HOUSTON—Have you ever locked yourself out of your home or car? It's a nightmare no one wants to deal with. What's worse is if the person you hire to help, scams you.
The Houston Better Business Bureau says it is seeing a rise in complaints for bad locksmiths in the area.
Ericka Lucas thought it would be easy to have a few locks changed. She looked for a locksmith using her iPhone. What she says she ended up with was two ruined locks, shoddy work and an $800 bill.
"There's something wrong with this, there's definitely something wrong with this picture," she told us. "He brought in, without asking, this other gentleman and a female with him. The guy was pretty scary looking."
Lucas later found the locks could have simply been re-keyed. Several locksmiths told me the going rate in Houston for that is around $45 a lock.
What's more, she says the company ruined her grandmother's dining room table passed down to her. One of the guys also asked her out to dinner afterward.
If you feel uncomfortable with a locksmith, the Houston Better Business Bureau says don't be afraid to tell them to leave.
"If you feel like you're being bullied in any way, or you just don't have a good feeling about the locksmith you are working with, you can always decline the service and call someone else," said Monica Russo with the Houston BBB.
The state requires locksmiths to have a license with the Texas Department of Public Safety. Demand to see it. Locksmiths have to go through background checks to get the TxDPS license. CHECK A LICENSE HERE
To avoid a hassle:
- Shop around and compare prices
- Get an invoice before work starts
- Pay by credit card (this helps to dispute charges if you feel ripped off)
- Required cash payments should raise a flag with consumers
So how can you avoid trouble in the first place? Research and find a good locksmith before you ever need one.
"I think what a lot of people get themselves into, is a situation where they're looking for a locksmith right then and there," Russo said. "They don't have a lot of time to do research or do a background check on a company they plan on using."