Locksmith scam

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The locksmith scam is a multi-faceted scam, targeting people who have been locked out of cars or buildings.[3][4][5][2][6][7][8] Side-effects of the scam include damage to the reputations,[9] and to the ability to advertise, of uninvolved, legitimate locksmiths.[10]

Locksmith scams have been reported in the U.S.,[11][12][5][13][14] the U.K.,[15][16] and New Zealand.[17][18][19]


Such scams may involve:

  • Lead generation, designed to confuse potential customers into believing that the scammer is a legitimate, but low-priced, locksmith:[2][20][7]
  • Using addresses that are either fictitious, or are P. O. boxes, or belong to an existing home or business (sometimes, but not always, a locksmith business[28]).[29][3][22][15][30][2][25][14]
  • Driving up the price of online advertisements[2] to make them unaffordable for legitimate locksmiths. (Locksmiths businesses are among those worst affected by click fraud.[31])
  • Using staff lacking identification[35][9] or uniforms,[34][7] again to reduce accountability.
  • Disinterest in the customer's right to access the vehicle or building to which the call-out relates; for example, failing to ask the customer for ID or proof of ownership.[5]
  • Refusing to provide a written estimate,[33][17] also to reduce accountability.
  • Insisting upon the use of destructive rather than non-destructive entry, typically by destroying the original lock and necessitating the purchase of a replacement lock.[22][6]

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.[36][37][30][25]

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.[2]

In the U.K. in 2010, a locksmith scammer was successfully prosecuted.[38]

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".[36][39][40] This, too, was unsuccessful, due to the companies' immunity under the Communications Decency Act.[2]

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.[41]

Google claims to have removed billions of advertisements that violated its policies, and to have improved its verification systems to combat listings fraud.[42][43] However, although Google now requires people advertising locksmith services in the US or Canada to complete its "Advanced Verification" process,[44] it does not do so in other markets.[45] Also, Google has reportedly resisted removing fraudulent listings.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Superb investigative report on the fake locksmith scam / Boing Boing". boingboing.net.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Fake Online Locksmiths May Be Out to Pick Your Pocket, Too".
  3. ^ a b c d Star, Shelley Shelton Arizona Daily. "Locksmith scam may have hit Tucson".
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Finding a Locksmith". 9 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Associated Locksmiths of America". Associated Locksmiths of America. 2014. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Better Business Bureau tips on how to avoid the "Locksmith Scam"". 28 June 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "How to avoid the fake online locksmith scam".
  8. ^ a b c Ducey, Joe (7 April 2017). "Will your locksmith scam you?".
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Is Your Locksmith Ripping You Off?". Money.
  10. ^ a b c Burr, Bill. "Mt. Pleasant locksmith says possible scam is hurting business, costing customers".
  11. ^ Kirchheimer, Sid. "Follow Tips to Avoid Locksmiths Scams – Fraudulent Businesses".
  12. ^ "Denver locksmith caught running 'bait & switch' scam … again". 14 February 2013.
  13. ^ Mile High Locksmith Team (25 February 2012). "Today show MSNBC news locksmith SCAM" – via YouTube.
  14. ^ a b Andrews Lock And Key (9 August 2015). ""BEWARE" ABC News "The Lookout, Locksmiths". Avoid Locksmith Scams Phoenix and Mesa AZ" – via YouTube.
  15. ^ a b "Exposing Scam Locksmiths - Locksmith News". www.locksmiths.co.uk. Master Locksmiths Association.
  16. ^ a b "Scammers Using Legitimate Locksmith Company Names - Locksmith Blog". www.locksmiths.co.uk. Master Locksmiths Association.
  17. ^ a b c d e "'Rip-off' locksmiths operating in Auckland". 7 July 2017.
  18. ^ "Aucklanders urged to watch out for 'fastest' locksmiths who leave trail of bad locks and big bills" – via TVNZ.
  19. ^ "MLAA's "Beware of Locksmith Scammers" Campaign - MLAA". 12 December 2017.
  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 "Bloomberg - Are you a robot?". www.businessweek.com.
  31. ^ "Five reasons why companies should be worried about click fraud".
  32. ^ Smith, Allan (11 October 2016). "3 Uncommon Scams Anyone Could Fall Prey To".
  33. ^ a b c d Siciliano, Robert (2 January 2014). "12 Ways to avoid Locksmith scams".
  34. ^ a b ""I Fell For The Locksmith Scam"". 31 October 2008.
  35. ^ a b c d Greenbaum, Dave. "Know the Warning Signs of a Locksmith Scamming You".
  36. ^ a b Gardella, Adriana. "A Business Owner Blames Search Engines for Lost Sales".
  37. ^ "Google Maps' spam problem presents genuine security issues / Boing Boing". boingboing.net.
  38. ^ Mariam, web team. "BBC - Watchdog: Reoffending rogue finally under lock and key..."
  39. ^ "Locksmith Sues Google, Others Claiming Spam Local Listings Illegal - Marketing Land". 27 October 2014.
  40. ^ "Virginia Business Owner Sues Google, Others for $8.4 million".
  41. ^ "Locksmiths try again to sue Google over fake local listings - Marketing Land". 3 March 2017.
  42. ^ "Google Fights Fraud by Cracking Down on Plumbers and Locksmiths - Search Engine Journal". 4 October 2016.
  43. ^ "Google cracks down on dodgy tech support ads".
  44. ^ Tung, Liam. "Google to tech-support scammers: We're about to get even tougher on your ads - ZDNet".
  45. ^ "Advanced Verification policies - Google Ads Help". support.google.com.