companies run multiple ads that seem to be for local businesses, but actually connect to call centers in another city. Operators in the call centers may give surprisingly low estimates and dispatch poorly trained locksmiths. When those locksmiths show up, they say the job will cost much more than the estimate, and they insist you pay with cash.
If you want to hire a professional locksmith from a reliable local business, you need to get information about the person, the price and the business when you call.
- Ask for the full, legal name of the business. If an operator will give you only a generic name, think about calling a different business that will identify itself.
- Run a quick internet search. Use the company name with words like “complaint” or “review.”
- Ask the operator to confirm the address shown in the ad. If the ad doesn’t show an address for the business, find out why. A legitimate locksmith who operates a “mobile” business or runs the business from home will be able to explain that.
- Get an estimate of the total cost. You might have to describe the job or the type of lock you have before you get the estimate. If the estimate is very low, confirm that it covers all fees and charges, including:
- fee for a service call
- replacement parts
- additional fees for mileage, responding to a night call, fuel surcharge, tool usage or other items
Ask the locksmith to bring a written copy of the estimate.
- Find out if the locksmith has insurance to cover your losses in case your property is damaged during a repair.
- Fifteen states require locksmiths to be licensed or registered. Ask if your state requires a license or registration, and say you want to see it when the locksmith arrives.
- Ask for the locksmith’s identification and business card. Make sure the information on the business card matches the company name on the invoice.
- Look at the written estimate the locksmith brought, or ask him to write one up before he starts working. If the estimate doesn’t match what you heard on the phone, think about whether you want to call someone else. Don’t hand over your credit card until you agree with the estimate.
- Look at the proof of insurance. If your state requires a license or registration, ask to see that too.
- Show your identification. A legitimate locksmith should confirm your identity and make sure you really own the property or vehicle before starting work.
- If the locksmith gives you authorization forms or other paperwork, read them before you sign.
- If the locksmith says it’s necessary to drill your lock and replace it, think about hiring a different person. A skilled, legitimate locksmith has invested in tools and education and should have the skills to unlock almost any door.
- Before you pay, get a written invoice that shows the company name and lists labor, replacement parts and all fees you’re being charged.
- If the service was good, save the number in case there’s a next time.
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 and your state Attorney General.
Source: U.S. FTC: www.consumer.ftc.gov