"I'm Locked Out of My Car. Now What?"
There may come a time when you find yourself locked out of your car. The most likely scenario is that you left the keys in the ignition, or locked them in the trunk while you were grabbing the groceries or sports equipment.
There are very industries so sadly rife with scam artists as the locksmith profession. The problem is that if you look up in the phone book (or on the internet) to find a locksmith, nine times out of ten, you’re going to hit a fake. They always pop up at the top of the search engine, and offer a fake $19 service call or something equally cheap. These guys are organized in virtually every major city in the U.S.
In order to save you some grief and heartache above and beyond already being locked out of your car (and we assume your wallet and phone are in it), we’re going to give you some tips to keep you from being scammed during a lockout:
A typical scam works something like this:
When you call the locksmith, listen to how they answer the phone. Generally speaking, a dispatcher will answer, “Locksmith,” without offering the name of the company. The dispatcher won’t be able to offer you a firm quote. One thing is for certain: with an address, along with the make, model, and year of the car, any reputable locksmith will be able to offer you an ironclad price over the phone.
If you agree to wait for a price, the ‘locksmith’ arrives, and the high pressure tactics begin. First, he will tell you that you have a special kind of lock that can’t be accessed by ordinary means, and he’s going to have to charge you extra because he’s going to have to drill it. (Side note: If you have that kind of lock, you spent a lot of money on it and will know that’s what you have.) If you actually agree to it, he will then tell you he can only accept cash because his credit card machine is broken. Even if you don’t have the cash, he will further his agenda by telling you he can follow you to an ATM machine after he drills your car open.
You are hot (or cold), tired, hungry, angry at yourself (or embarrassed), and locked out of your car. It’s probably dark, and your mom who has your spare key isn’t answering her phone. Scam locksmiths know they have you at a disadvantage, because their business isn’t locksmithing--it’s preying on people in a vulnerable situation.
If you don’t agree to allow him to drill out your lock, some of these clowns will demand a service call fee and actually threaten to call the police or take you to court. But, changing your mind isn’t illegal.
Your best recourse when you’re locked out of your car without an alternative means to get in is to find a locksmith with a good reputation. Here are some ways:
1) Know your locksmith before you need him. Know his name and his face. Keep his number in your phone. If you’re in a strange city and need to use a locksmith, check out reviews for the business and make sure that he doesn’t have complaints which claim he overinflated a price after the fact or did anything else which might be construed as shady. Check his car or truck to make sure the business name is on it.
2) Look up the locksmith’s address online to make sure it isn’t a false storefront operation. The business should be listed there. If he says he operates out of his home, that is credible, since many do, but his name should show up on the address.
3) Verify the legal name of his business and if he won’t tell you or hesitates, call someone else, instead.
4) Ask a price estimate when you call (including ALL possible exceptions such as mileage, night price, or any other mitigating factors) and then verify that quote again when the locksmith arrives.
5) Have a written estimate in your hand before he performs any work. If the price changes when he arrives, send him away.
6) He should give you an itemized receipt. If he doesn’t give you one, ask for it.
Beware of the locksmith who doesn’t ask for your I.D. He is trained to make sure you have the authority to ask him do the work. If your wallet is locked in the car, he is required to check it or call the authorities if you aren’t who you say you are.
Want to waste the next 60 seconds of your life preparing for the eventuality that this could happen? Add the name of a quality locksmith with a good reputation who specializes in 24-hour emergency lockout service in your area to your phone contacts.
One such local locksmith service, Kwik Pick Lock and Safe (623-300-1889) not only specializes in emergency lockouts, but will come to a lockout free if there is a child or pet locked in the vehicle.
Few things are more frustrating than being lock out of your own car. Make a plan in case that happens.