You Should Not Be Paying $175 To Get Your Car Door Unlocked

While there are plenty of honest locksmiths ready to help you out when you lock your keys in your car, there are enough bait-and-switch scammers out there that consumers need to be careful before selecting one. Otherwise, you could end up with someone trying to charge you hundreds of dollars for something that shouldn’t cost more than $100.

KOMO News reports on Seattle-area consumers who were quoted as little as $19 to have their car door unlocked, only to have their keys held hostage until they paid nearly six times that amount. One person was quoted $39.95 but ended up being charged $175.

And it’s not just cars. One woman was quoted $140 to have the five doors in her home re-keyed, only to end up being presented a bill for $280.

We’ve been writing about scammy locksmiths for years, but judging by the tales of woe in the KOMO story, it’s still happening all too often.

Thus, once again, here are tips to help you avoid getting taken by less-than-legit locksmiths:

* Find a local locksmith before you need one. Talk to friends, if only to eliminate the names of definite scammers. Even if you’re not an AAA member, the organization will still help refer you to a reputable locksmith. You won’t get the AAA member discount, but you’ll know that the person who shows up is not just trying to unlock your bank account.

* Once you have a locksmith, be sure to keep their name and number in your cellphone. If you use an online contact list, you should add the locksmith’s name to that list. That way, if you are without your phone, you can just log on from another person’s phone or computer to get the information.

* In addition to the estimate before the locksmith comes out, get a price confirmation before work begins. If the locksmith will not give you a definite number or raises the estimate significantly, send them home.

* If you have no other choice but think you will need to dispute the bill, pay with credit card — not debit card — and issue a charge-back immediately.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.