The New York Times reports that sophisticated scams using thousands of fake Google listings, are conning thousands of customers and driving them away from legitimate local locksmiths. Called “lead gens” (lead generators), the con-artists use Google My Business to create listings that appear to be local locksmiths, but the “local” phone number is routed to a boiler-room call center—often out of state, sometimes in a different country. It is a classic bait-and-switch con that has quietly become an epidemic in America and is among the fastest-growing sources of consumer complaints, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
How the locksmith lead gen scam works
The potential victim is locked out of their car or home.
They search “locksmith” on Google.
Up pops a list of names, the most promising of which appear beneath the paid ads, in space reserved for local service companies.
The victim assumes Google’s algorithms have found the locksmiths who are local and have earned good customer reviews.
But the list includes locksmiths that are not locksmiths at all.
The victim calls what they think is a local locksmith, but the call is routed to a boiler-room call center in other city or even off-shore.
The call center quotes an estimated price in the range of $35-$90.
The scam operation keeps a group of poorly trained subcontractors on call.
Details are forwarded, usually via text, to one of those subcontractors.
Once the subcontractor is on site, they demand 3–4 times the estimate, claiming the work was more complicated than expected.
Most consumers simply pay up, in part because they are eager to get into their homes or cars.
Customers, please make sure you get a exact quote over the phone before having the locksmith come out. A real locksmith will be able to give you a flat rate over the phone to unlock your home or car or even re-key your home. If not then hang up! These are some of the most basic locksmith services provided and can be quoted exact prices over the phone. Also be aware of unmarked vehicles, a real locksmith will have some kind of logo or business name on the van and will often hand you a business card and a receipt with a business name. Thank you for reading and do your research before you hire just any tradesman service.
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