Phony locksmiths who populate the top of Google search results pages are ripping people off with outrageous bait-and-switch pricing.

Picture this: You lock yourself out of your car. You misplace the keys for your home or apartment. Or a key breaks off in a lock at your business. What do you do? You reach for your smart phone and just do a Google search for a locksmith.

"Any job $20. Guaranteed arrival in 20 minutes or less." Sounds great, right? Wrong!

My senior producer Kim was in need of a locksmith recently and almost fell for one of these cons. She found a listing on her smart phone that had the above pitch. When the guy showed up, two hours later, he wanted to charge her $350!

In another example I read about, a small job involving seven locks at a place of business mysteriously morphed into an $1,800 job!

And then there's what happened to my daughter recently. When she locked herself out, she went to her smartphone and loaded up her Yelp app. Unfortunately, she clicked on an ad rather than Yelp's own reviews and got a scary guy who gouged her for 4 times the price. And if she didn't pay, he implied that he knew where she lived and there would be trouble!

These people are just cons. If you are in an emergency situation, go to Yelp and look for locksmiths with multiple reviews; just don't click on the ads!

If you're a business, it's even better to develop a relationship with a locksmith you know and trust before you're in a desperate situation. I've been with the same locksmith for at least a couple decades now.

Just know that you're not going to get somebody to show up in 20 minutes and do the job for $20!

Here are a few additional tips from the Better Business Bureau to help you weed out the scams:

  • If you call a number and all they say is "locksmith" but no official name -- that could indicate you're dealing with a sketchy player.
  • Get a complete iron clad quote over the phone. Have it sent to you by text message so there's no question later.
  • Ask for identification from any individual who comes purporting to represent a particular locksmith.

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. View More Articles

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