Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Carmel on the Case: Locksmith
Locksmiths literally hold the key to our homes and vehicles and businesses, so it's important they can be trusted, but since Florida has no law regulating the industry, getting a good locksmith can be risky business. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- At some time, most of us have needed the services of a locksmith. Denise Jadd called what she thought was a local locksmith company to change one lock at her Tamarac home. She ended up fearing for her life.
Denise Jadd: "I thought he would try to kill me."
Denise found the locksmith by searching the Internet for a Tamarac company.
Denise Jadd: "They said it would be $39 for a service call and $21 per cylinder."
But after Avi Saroussi installed the new lock, instead of an $80 bill, Denise says, he told her she owed him more than $600. When she refused to pay, she says he became violent.
Denise Jadd: "As he was trying to spit at me as I was getting in the car, and then he started kicking my car and pounding his fists on my window to get me out."
Denise called police, and the 28-year-old was arrested and charged with criminal mischief. Police say he was not working for a local company but for a company in New Jersey.
Denise Jadd: "It was simply a 1-800 dispatch number. They probably do this all around the nation."
Seven News has received many complaints about out-of-town locksmiths pretending to be local. In 2007, we tried to track down a number of them.
Carmel Cafiero: "I'm standing at an intersection in Downtown Fort Lauderdale where five different companies claim to be located, and not one of them is really here."
The Better Business Bureau says locksmith complaints have gone up 158 percent nationwide between 2007 and 2008. Part of the problem, there is little regulation of the industry. Only 14 states have locksmith laws, and Florida is not one of them.
Carmel Cafiero: "Miami-Dade County does have a local law that requires locksmiths to register with the Consumer Services Department, but in Broward and other counties in the state there is no regulation."
Jack Rothberg owns Richard's Locksmith and Safes in Coral Springs.
Jack Rothberg: "I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about this."
He says, over the years, he's lost more than a $100,000 to bogus companies that pass themselves off as him on the Internet and in the phone book.
Jack Rothberg: "I've spent a lot of time and a lot of hours building up this business. It's hard having somebody come in and just steal it from you."
Rep. Ari Porth: "Apparently, when you do a Google search for the good Richard, you get the bad Richard."
State representative Ari Porth is co-sponsoring a bill, which would require all locksmiths to be licensed in Florida.
Rep Ari Porth: "We need to regulate this industry."
Meanwhile, there are some easy ways to determine if the locksmith you hire is legitimate.
Dave Young: "When the worker shows up at your home, you should check to make sure they're driving a van with a logo on it. If not, that should be a red flag. When they get out, if they're not wearing a uniform that matches the logo on the truck, that should be a red flag too."
Denise didn't know exactly what to look for when hiring her locksmith. She's learned the hard way.
Denise Jadd: "I have felt threatened, and I have to have the locks changed again."
Carmel Cafiero: "We got a hint of Saroussi's defense when we called his company. The customer service manager said Denise changed her mind and tried to hit the Locksmith with her car. The case is now pending in the Broward County court system."
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