If you’ve found this page, you or someone you know has more than likely been the latest victim of a locksmith scammer. Don’t feel bad, it’s a growing problem in the locksmith industry and it’s happened to thousands of other consumers around the United States. We’re going to do our best to lay out your options and offer some advice on what you can do next.
Before we proceed, take a moment to read our How To Protect Yourself From “Locksmith Scammers” to help determine if you were truly scammed. As we mention in the article, “A majority of people believe that high prices qualifies as being scammed but, in reality, that isn’t always the case.”
Most consumers believe that their first, and perhaps only, option is to call the police to resolve the matter. In reality, most consumer protection laws are enforced by government agencies and not city or county police departments. The police officer(s) will more than likely tell you that it’s either a civil matter and needs to be addressed in a civil court or that you need to contact the appropriate government agency, or agencies, that deal with consumer protection laws in your city, county, and/or state.
Note: We have heard of multiple instances of locksmith scammers using intimidation and threats to coax immediate payment and on their terms, usually cash. In such a case, call the police immediately.
I’ve spoken with a few consumers who were adamant about speaking with a lawyer and pursuing the matter in a civil court. That’s definitely your prerogative and a lawyer will know best about your legal options. I bring that point up to say this: whatever your choice, DO NOT threaten litigation against others. Do not tell the locksmith scammer and/or anyone in his/her company that you’re going to sue them. First, it’s not ethical (yes, I know that’s ironic given the situation but take the high road). Second, it’s more than likely going to ruin any chance of a resolution with the scammer company. If you decide to go the legal route, let your lawyer handle it.
You also have the option to pursue the matter in a small claims court. Most states will usually have a consumer guide available for those considering using the small claims court system. These guides can be very useful for someone who might not be familiar with the court system and/or process. I’ve never heard, directly or indirectly, of any consumer using small claims court with regards to locksmith scammers but don’t let that dissuade you, I simply have no experiences or stories to offer.
With that said, here is what you can also do if you’ve been a victim of a locksmith scammer:
1. Document everything.
The first thing you need to do is to document everything. Sadly, we live in a society where a person’s word no longer means much, if anything. Evidence does mean something, however, so you need to start accumulating it. Start by writing down the events as you best remember them. Write down the phone number you called. If you found the number online, write down their website’s URL as well.
Save any invoice or paperwork you receive from the “locksmith” who shows up. If possible, take down, or relay from memory, information about the “locksmith” such as his/her appearance, the make and model of his/her vehicle, and the vehicle’s plate if possible. If you had someone at your business or residence at the time of service and they can corroborate your story, ask for a written statement. Take pictures of any door and/or locks that were serviced while on site.
Evidence will be your strongest ally as you start the process to right the scammer’s wrong. Make your ally as strong as possible.
2. Ask the business for a refund.
They’re almost certainly not going to give you a refund. Locksmith scammers aren’t known for their ethics, after all. Be that as it may, you need to at least make an attempt. Why? All but one of the remaining items in this article this rely on it. If you have not asked for a refund, you’ll put a delay in your ability to request a chargeback through your bank or to file a complaint with consumer protection agencies. Banks and consumer protection agencies expect the consumer and merchant to resolve disputes between themselves first; they are only there as a last resort. If you admit to either that you haven’t at least taken initiative on your end to resolve dispute then they’re more than likely going to tell you to come back only after you have.
If possible, make the request in writing. Locksmith scammers are notoriously elusive but if, by chance, you get either an email or physical address then send the request there. Lay out your experience, reasoning, and request. Make an honest effort. As I said, it’s more than likely going to be fruitless but you must make an attempt.
If the refund request falls on deaf ears or gets you nowhere then it’s time to start involving other groups in the matter.
3. Contact your bank to initiate a chargeback.
If you used a credit card to pay for the services you are guaranteed reversal rights by Regulation Z of the Truth in Lending Act of 1968. If you used a debit card you are guaranteed the same rights by Regulation E of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. That’s not to say you are guaranteed to get your money back but rather you are guaranteed the right to dispute charges on your card.
Keep in mind that banks take fraud VERY, VERY seriously and will treat your transaction dispute (the premise behind chargebacks) with equal seriousness. You bank is very much your ally in this situation – they’re on the side of the law. Banks rely heavily on available evidence when investigating disputes to transactions; this evidence is used to make a decision. This is why it’s very important to document every single thing associated with your situation.
It’s impossible to know what the bank will decide to do but per Wikipedia:
The 2014 Cybersource Fraud Benchmark Report found that only 60% of chargebacks are disputed by merchants, and that merchants have a success rate of about 41% with those they do re-present.
At worst, you’ll be left in the exact same situation you were prior to contacting them. In other words, you have nothing to lose and, potentially, much to gain.
4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
While the Federal Trade Commission cannot resolve individual complaints, they can use your information as a resource for larger enforcement or penalties. The Federal Trade Commission is well aware of the locksmith scam problem and providing additional evidence and testimony helps.
You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online by visiting their FTC Complaint Assistant web page or by calling the FTC’s Consumer Response Center at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
5. File a complaint with your state’s consumer protection office.
Next, file a complaint with your state’s consumer protection office, which will usually be your state’s attorney general’s office although some states have separate offices. Below is a list of links to the complaint page of each state’s consumer protection office. Some states may have offices for specific areas, such as cities or regions. In such instances a list of applicable websites is linked.
Unlike the Federal Trade Commission, your state’s consumer protection office can resolve individual and collective complaints, usually through restitution and penalties. For example, Georgia’s Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection ordered the owner of one these locksmith companies to pay $11,897.40 in consumer restitution and $100,000 in penalties and investigative expenses to resolve allegations of unfair and deceptive practices in 2013.
6. If you found the locksmith scammer’s information on the Internet, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Division. IC3 investigates internet crimes, which includes the use of the Internet to communicate false or fraudulent representations to consumers. If you found the locksmith scammer’s information on the Internet and they communicated false or fraudulent representations to you, such as “bait and switch” pricing, then you should file a complaint with the IC3. As a bonus, the IC3 routinely works with the other federal, state, local, and regulatory agencies. This means the more information consumers provide to them about scammers, the more other agencies can benefit from this volunteered information. In other words, your complaint could potentially prevent this from happening to someone else.
7. Tell your friends and family.
Believe it or not, you can turn a negative into a positive in this case. Use your situation to alert your friends and family of locksmith scams and how they can avoid them. Educate them. No one wants their friends or family scammed or taken advantage. Use your newfound knowledge to help protect them from similar scams and predatory businesses.