June 14, 2012

June 14, 2012
Scam Alert

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Thursday and I hope you are having a safe and great week so far. It has been another very busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me. I am busy working on the pictures from several recent events with the bear. So stay tuned for more new slide shows soon.

It seems like since the start of time there have been people who would like to take money from other people. Some people are thieves, some are embezzlers and some are scammers. Today I would like to blog about a new scam I just heard about so you can know about it and prevent yourself from getting taken.

Locksmith Scams on the Rise

6 tips to make sure Mr. Fix-It is not Mr. Fake-It

Each day, up to 250,000 Americans make emergency calls to locksmiths. And judging by the Yellow Pages or an online search, there's plenty of help nearby. For instance, in Silver Spring, Md., the telephone directory lists five locksmiths on the same street. In reality, those addresses are for a dry cleaner and four restaurants.

Enter the Southfork Ranch Travel Sweepstakes.

A few states away, within a three-mile radius of my home, 12 locksmiths are listed online. The addresses include a school, supermarket, bank, two pizzerias and a clump of trees (that address doesn't exist). Only one is for an actual locksmith; the others may be scammers waiting to get your call.

The prevalence of fraudulent locksmiths is "a scam that is only growing," says Jim Hancock of the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA), whose 6,000 members must pass background checks.

Besides the thousands of honest pros (who generally charge about $100 to pick a lock), there are many more rip-off artists. In addition to phony addresses, they often have toll-free phone numbers. "The overwhelming majority of locksmiths with an 800 phone number are not legitimate," says Hancock. Typically, you're connected to a call center. You may be quoted a price as low as $15 and assured that a locksmith is en route. In reality, the pro arrives in a van with no fixed address and a scam in mind.

"The fraudsters usually say they can't open the door and need to drill or break off the lock and install a replacement," says Hancock. The work is faulty plus expensive often $1,000 or more, and demanded in cash.

Here are some tips to help you protect yourself and your door:

First, find a reputable locksmith before you need one. Get references from friends and neighbors, the Better Business Bureau or at aloa.org. Log the details into your cellphone.

Avoid any firm that answers the phone with a generic phrase such as "locksmith services" rather than with a specific company name.

Be wary of locksmiths who arrive in unmarked cars or vans. Legitimate locksmiths usually have a van with the company name.

Ask for an ID with name and address. (ALOA members carry a membership card and can be vetted at 214-819-9733.) Only 14 states (and some cities) require that on all service calls locksmiths carry proof that they are licensed. Those states are Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. (Maryland has adopted, but not yet implemented, licensing.)

Get a written estimate on company letterhead, with mileage charges, minimums and other fees, before work begins. Get a receipt after you pay.

If you're told the lock has to be drilled and replaced, find another locksmith. Experienced and legitimate locksmiths can unlock almost any door.

Hopefully, you will never need the services of a locksmith. But if you do you now know what to look out for and save yourself time, money and a major headache!

Hope you have a safe and great day!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab