Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Locksmith
If you find yourself locked out and looking for a locksmith, think twice before you call one. Locksmiths are not regulated by the state, and if you pick the wrong one you could be robbed, over-charged or pay twice to have the job done right. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- It could happen to anyone locked out and out of luck.
Marco Evans: "We came outside to have a glass of wine and a drink by the pool and locked ourselves out."
It was an awkward way to meet the neighbors.
Marco Evans: "In a bathing suit and towel."
Carmel: "'Hi, I'm the new neighbor.'"
Marco Evans: "Right, exactly."
Marco used his neighbor's phone and called a company he found in the Yellow Pages, but things didn't get better when the locksmith got there.
Marco Evans: "He didn't know the lock system that we put in. I believe it's one of the better locks that makes it difficult to pick, so we got stuck with a big bill."
It cost him $300 because the locksmith had to drill the lock instead of picking it open. That ruins a lock, and drilling instead of picking has been going on for years.
Judy and Alan Lissy got hit with a $799 bill when they were locked out in 2006.
Alan Lissy: "He said that he had to drill it out instead of picking it."
Judy Lissy: "He had to take the lock out.
Master locksmith Richard Dragin says drilling a lock instead of taking the time to pick it is common among people who are not well trained.
Richard Dragin: "That's one of the hallmarks of a bogus locksmith."
Seven News first exposed problems with locksmiths last year.
Carmel Cafiero: "I'm standing at the intersection in Downtown Fort Lauderdale where five different companies claim to be located and not one of them is really here."
Back then, we showed you how big companies from out of state are pretending to be local locksmiths, and that's still going on today. In part, due to the lack of regulation.
Senator Victor Crist: "If you want to be a locksmith in Florida today, all you have to do is call yourself one."
And it's costing a lot of people a lot of money.
Fred Burton: "You don't know if they are going to make a key and sell the key to somebody. You come home from work one day and everything is gone."
Miami-Dade regulates locksmiths but Broward doesn't.
Carmel Cafiero: "As a result, people with criminal backgrounds can go into the locksmith business. In Broward, authorities caught a thief using his locksmith tools to break into homes."
Senator Victor Crist is sponsoring a bill which will require licensing and background checks for Florida locksmiths.
Senator Victor Crist: "This has been growing throughout the state of Florida, and what this bill would do is stop that."
But proposing a bill and passing a bill are two different things and there is no guarantee Crist can convince the legislature to approve the measure. Marco Evans and his wife are believers.
Marco Evans: "The goal was achieved of getting us back into the house, but at what price and at what cost? We're not happy."
In the meantime, the key to hiring the right company is checking for complaints with consumer agencies. Of course, that's easier said than done when you're Locked Out.