Beware Nationwide Locksmith Swindle

“Dependable Locksmith” is scamming consumers nationwide. They place ads in local yellow pages, with local numbers, but they all route to a call center in the Bronx. The customer is quoted a reasonable price, but when the “locksmith” arrives, he bullies them into paying at least twice as much. Seattle’s KOMO4 caught one of these clowns on tape. He shows up in a regular hatchback, and fumbles around for 6 minutes to open the car with his inadequate toolkit. When reporters took the car to AAA, it took them 30 seconds to open the car.

Takeaway: AAA membership has perks. Or, consider taking a few to find a locksmith with a good local word of mouth and putting their number on your cellphone. The fire department can unlock cars, but only if it’s on fire or there’s a baby trapped inside. And of course, try not to lock your keys in your car.

Locksmith scam makes a bad day even worse [KOMO4] (Thanks to Jason!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. B says:

    This is why having one of those clicker things for your car is cool. It’s not impossible to lock your keys in the car with them, but you really need to think about what you’re doing to accomplish it.

  2. If you don’t watch dude the awesome stache, then watch it for the groovy terminator effects.

  3. mewyn dyner says:

    This is why I love my wallet-key that I got from my Saturn dealer with my car. I’ve not had to use it in then 8 years I’ve had my car, but hey, it’s there just in case I ever need it.

  4. @something_amazing: My handle on the english language is apparently so bad that I can’t even phrase sentences anymore. It certainly seems to be a case of degradation over time.

  5. iDevin says:

    My Prius has a smart key system that senses where the key is in or around the car and grant you access only to that lock. You also don’t have to ever take the key out of your pocket to start the car or unlock the door, and it adds to safety so that if, for example, you’re standing at the trunk then the key won’t allow the front door to be unlocked unless you walk to it or press the all unlock button on the fob. I think the biggest reason that somebody with this type of system will never need a locksmith is simply because they never have to take the key out of their pocket or purse so it would be very difficult to accidentally set the key somewhere and forget it.

  6. exkon says:

    Yeah, those wallet keys are pretty nifty. I had a spare made for my old Mazda, and had to use about twice when I needed it.

  7. TechnoDestructo says:

    @mewyn dyner:

    Every car that I’ve had that made it possible to lock your keys in the car, I carried one of the spare keys in my wallet. (regular key, not a plastic wallet key)

    What I really like, though, is car doors that do not allow you to lock yourself out. My 1984 Corolla had them, and my 1992 Accord has them. If you close the car door, it automatically unlocks. The only way to lock the door is to do it after it closes, and if you’re outside the car when that happens, you cannot do that if you don’t have your keys. (Or in the case of the Accord, the keyless entry fob)

  8. Skeptic says:

    Many states restrict access to locksmith tools to licensed locksmiths. I’m wondering if these contractors are licensed in any way. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t even have local business permits let alone locksmith licenses. It seems like it would be easy for the cops to sting these guys and arrest them for using burglar tools in the commission of a crime.

  9. Jigen says:


  10. TheDude06 says:

    Is it just me? or is everyone having trouble watching videos from the main page? Clicking the video took me to comments before I could see it.

  11. Jigen says:

    @TechnoDestructo: Problem with that system is its easily worked around. You can lock the door before shutting it. Just pull up on the door handle as you shut it. I’ve known a few people with that system that do that trick, just cause its a pain to have to lock the car from the outside all the time. Easier just to tap a button, then shut the door.

  12. wring says:

    yay for my car insurance offering roadside assistance

  13. EtherealStrife says:

    AAA makes plastic key cards (the wallet key spoken of previously?) for members, on request. It’s the equivalent of ~3 credit cards in width, but it saves a great deal of time if you lock your keys in your car. I once locked mine in the trunk, in a car without a trunk release. You can’t slimjim a trunk . . . . I just grabbed my wallet, bent out the plastic key, and popped open the trunk. I’ve used it 3 times over the years and it’s still holding up fine. With modern cars it can’t start the ignition, so no worries about losing it or having it stolen.

  14. backspinner says:

    “…is scamming consumer nationwide.”

    “…when reporters to the car to AAA…”

    Do you need a proofreader, Consumerist? I’d be glad to be your newest employee! :)

  15. cde says:

    Why use a plastic key when a real/metal one works too. Had one in my wallet since the first week I had my first car.

    @iDevin: Yea it’s great, till someone steals your key and just need to walk by your car to find out its yours.

