Locksmith scam

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The locksmith scam is a multi-faceted scam, targeting people who call a locksmith out of desperation, usually because of being locked out of their car or premises.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] Locksmith scams have been reported in the U.S.,[8][9][3][10][11] the U.K.,[12][13] and New Zealand.[14][15][16]

The scams work by flooding business-finding services with a multitude of faux business listings. All of the phone numbers of these listings eventually link back to a single operation, usually without a legitimate address or license. The descriptions will be similar to legitimate locksmiths, accompanied by similarly misleading advertising, and usually quoting an unusually low price. The person who turns up may perform shoddy work and then overcharge for the service and parts. Since the customer never knows the real business or people involved, at best they can ask for a single phony listing to be removed - a process that takes time and does not negatively impact the scammer much, as they can simply create more fake listings.

Side-effects of the scam include damage to legitimate locksmiths who lose business and tend to get angry calls from people believing them to be responsible.[17][18] Google Maps has been particularly vulnerable to this operation in the 2010s. It began requiring people advertising locksmith services in the US or Canada to complete its "Advanced Verification" process as of 2018,[19] but does not do so in other markets.

Structure[edit]

Such scams may involve:

Legal action[edit]

Locksmiths and other observers have noted that search engine companies make substantial income from paid-for listings, regardless of whether the listings are legitimate or spam.[37][38][30][25] Writing in 2016, Cory Doctorow claimed that "Nearly every locksmith that appears on Google Maps is a fake business that redirects to a call center ... that dispatches a scammy, distant, barely trained locksmith who'll come and charge you 5-10 times more than you were quoted."[32]

In the U.S. in 2005, a Bronx-based company was sued by the Chicago Department of Consumer services for alleged consumer fraud.[29]

In the U.S. in 2009, three alleged locksmith scammers were unsuccessfully prosecuted in St. Louis.[4]

In the U.K. in 2010, a locksmith scammer was successfully prosecuted.[39]

In the U.S. in 2014, a locksmith based in Virginia sued Google, Yellowbook (Hibu), and Ziplocal, under numerous laws, requesting that those companies "remove fraudulent locksmith listings from their search results".[37][40][41] This, too, was unsuccessful, due to the companies' immunity under the Communications Decency Act.[4]

In the U.S. in 2017-2018, a group of 14 locksmiths filed a lawsuit against Google, Yahoo, and Bing, alleging that these search engines allowed spam listings to drown out legitimate, organic search results.[42] This class action was dismissed by the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC in 2019.

In Eastwood v. Atlas Locksmith Solutions, et. al.(Maricopa County Superior Court, AZ), Atlas disclosed it subscribed to 115 telephone numbers in the Phoenix Metropolitan Market, assigned each of those numbers to an address where Atlas had no location or legitimate business interest, then multiplied those phone number/address combinations by 10 different company names on a spreadsheet causing Veritel (a now defunct telephone company run by Clay Van Doren)[43] to publish 1,150 separate and distinct fraudulent telephone listings[44] all promulgated and distributed to consumers by Google, Yahoo, and distributed on a wholesale basis by information brokers including Acxiom and others.[45]

