There are a number of shady operators in Melbourne and throughout the world using dodgy internet marketing techniques to advertise cheap “locksmith services”. These scammer locksmiths are in the business of underquoting, causing damage to your locks and then charging you an exorbitant bill. The first red flag is the very low advertised price, usually $45 or $35. There are no real $45 locksmiths at any time of the day, but of course this low price appeals to many people. If you’re sucked in by a scammer locksmith, here’s what you can expect:
A phone enquiry is made on a Saturday afternoon to one of these companies to get help to open a house. The client will ask how much it will cost to come and open the door. The “locksmith” will first try to get the address and phone number without answering any basic questions about the service. If questioned about the price, they will try to avoid answering, but if pushed they’ll say “$45 and up”. They don’t say that this is for the service call only, but that is what they will rely on later. If the prospective client is savvy enough to ask further as to the cost for the complete service, they may say “It’s $45 and up for the service call”. Nothing further is volunteered, ever, and if pushed further and asked for specifics on how much is it to open the lock after arriving on site, the “locksmith” will answer “$45 and up” again, and then proceed to ask the prospective client the address and phone number.
If further enquiry is made as to how much it will specifically cost to open the specific lock, the “locksmith” will say that they have to come and take a look at the lock BEFORE they give you a price to open it. They will say that every lock is different and some are harder than others, so it’s impossible to give a quote over the phone. If asked how long it will take to arrive, they will say 20 minutes every time, but according to reports from victims, you can be left waiting for hours.
When the “locksmith” finally does turn up, it’s never in uniform, or with a sign-written professional work vehicle. They’ll look at the lock and every single time without fail they’ll tell you that you have a “high security” lock that’s difficult to open and therefore must be drilled. If the client says ok, but doesn’t ask about the total price, then they’re in for a shock at the end. If they do ask about the price before the drilling starts, the “locksmith” will deceptively say “I have to drill it, so it’s not $45, its $90” and proceed to start drilling the lock. They won’t tell you that this is only the price to destroy your locks, and that it will cost even more to replace them.
If the client is lucky, then the scammer only destroys the lock and doesn’t damage the door whilst gaining entry. However, it’s very common for these clowns to use hammers, chisels and crowbars as well as drills to gain entry to the premises. When using these types of demolition tools, it’s easy to do damage to doors and frames.
Once the scammer has drilled out the cylinder of the lock, replacement is necessary. They’ve probably only drilled out the $25.00 cylinder of your $200 good quality lock, but they’ll then proceed to install an entire new lock valued at $10 or less onto your door in order to repair the damage.
They will use the cheapest lock they can that does the minimum required to replace the lock. And now here comes the bill. You better be sitting down!
A typical bill for this job, which was quoted at “$45 and up”, will end up looking something like this:
SERVICE CALL $90.00
DRILL THE LOCK $90.00
NEW LOCK $130.00
FITTING THE LOCK $90.00
When asked why the bill is so high, the answer will be that the service call is double because it’s Saturday, the opening is more because they had to drill it, the new lock is the only one they can use because yours is special, and the fitting of the new lock is not included.
If the client argues too much, then these crooks will say something like “we can drop the price to $350, but only if you pay cash”. They then refuse to issue a tax invoice, because the client is paying cash.
If the client insists on getting a receipt, then a handwritten one is issued from a generic store-bought receipt book. It never has a company name, the locksmith’s name, or an itemised list of what they have done, nor any note of warranty.
The level of deception happens in accordance with the perceived “sucker” value of the client. If it’s a little old lady late at night, the price goes up − way up. If it’s a 6’2 biker with tattoos, the rip-off is kept to a minimum.
We couldn’t believe it either, but typical scenarios like this happen all the time, all over the world.
We’ve been to countless jobs after they’ve been where they’ve done unnecessary damage, and replaced locks for no reason other than to charge exorbitant fees. We get called after them because even with a new lock, they usually fail to get it right.