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“PSA: Locksmith Scam! quick update, what actually happened was even stranger”

“Dear PoPville,

I just wanted to share a scam that I unfortunately fell victim to this morning. I locked myself out of my house. I had a Nest lock that I was able to unlock, but we also had a regular entry door lock in the doorknob, for which I’d accidentally left the keys inside.

I called a company, which had great google reviews. With that service, you call dispatch, and they send a technician out. The locksmith arrived, and began working. She spent about one minute trying to pick the lock, then before I knew what she was doing, she pulled out a drill and completely destroyed the lock. She claimed it was necessary, and then offered to sell me a new one for $125 (the same lock costs $20 on Amazon). This was on top of the $250 she’d already charged for the service.

This all seemed wrong, since it was a regular door lock, no deadbolt, no damage. I started to look online and it turns out this is a named and recognized scam. It is almost never necessary to drill out a regular lock, unless a key has been broken in it. A reputable locksmith will also look for alternatives to drilling, including inquiring about other entry doors that they might be able to pick if the first one doesn’t work. This locksmith spent ten minutes total at my house; I’d estimate she “tried” alternatives for 1 minute before pulling out the drill, which I have documented on my Nest cam footage. So either she’s incredibly unskilled as a locksmith, or else she was really hoping to get me on the hook for a lock replacement.

On top of all of that, I called the company back to ask to speak with a manager about the issue. They immediately told the locksmith who was just at my house that I’d called to complain! She phone and text-bombed me for several minutes asking why I’d complained. I don’t know why a company would share that information with someone who has my address and knows my entry lock is compromised. But it made me feel pretty unsafe.

Just wanted to let others know, in they event they are locked out, to avoid this scam. The websites I’ve looked at that report on the scam say to only call locksmiths who have local numbers (not 800 numbers), and to let them know you expect them not to destroy the lock if you think it’s unlikely to be necessary, so they are aware you know about the scam.

I thought other readers would want to know!

I wanted to send a quick update, since I learned the company wasn’t responsible for the issue that I experienced, but what actually happened was even stranger. The plot definitely thickened since my first email.

I didn’t hear back from a manager after three attempts to reach someone. So I posted a negative review online. Immediately I started getting calls and texts from the woman and from another number. The man I spoke with very urgently wanted me to remove the review. He offered to Venmo me the $250 back. After I received it, I took down the review.

Tonight I got a call from the company that I called this morning, and for whom I left the negative review. I guess it was up long enough for her to see it. It turns out that they recently contracted a call center. The call center had sent me to a different company than theirs. Most likely the people who came to my house were paying off the call center to route calls that should have gone to the other company to them. This is why dispatch called the scammer directly to say that I’d complained instead of forwarding my call to a manager, and why they were so upset that I’d left a bad review for the wrong company (the one they were filching business from).

The man I had spoken with earlier in the day (from the scam operation) mentioned something like “you know a lot of people don’t want to go Southeast DC” as a reason they’d sent her. I suspect the truth is that they thought they could take advantage of someone in Southeast DC. They probably have done so in the past. The number he called from is affiliated with a business called Park Heights Locksmith.

The woman I spoke with from the legitimate company said they are going to stop using the call center in October when the contract runs up. After that, it will be safe to call that company. In the meantime (and really anytime) the best advice is to never call a locksmith with an 800 number. Apparently this type of thing is on the rise.”

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