Waging war on shady locksmiths

John Kelly, columnist for the Washington Post, writes that Mark Baldino of Baldino's Lock & Key is spearheading an effort to get search engines to remove questionable locksmith listings.

Since 2004 we have seen the internet used by questionable companies, including locksmiths, to fool consumers. They are gaming the search engines with incorrect information and posting their own rave reviews. This causes thousands of listings to pop up on searches, many with business locations that do not exist. Phone calls are switched to call centers in various states. In many cases, consumers think they are contacting a local company. When they receive poor service or feel they are over-charged, trying to physically find the company becomes a problem.

Real locksmiths are trying to convince the search engines to clean up their listings and provide quality search information to their users. Mark Baldino, the locksmith in the Washington Post story is making some headway.

In the meantime, Buyer Beware. Illinois requires all locksmiths to be licensed. Ask questions to identify the locksmith. Write down the name, address, phone and license number. Ask for the complete price and confirm that price in writing before allowing the locksmith to do any work. If you think you are being scammed, don't be afraid to call the police. The Il. Attorney General and the Il. Dept. of Professional Regulation have prosecuted scammers claiming to be locksmiths.

You should never, ever be asked to go to a cash machine with the locksmith. Real locksmiths take credit cards. If you have a problem, you can call the credit card company to reverse the charge (not on debit cards).

This is a growing problem and will probably move into other service industries. Consumers with an emergency situation are less likely to question or shop around. That is why the locksmith industry was a logical place for the scammers to start their deceptive practices. I've heard they have branched out into carpet cleaning, housekeeping, furnace and duct cleaning. Buyers Beware!