  16. vr4z06gt says:

    @backspinner: i was going to say the same thing.

    seriously AAA can be a royal pain in the ass it once took them 3.5 hours but at least it was free….the only time ive ever done it was at school i was hanging my parking pass in the window and as I was closing the door the wind knocked it off, i reached in to grab it and shut the door forgetting that I dropped my keys on the seat and already hit the lock button on my clicker. My own dumbass’ fault. Thats why I now carry my spare key (NO FOB) in my computer bag, just in case the bag is take the thieves have tens of thousands of cars to search through manually.

    live and learn….live and learn

  17. sp3nc3 says:

    Ditto to Backspinner. In fact, if you just gave edit access to a handful of loyal (and trustworthy) readers with keen eyes and superb grammatical skills, I bet they’d fix errors for free.

  18. vr4z06gt says:

    @cde: no it dosen’t beep or flash lights unless you hit the lock buttons on the fob. simply walking by the person wouldn’t know, you really do have to be standing at the door for it to work without touching it. But at the same time, all they have to do is hit the panic button to find the car. I work at a Toyota dealership for my summer job, thats how we find cars.

    Also regardless of whether or not it unlock automatically if you have stolen someones key no matter if it does that or not they are probably going to find your car if it has a fob.

  19. Buran says:

    @Jigen: I had an 84 Corolla once myself and I’d just hold the handle up til the door was shut, then let go.

    I never did lock the keys in it, though, but if I ever had, we kept a spare in the house.

    My current car (a VW) has a remote, so it takes a lot more effort to lock the keys in it, but just in case, the spares are in my house once again.

  20. Buran says:

    @vr4z06gt: I wouldn’t use the panic button – why not just hit the unlock button? The screaming alarm and repetitive honks are annoying – one chirp’s enough.

    My car has the ability to also turn on its headlights when it unlocks, but I disabled it through the GUI (it has a setup menu that shows up in the cluster) but I disabled it.

  21. Buran says:

    @Buran: gah, my editing sucks.

  22. dohtem says:

    For all you guys that have spare car keys in the house; Aren’t your main cars keys on the same ring as your house keys? Seems to me that if you live alone, you are SOL. You are locked out of the house and the car. Now you really gotta call a locksmith to let you into one.

  23. The Walking Eye says:

    @Buran: Not all cars come with that wonderfully annoying beep on lock/unlock. That’s the first thing I disable in every rental I get and cars I own.

  24. MrEvil says:

    I guess I’m fortunate that my best friend’s dad happens to be a fully licenced locksmith. Everytime I’ve needed an unlock (I had a short in my door that would trigger the locks randomly) He’d be out in 15 minutes and have me unlocked in 10 seconds.

    My college PD does free unlocks for students.

    You best bet is to get a magnetic key hider with a combination lock on it. Never get locked out again.

  25. Sudonum says:

    @iDevin: How do you get in if the car battery is dead?

  26. slowinthefastlane says:

    OnStar works pretty well for this, too. Plus, the unlock is nearly instant. You don’t have to wait for someone to come.

  27. @TechnoDestructo:
    Most cars that have that feature only do it on the driver’s door. If you close and lock the driver’s door, leave your keys in the car, it’s possible to lock another door in the car without the key. Still, it should eliminate 99% of all lockouts.

    Also, on the 1990 Civic we had, you could bypass the lockout protection feature by pulling on the interior release while pushing the lock button.

  28. DashTheHand says:

    I’ve locked my keys in my car a couple times, one with no power locks and no clicker. Its easy to do, especially if you are distracted by needing to get things out of your car before you get out.

    Luckily I found out that you can easily flex the windows on my car to just stick your freakin arm down and pull the lock button back up.

  29. lonelymaytagguy says:

    Some fire departments will also unlock if the engine is running.

    I keep a spare in my wallet and a spare under one of my license plates — you’ll probably have to enlarge the hole in the key for the plate holding screw to fit through it.

    Now if only that urban legend cell phone unlocking really worked…

    Hey! I just thought of a sure-fire way. Have someone at home take a picture of the key and send it to your camera phone. Then use the phone to smash the window.

  30. JayXJ says:


    Old ’70s Ford Trucks were the same way. I liked the feature too.

  31. dohtem says:

    @lonelymaytagguy: haha, great post!

  32. FromThisSoil says:

    I work in the Bronx – I’ll make sure I don’t use these scumbags.

