Everyone gets locked out of their house at some point. And unless you are a locksmith yourself, you will likely have to call a locksmith to get in. For some, this is where the real trouble starts.
Rogue locksmiths are a real risk for anyone trying to regain access to their property. In 2010, Mark Makowski was convicted at the Old Bailey of defrauding customers across London. He would frequently damage customers’ locks by drilling them unnecessarily, and replace them with cheaper, less effective locks. On top of this he would overcharge customers for everything, from the locks to his time.
Conmen like Makowski opportunistically prey on victims when they are most vulnerable and desperate — locked out of their houses with nowhere to go. Rogue locksmith firms can make themselves appear trustworthy with slick websites, meaning those looking for a locksmith must be very careful to separate the helpful professionals from the scammers.
Here are our tips on making sure the locksmith you hire is genuine.
Find a licensed locksmith you can trust
Letting a stranger unlock your door takes trust by its very nature. But you have to find a locksmith who is deserving of your trust. There are a number of reliable ways you can do this. One is to find a long-standing, established, reputable heritage brand to be your locksmith.
For example, in London, the prestigious London-based security company Banham offer locksmith services alongside their security alarms and doors. Since their reputation is on the line, sending out a rogue locksmith would ruin their reputation as a trusted security firm, built up over 90 years.
As Banham point out on their locksmiths services page, another way to find a trustworthy professional is to check they are licensed by the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA). You can search the MLA database for licensed members on their locksmith search website. No rogue locksmith could gain membership of the MLA, so you can trust the association’s vetting process to find an honest locksmith.
Some home insurers will also have approved lists of locksmiths that you can consult when locked out. Some policies will even cover their charges. Check your home insurance policy for details.
Always get an estimate
Once you have settled on a locksmith, there are ways you can approach the job to make sure you do not get ripped off. After a locksmith has opened up your door, they can ask for any amount of money you want. The lock is open now, after all.
This is how many rogue locksmiths manage to get away with charging customers excessive amounts. To avoid this, make sure you always get an estimate for the job before the locksmith starts.
Some locksmiths will give a quote for what the job would take on an “average lock”. This easily gives rogue locksmiths the opportunity to claim that your lock was more difficult than average, and therefore more expensive to open.
When the locksmith arrives, get them to look at the lock and make another estimate in writing before they start it. Some rogue locksmiths may also add hidden costs, such as a callout charge. Make sure you ask for these to be included in the estimate, and if you are not happy with it, cancel the job and look elsewhere.
Look for the telltale signs
Once you have hired a locksmith, there are several things you can look out for that will immediately reveal their rogue status. If you notice any of the following things, terminate the job immediately, and if the locksmith refuses to leave, call the authorities.
These telltale signs include:
- The locksmith demanding you pay cash.
- The locksmith refusing to show ID or technical certification. This is likely because they don’t have any, or don’t want you to see it.
- The locksmith insisting on drilling your lock without offering valid justification. This could be a scam to sell you new locks and keys.
- The locksmith answering your phone call saying just “Locksmiths” rather than the name of the business you phoned. This could be because one centre is taking calls for several rogue locksmith businesses.
Look out for all these signs, and follow the above tips to make sure you get back into your house safely, and without falling victim to even more misfortune on your way.