ALOA Weekly Newsletter included a couple of relevant articles and we've re-published them here
SAN ANTONIO -- The Better Business Bureau is warning people about scammers misleading people who are locked out of their home or car.
The BBB reports more than a thousand complaints nationally in 2013 against locksmith companies but say the number is most likely much higher. BBB is having a tough time tracking down these companies because often, the companies have fake addresses or switch you around to fake numbers.
One San Antonio woman, Jenifer Lash, spoke with Eye Witness News about how she was scammed in the summer last year. Jenifer Lash was locked out of her home one night and after she found a locksmith number online, she said the man quoted 60 to 80 dollars for the work. But when she was handed her bill, Lash said it was a huge shock.
"He had swiped it on one of those credit card machines, and when he handed the machine back to me to sign, I saw that the charge was for 185 dollars. So, they've already done the work. You're kind of stuck. And it was late at night, so there really wasn't a whole lot you could do at that point," said Lash.
Reputable companies like Access Key Service said scammers like the locksmith Lash contacted is giving other locksmiths a bad reputation.
"We've been around a long time. We have good people. That's what makes the place. We have fallen below the ranks of used car dealers," said Sam Tornabene, Access Key Service.
Tornabene said the scammers will even pull scare tactics to force people to cough up the money.
"Older people. They'll tell them they'll take them to jail if they don't pay," explained Tornabene.
But Access Key Service has a few tips. First, he recommends getting an estimate by calling around a few places.
"How much is this going to be period? Not how much is going to be to get there," said Tornabene.
If the locksmith shows up and ends up charging far more than the original estimate, Tornabene said do not pay.
"Don't pay. That's just the way it is. And you can call the police," said Tornabene.
Another tip to make sure a locksmith is legitimate, you can check the company's licensing online with the Texas Department of Public Safety. You can also ask the locksmith to show you a copy of their license.
Locksmith Sues Google in RICO Complaint
By RYAN ABBOTT
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) - Google lets hundreds of Virginia unlicensed locksmiths advertise on its search engine, undercutting and harming licensed locksmiths, a company claims in a federal RICO lawsuit.
Baldino's Lock & Key Service sued Google, SuperMedia Sales, Yellowbook, Ziplocal LP and the unlicensed locksmiths using their services, alleging false advertising and racketeering.
"Google can independently determine, online and automatically, that it is engaged in publishing the names of illegally operating locksmiths," the complaint states. "As of the filing of this suit, there are 150 licensed locksmiths in the State of Maryland, yet Google is publishing over 400 names of purported locksmiths with ostensible locations in Virginia."
Baldino's claims that Google won't cleanse itself of the unlicensed locksmiths because of the revenue it makes selling Google Adwords.
"Google is aiding and abetting a fraud by also providing an enhanced platform far beyond the three line-listing submitted, now allowing pictures, reviews, and map locations with pinpoints, creating a picture of legitimacy for an illegal and fraudulent listing," Baldino's claims.
It adds: "Google has its own policy and procedure statements, which it is violating by not ridding itself of the illegal locksmiths' listing and advertisements.
"Google's actions and those of the other defendants are damaging to the general public as well. Locksmiths are licensed because they are engaged in security activities and deal with people who are placing in them trust and confidence for providing security services to them and their families. By knowingly aiding and abetting fraudulent locksmiths, Google's and the other defendants' activities impair the security and financial well-being of members of the public who deal with said locksmiths."
The unlicensed John Doe locksmith defendants are also reaping the benefits from their relationship with Google and the other ad directories "by illegally poaching market share from licensed locksmiths by using fraudulent listings published by the search engines and directories, which the search engines and directories continue to publish knowing that these John Does are in violation of state criminal laws," the complaint states.
Baldino's claims the ad listings violate federal racketeering laws. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at trial. It also wants a court order forcing the companies to remove the listings.
Baldino's is represented by Andrew Bisulca of Woodbridge, Va