  33. jwissick says:

    I just unzip the side panel to my jeep and let myself back in…

    Yes, yet another reason Jeep is superior.

  34. Sidecutter says:

    There’s an absolutely dirt cheap fix. Pretty much any car, whether it needs a “chipped” key to start the car’s ignition or not, do not require a chipped key just top open the door.

    Go to Wal-Mart or wherever, get one of the basic, ~$1 metal keys, with no rubber cap or anything fancy. Slip it in a credit-card slot in your wallet, and you will NEVER be locked out again even if you do forget the keys. No waiting, no charges.

  35. mewyn dyner says:


    The key I got from Saturn is a cut brass key, not one of those plastic keys. I don’t really like the plastic ones, as I always fear they’ll break in the lock.

  36. BlakeO says:

    I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned a feature that is found on most Ford cars: the number keypad on the door. You can lock the car by hitting the last two buttons on it (7-8 and 9-0) and unlock the car using a five button combination. This is convienent for runners, for example, because they can just lock the keys in the car instead of hidding them somewhere or, even worse, running with them.

    Problem solved! (unless, of course, your battery is dead…)

  37. kerry says:

    What should people who need a locksmith for their homes do? I’ve never had to call a locksmith to unlock a car, but we’ve had one out to my house in the last year. I guess just make sure they have a local address in the phone book? It’s not like AAA will do me any good without a car.

  38. maevro says:

    The moral of the story? New Yorker’s still run the best scams.

    Times like these I am glad I sold my car when I moved into Manhattan.

  39. puka_pai says:

    @kerry: What should people who need a locksmith for their homes do?

    Buy a keysafe. Seriously, for about $25 at the hardware store, you can keep a housekey locked up safely where you can always get to it. I keep a full set of spare keys in the house, so as long as I can get home I have access to my keys.

    Our car broke down once when we were far away from home, and I was able to call my neighbors, give them the combo, and they could go in to feed our pets. Like a regular combination lock, you can set the combo yourself so I just changed it once we got home. I got my first keysafe over 20 years ago and I can’t begin to imagine how much it’s saved us in locksmith fees in that time, since we’re all really forgetful in my family.

  40. nysports says:

    Is it just me, or is this scam not so horrible. I mean, they do say $54 an up, and while doubling it is a lot of “up,” when the average price is actually about $75 as they say at the end, this doesn’t seem soooo horrible. Just a thought.

  41. swalve says:

    Carry the car key(s) on a separate ring. Then, on your main key ring, keep a copy of the car key. Your house keys never leave your pocket when you’re driving, so you’ll never be locked out.

  42. DeeJayQueue says:

    @jwissick: AMEN brotha! My doors don’t even HAVE locks. I like it that way. If someone wants what’s in my car, they’re gonna get it by hook or by crook and I’d rather they just open the door and take it instead of slashing my window. If they really want my 89 YJ more than I do, well, they can have it.

    Every car that I’ve owned that didn’t have a giant plastic head on the key, or a transponder built in I’ve kept a spare in my wallet.

    I wonder how easy it would be to con OnStar into popping a lock on a car that wasn’t yours? I’d imagine you’d need to know the name of the owner but all it takes is a good psychological con to get them to pop the locks and start the car for you.

  43. iDevin says:

    @Sudonum: The car is half electric so if your battery is dead to the point that the car won’t unlock you’re probably going to have to call Toyota anyways. But regardless, Toyota did think of this so there is a standard metal key within the smart key that you can use to open the front doors. I’ve seen this on other cars that have smart key systems or electronic keys such as certain Volvo, Mazda, and Nissan models and likely others.

  44. karmaghost says:

    I have a 2004 Civic and locked my keys in the car a couple of weeks ago. I was 2 hours from home so I couldn’t get to my spare set. I called a locksmith that everyone recommended because he had history and experience. He came and tried to pick the lock first and had absolutely no luck, then spent the next 45 minutes trying to slim jim and coat-hanger the lock. Eventually he was able to pop the lock by wedging between the window and frame (he was affraid he’d break the window in the heat) and sticking a totally bent piece of metal down, up, then back down again. He then asked to see the key and said “Oh yeah, picking would never have worked.” Here’s a pic: [] The whole “make a key at Wal-Mart” thing wouldn’t work for me.

    I never really understood the way my lock worked, but I guess it makes sense as an anti-lockout measure. Problem is, with my car, all you have to do is pull on the door handle while you lock the car and it works just fine. I’ve never thought to close the door and lock it with the key from the outside.