Your Money ; Scam Alert
; Save a Buck
Make sure Mr. Fix-It is not Mr. Fake-It
Locked Out of Luck By Sid Kirchheimer
they often have toll-free phone num-
bers. “The overwhelming majority of
locksmiths with an 800 phone num-
ber are not legitimate,” says Hancock.
Typically, you’re connected to a call
center. You may be quoted a price as
low as $15 and assured that a lock-
smith is en route. In reality, the pro
arrives in a van with no fixed address
and a scam in mind.
“The fraudsters usually say they
can’t open the door and need to drill
or break off the lock and install a re-
placement,” says Hancock. The work
is faulty plus expensive—often $1,000
or more, and demanded in cash.
Here are some tips to help you pro-
tect yourself—and your door:
; First, find a reputable locksmith
before you need one. Get references
from friends and neighbors, the Bet-
ter Business Bureau or at aloa.org.
Log the details into your cellphone.
; Avoid any firm that answers the
phone with a generic phrase such
as “locksmith services” rather than
with a specific company name.
; Be wary of locksmiths who arrive in un-
marked cars or vans. Legitimate locksmiths
usually have a van with the company name.
; Ask for an ID with name and address.
(ALOA members carry a membership card
and can be vetted at 214-819-9733.) Only 14
states (and some cities) require that on all
service calls locksmiths carry proof that they are
licensed. Licensing states are Alabama, California,
Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada,
New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon,
Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. (Maryland has ad-
opted, but not yet implemented, licensing.)
; Get a written estimate on company letterhead,
with mileage charges, minimums and other fees,
before work begins. Get a receipt after you pay.
; If you’re told the lock has to be drilled and replaced,
find another locksmith. Experienced and legitimate
locksmiths can unlock almost any door. ;
Outdoors Day on
June 9 and enjoy
at more than 100
national parks—including Grand
Canyon, Yosemite and Yellow-
stone. To learn about other free
entrance days in 2012, go to
.htm. —Sid Kirchheimer
; Free Park Days
Each day, up to 250,000 Americans make emer- gency calls to locksmiths.
And judging by the Yellow Pages
or an online search, there’s plenty
of help nearby. For instance, in
Silver Spring, Md., the telephone
directory lists five locksmiths on
the same street. In reality, those addresses are for a
dry cleaner and four restaurants.
A few states away, within a 3-mile radius of my
home, 12 locksmiths are listed online. The addresses
include a school, supermarket, bank, two pizzerias
and a clump of trees (that address doesn’t exist).
Only one is for an actual locksmith; the others may
be scammers waiting to get your call.
The prevalence of fraudulent locksmiths is “a scam
that is only growing,” says Jim Hancock of the Asso-
ciated Locksmiths of America (ALOA), whose 6,000
members must pass background checks.
Besides the thousands of honest pros (who gener-
ally charge about $100 to pick a lock), there are many
more rip-off artists. In addition to phony addresses,
Stretch your sav-
ings this month
deals. Find buys
on tools, suits and
shirts for Father’s
Day, and on dishware for wedding sea-
son. It’s also an ideal month to negoti-
ate a deal at a health club. Check out
sales on summer food favorites like
ice cream, tea and soda; milk, cheese
and butter (it’s National Dairy Month);
seasonal fruit like berries and peaches;
and late-month deals on hamburgers
and other July 4th fare. —SK
; June Buys
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your
Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.
Tallahassee, Fla., for example,
provided a free energy audit for
a 1,900-square-foot home and
found a problem with insulation.
The city paid $400 of the $500
cost of new insulation. Not a bad
deal. You could save too. Check
your city’s website or DSIRE
( dsireusa.org), a database of in-
centives by state. —Patti Shea
; On the House
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: DANIEL BEJAR; TIM MCGUIRE/CORBIS; FOODIE PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES; GETTY IMAGES