Victims all across the country being taken advantage of

Most of the time when you need a locksmith there isn't a lot of time to do research.  The 2NEWS Investigators found some people have turned this into a way to make a quick extra buck.

We've all been there.  You've locked yourself out of your house... now you need a locksmith.

U.S. Postal Inspector Dan Taylor says, "Over the phone they would be quoted a price of around $50 then after the locksmith showed up they would get a story about how they had a unique lock or more difficult..."

Once the owners were let back in...

"… they would be told the price would be several hundred dollars."

This price gouging scheme is common.  In this case, suspects created several companies in the same city and advertised in the yellow pages.

"For instance if there were 30 locksmiths in one area, they would make sure to have 15
mentioned in those yellow pages - this insured the odds that one of the suspects companies
would be contacted."

Postal Inspectors started following up on hundreds of consumer complaints in dozens of different cities.

"Nationwide there were thousands of victims and by following the money… we found the
scammers made millions and millions of dollars."

How can you protect yourself?

"Anytime, you are quoted something - even in an emergency service or not - you want to get
that quote in writing. Because once that service is been done, you are vulnerable to price
gouging."

Another important piece of advice is to report the crime even if it doesn't feel like you lost a lot of money.

"Whether it is BBB, local police, postal inspectors.. Postal inspectors draw upon many different
sources in order to build cases to learn how many victims there are… However, if you don't report it - we have no way of knowing you are a victim in one of our cases."

Whenever you're in a desperate situation, beware of businesses taking advantage of you.  Even if you don't get an estimate in writing, talk price before the work begins.

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