KNOXVILLE (WATE) – There are reports of fake locksmiths in East Tennessee who advertise online. An unlicensed locksmith may end up picking your pocket.
Imagine you are locked out of your car, you pull out your phone and type “locksmith” into Google. A list of names pops up, the most promising of which appear beneath the paid ads in the space reserved for local service companies. It says the price to pop your lock is $20, but when your car is unlocked, the real cost soars to $120 or more.
It’s a classic bait-and-switch tactic, and it’s among the fastest growing sources of consumer complaints, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
Everyone has locks for their home, car, truck, boat and more. A locksmith has to licensed and follow other rules. With their expertise, they can get into just about anyone’s home or car, so the state wants them registered.
“If they are operating legally in Tennessee, they are required by law to have a license. They have to have a license,” said licensed locksmith Keith Kors.
To get that license, you must go through and pass a background check The license is to be either worn by the locksmith or be visible.
“If they don’t have it, can’t provide it, or left it at home, I wouldn’t let them do that work,” said Kors.
When you go online looking for a locksmith, Kors said certain pieces of information are important to see on the site and check out.
“Right up in here is our license number here,” he said, pointing to his company’s website. “You have to have that. License number up at the top as well. We have our address, right here, phone number. Photos of us, showing who we are show up.”
Kors said he’s received calls recently from potential customers asking if he’s offering a $19 deal.
“It’s a very similar name to ours. For example, Oak Ridge local locksmith.That is not us,” he said.
To show us how easy it is for a locksmith to do business, he clicked on the site of that $19 ad. Building D at 9111 Cross Park Drive in Knoxville is the location of that locksmith. The address is about two blocks from Cedar Bluff Road. It’s a big building filled with lawyers, tax consultants and human resource offices. However, the listing of businesses shows no locksmith office.
The rental manager at the building said no one from either Locksmith Knoxville or Knox Locksmith has ever rented space in Building D, Suite 200, When WATE 6 On Your Side called the number on the locksmith’s website, they said they don’t have a store front. They’re just technicians driving around. Kors says using made up addresses is not unusual.
“I’ve actually had a customer call us saying they were trying to find us from an ad where they thought they were contacting us. But, they found the Shell gas station up the road,” Kors said.
The vehicle a locksmith uses should also be clearly marked with phone numbers, address and locksmith license numbers.
“If they’re showing up in a plain vehicle, they’re not doing what they are supposed to be doing. If they don’t have a marked vehicle and a license, you want to ask them to leave,” Kors said.
The key to your safety is knowing who you are hiring when calling a locksmith.
The state licensing board found no locksmith under the names of Locksmith Knoxville or Knox Locksmith. In an effort to decrease the amount of locksmith fraud crimes, Tennessee has a very restrictive set of rules. The Tennessee Code Annotated law states: “No person who is not licensed under this act, shall possess, use, sell, or offer to sell any code book, lock picking tool, manipulation key, try-out key, safe opening tool, or car opening tool.” The law makes Tennessee the most restrictive state in regards to lock pick ownership.
It’s a good idea to put the name of a licensed locksmith in your smartphone or at least know where to find the information in case of an emergency.