Google says that it has removed billions of advertisements that violated its policies, and to have improved its verification systems to combat listings fraud.[46][47] However, although Google now requires people advertising locksmith services in the US or Canada to complete its "Advanced Verification" process,[19] it does not do so in other markets.[48] Also, Google has reportedly resisted removing fraudulent listings.[30]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Star, Shelley Shelton Arizona Daily. "Locksmith scam may have hit Tucson".
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Finding a Locksmith". 9 August 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Associated Locksmiths of America". Associated Locksmiths of America. 2014. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Fake Online Locksmiths May Be Out to Pick Your Pocket, Too".
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Better Business Bureau tips on how to avoid the "Locksmith Scam"". 28 June 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "How to avoid the fake online locksmith scam".
  7. ^ a b c Ducey, Joe (7 April 2017). "Will your locksmith scam you?".
  8. ^ Kirchheimer, Sid. "Follow Tips to Avoid Locksmiths Scams – Fraudulent Businesses".
  9. ^ "Denver locksmith caught running 'bait & switch' scam … again". 14 February 2013.
  10. ^ Mile High Locksmith Team (25 February 2012). "Today show MSNBC news locksmith SCAM" – via YouTube.
  11. ^ a b Andrews Lock And Key (9 August 2015). ""BEWARE" ABC News "The Lookout, Locksmiths". Avoid Locksmith Scams Phoenix and Mesa AZ" – via YouTube.
  12. ^ a b "Exposing Scam Locksmiths - Locksmith News". www.locksmiths.co.uk. Master Locksmiths Association.
  13. ^ a b "Scammers Using Legitimate Locksmith Company Names - Locksmith Blog". www.locksmiths.co.uk. Master Locksmiths Association.
  14. ^ a b c d e "'Rip-off' locksmiths operating in Auckland". 7 July 2017.
  15. ^ "Aucklanders urged to watch out for 'fastest' locksmiths who leave trail of bad locks and big bills" – via TVNZ.
  16. ^ "MLAA's "Beware of Locksmith Scammers" Campaign - MLAA". 12 December 2017.
  17. ^ a b c d e f "Is Your Locksmith Ripping You Off?". Money.
  18. ^ a b c Burr, Bill. "Mt. Pleasant locksmith says possible scam is hurting business, costing customers".
  19. ^ a b Tung, Liam. "Google to tech-support scammers: We're about to get even tougher on your ads - ZDNet".
  20. ^ a b c "4 Things We Learned About Fake Locksmith Scammers Lurking Online". 1 February 2016.
  21. ^ a b "Suspect in locksmith scam surrenders".
  22. ^ a b c d Segal, David. "Lead Generation Sites Pose Challenge to Google - The Haggler".
  23. ^ "When You Call A Locksmith, Will A Con Man Answer?".
  24. ^ Sun, Deedee (30 March 2018). "Seattle woman warns of potential new locksmith scam".
  25. ^ a b c Fletcher/ABC7, Lisa. "Fake map points on search engines lead you straight to scammers".
  26. ^ "Palm Beach police arrest Broward man for allegedly running copycat locksmith business".
  27. ^ a b c d Staff, News. "BBB Scam of the Week: Locksmith Scam".
  28. ^ "Yellow Pages removes fraudulent 'cheap locksmith' listings using addresses of unrelated businesses - CBC News".
  29. ^ a b c "Israeli company cons Chicago residents". 30 August 2005.
  30. ^ a b c "How Scammers Turn Google Maps Into Fantasy Land". www.businessweek.com.
  31. ^ "Five reasons why companies should be worried about click fraud".
  32. ^ a b "Superb investigative report on the fake locksmith scam / Boing Boing". boingboing.net.
  33. ^ Smith, Allan (11 October 2016). "3 Uncommon Scams Anyone Could Fall Prey To".
  34. ^ a b c d Siciliano, Robert (2 January 2014). "12 Ways to avoid Locksmith scams".
  35. ^ a b "I Fell For The Locksmith Scam". 31 October 2008.
  36. ^ a b c d Greenbaum, Dave. "Know the Warning Signs of a Locksmith Scamming You".
  37. ^ a b Gardella, Adriana. "A Business Owner Blames Search Engines for Lost Sales".
  38. ^ "Google Maps' spam problem presents genuine security issues / Boing Boing". boingboing.net.
  39. ^ Mariam, web team. "BBC - Watchdog: Reoffending rogue finally under lock and key..."
  40. ^ "Locksmith Sues Google, Others Claiming Spam Local Listings Illegal - Marketing Land". 27 October 2014.
  41. ^ "Virginia Business Owner Sues Google, Others for $8.4 million".
  42. ^ "Locksmiths try again to sue Google over fake local listings - Marketing Land". 3 March 2017.
  43. ^ https://atos.net/en/expert/clay-van-doren
  44. ^ http://thelocksmithpolice.com/exhibits/Numbered%20Exhibits/EXHIBIT%20057-Veritel.pdf
  45. ^ http://thelocksmithpolice.com/exhibits/EXHIBIT%20005%20-%20ATLAS.DOC.pdf
  46. ^ "Google Fights Fraud by Cracking Down on Plumbers and Locksmiths - Search Engine Journal". 4 October 2016.
  47. ^ "Google cracks down on dodgy tech support ads".
  48. ^ "Advanced Verification policies - Google Ads Help". support.google.com.