WRAL Investigates

State to investigate locksmith scheme

Posted April 27, 2009

— The North Carolina Attorney General's Office on Monday launched an investigation into a bogus locksmith operation recently exposed by WRAL News.

The hidden-camera investigation showed the deceptive sales tactics used by the nationwide operation, from phony Internet ads designed to divert customers from legitimate businesses to out-of-state call centers promising low service fees to desperate people locked out of their homes.

WRAL Investigates deceptive locksmiths Phony locksmiths prompt consumer complaints

Once the operation dispatches its crews posing as locksmiths, however, the price for the service quickly escalates, the WRAL News investigation showed.

"It's offensive when you see someone who wants to take advantage of someone else, particularly when they're in a vulnerable position," Attorney General Roy Cooper said. "We will do an investigation."

A number of victims of the scheme have responded to the investigation and have filed complaints with the Consumer Protection Division in Cooper's office.

Jamie Gilbert, who lives in the Brier Creek neighborhood in northwest Raleigh, said she had an angry flashback when she saw the hidden-camera investigation last week.

"It was the same guy, and it freaked me out. I was like, 'Oh my gosh,'" said Gilbert, a student and single mother.

Days earlier, she had called the same operation when she was locked out of her apartment. The initial $35 service fee she was quoted jumped into the hundreds as the man drilled out her locks.

"I asked him how much it was. He told me it was $300, and I almost had a heart attack," she said. "I pretty much had a mini-breakdown because of it, because I just couldn't get it off my mind. Then, I saw the special (report). I just felt really violated."

Gilbert said she stopped payment on her check – the man initially demanded cash, but she was able to get him to accept a check – and changed the locks on her door.

Cooper said such complaints filed with the state will be key to the building a case against the operation.

"We want to shut down this type of operation," he said.

He urged consumers to ask to see a North Carolina locksmith license, which is required by law. They also should ask for references, double-check the company's office address and watch out for locksmiths who arrived in unmarked vehicles or without uniforms, he said.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • JustOneGodLessThanU Apr 28, 2009

    These guys are deceptive. Just listen to their operator.

    "Yes, ma'am. It's $35...just for me answering the phone, that is. We'll send some guys around to pickup the cash. They're in an unmarked van and are wearing black ski masks."

  • WHEEL Apr 28, 2009

    So Cooper is finally going to do his job when there is some publicity going. Same thing should apply with escheats. WRAL can find the proper owners of "lost money" by the dozens but Cooper's office can't because he wants to keep it! Typical State Government.

  • jse830fcnawa030klgmvnnaw+ Apr 28, 2009

    shakenbake68, not in my opinion. AAA membership is the way to go. (http://www.aaacarolinas.com/Membership/lockout.htm)

    $50 is more reasonable for car to get a locksmith. RV and large vehicles may be more.

  • shakenbake68 Apr 28, 2009

    question: is $100 reasonable to open a locked car?

  • james27613 Apr 27, 2009

    these guys are slick, one talks while the young guy drills.

    They drilled out the deadbolt in the ladies home when it was
    not necessary! you can't lock yourself out of the house and
    throw the deadbolt at the same time unless you got a key.

    would have been an easy entry to go in via a window,
    these window locks are a joke.

    they should have another sting but have raleigh PD
    on site to arrest these men.

  • djcgriffin Apr 27, 2009

    I guess enough people were scammed so that the AG would look into it. Those ppl could be long gone. ugh.

  • superman Apr 27, 2009

    It is very important to know just when she got the price quote. If it was 35.00 on the phone. Perhaps she should have asked him how much it would be before he started working and not after he had finished. You should always have a very clear understanding of price before the work is initiated. Nothing wrong with a person charging whatever they think their work is worth. It is up to the consumer to know how to avoid these pitfalls. When he put his tools down on the porch-- first question-- just how much is this going to be? Lock the repairman into a price. After the work is completed it is just too late!