WRAL Investigates

Bogus locksmith operation barred from working in N.C.

Posted August 31, 2010

— A Superior Court judge on Tuesday fined a bogus locksmith operation more than $1.2 million and issued a permanent injunction to bar the operation from working in North Carolina.

The judgment comes 16 months after a WRAL News hidden-camera investigation exposed the 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.

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

Following the investigation, a number of victims of the scheme filed complaints with the Consumer Protection Division in the Attorney General's Office, prompting the state to sue 704 Locksmith Inc., NC Charlotte Locksmith Inc., Locksmith Service Inc. and two Charlotte residents believed to run the three companies.

Judge Robert Hobgood determined that the scheme violated the state's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and he ordered Tamir Avraham, 704 Locksmith and Locksmith Services to pay $395,000 each in civil penalties and Anna Konevsky to pay $60,000 in civil penalties.

Under state law, any civil penalties collected in the case will go to support the public schools.

Hobgood also banned the operation, which used several front names in the past, from "all locksmith-related activities" in North Carolina, including using call centers, online services and subcontractors.

“Nobody likes to be locked out, but it’s even worse if the company you call for help rips you off,” Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement. “Businesses that break the law and take advantage of consumers in their time of need have no business operating in North Carolina."

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

11 Comments

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  • Qwerty27807 Sep 1, 2:32 p.m.

    Why does it take 16 months from the WRAL report for this enforcement action to happen?

  • superman Sep 1, 1:58 p.m.

    Fines and forfitures are paid to the court. You suggesting the court is dishonest? State law says that all fines and fort. collected are given to the schools. It is easy to avoid even having to call a locksmith. Put an extra key somewhere for the car and do the same for your house. I have a car key hidden on the outside of my car, truck, and Jeep. Also have a complete set of house keys hidden outside my house. If you are smart and plan ahead you dont have to worry.

  • Ckimoo Sep 1, 1:05 p.m.

    The people who were ripped off have records of paying for things.

    A lot of these scams bully people. One way to avoid them is not to give in to the bullying tactics. When they ask for triple the amount quoted when its time to pay, tell them to go ahead and sue you!

    Too many people give in.

  • Tarheelfan13 Sep 1, 8:21 a.m.

    I agree that it is borderline ridiculous to think that all reputable locksmiths wear uniforms. Personally, if a locksmith is competent and fair, I don't care what he wears. Also, I agree with the poster who basically implied that the victims should be re compensated.

  • Tarheelfan13 Sep 1, 8:13 a.m.

    The news article stated: "Hobgood also banned the operation, which used several front names in the past, from "all locksmith-related activities" in North Carolina, including using call centers, online services and subcontractors."

    Sounds like there could be a potential federal issue here and one. (Especially if the call center is physically located in another state and the fact that telecommunications are regulated and controlled and under the authority and purview and jurisdiction of the FCC and not a state court). If it was me I would appeal to United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

  • awomnsptofview Sep 1, 8:08 a.m.

    The part about real lock smiths wear uniforms is so ridiculous its funny. I know two VERY reputable firms that are local and neither of them wear uniforms. Maybe if they go up on their standard rate of getting you into your locked car for around $50 to say $100, maybe they can buy uniforms...ROFL....THAT was funny

  • UPTOP Aug 31, 7:52 p.m.

    who's to say the money will reach the schools ?

  • protestthis Aug 31, 7:21 p.m.

    when do con artists keep customer records?

    I guess anyone could say they were ripped off for a couple hundred dollars - where do i sign up for that?

  • Baybee Doll Aug 31, 7:02 p.m.

    Funny, the atty general's office seems to want to help w/some matters but not others.

  • Ckimoo Aug 31, 4:48 p.m.

    Yes, I agree. Why should the school system get money that should go back to the people who were ripped off? It's like ripping them off twice! Once, by the con artist and again by the state.

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