BUSINESS

Locksmith businesses hijacking local addresses to turn major profit

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Locksmith businesses are hijacking addresses to pass themselves off as local businesses, but the price on the bill and the price you were quoted reveals a sizeable discrepancy.

Along Viers Mills in Wheaton, Maryland, there are nearly two dozen addresses attached to locksmith shops. But it is by no means locksmith alley.

There are plenty of businesses along the road, but their addresses were all hijacked by locksmiths who list themselves in the phone book and online as local.

“There's no other address for aggrieved consumers to try and reach these people, only here,” said Betty Tracey, whose home is one of the addresses listed.

She got concerned after people showed up at her door and complaint letters from the Better Business Bureau started coming in the mail—all addressed to three different locksmiths all using her home address.

Tracey said that she has nothing to tell those complaining, other than “Stop using my address, its fraudulent, its false advertising.”

Edward Johnson from the Better Business Bureau believes the “local” phone numbers the locksmiths use actually go to a call center in New York.

“They are trying to appear local, if you are consumer looking for a locksmith you are more likely to trust someone local,” Johnson said.

His office saw locksmith complaints jump 25 percent in 2011.

“The complaints where they get a very low and reasonable quote over the phone, when the locksmith shows up, they are significantly over-charged for labor and materials,” Johnson said.

It happened to Patty Murphy when she needed a lock changed at her D.C. home.

“The lock was $565 and the labor was $200. The total came to $798” for a new lock, Murphy said.

When trying to find that “local” locksmith, the address is attached to a PO Box.

In Wheaton, ABC7 did manage to find one real local locksmith, but not at any of the addresses listed on Viers Mill Road.

Edmond Smoot's been working in the area for 32 years and says this locksmith scam is a major problem.

“They are hurting the industry, not just my business, but the whole industry is hurting by this,” Smoot said.

The Better Business Bureau says that consumers should find a locksmith before they need one—talk to three or four, get references, and make sure they are legit.

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