KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Zach Wilcox said he was trained to never unlock a customer’s car door for less than $250, nearly three times the normal rate charged by locksmiths.
Wilcox is speaking out to warn others about a local locksmith company that he believes is taking advantage of customers.
He contacted FOX4 Problem Solvers after we aired several stories about multiple locksmith companies operating in the metro who are dramatically overcharging customers.
He said the locksmith company he worked for was raking in the dough.
“I did about $131,000 in sales in nine months,” said Wilcox who was one of about 10 locksmiths working for the company.
He said the prices the company charged came as a sticker shock to customers who he said had often been promised over the phone that the job (unlocking car door) would most likely cost no more than $80.
“They tell you they won’t be able to give you an exact quote until they get there and that’s when you should immediately know that this is a scam,” Wilcox said.
He said he only got a small fraction of the money he collected. He said he was paid by a cash app and was never told the actual name of the company he was working for.
Wilcox said the company, which had Israeli connections, advertised on Google by buying dozens of ads, often using different names in each one, but all linked to the same dispatch service.
He said when he met customers he was taught to say that he was an employee of whichever locksmith company they thought they had called, including Jerry’s locksmith, McGuire Lock and Safe and Gregg’s Lock and Key.
Wilcox said one of the principals of the company he was working for was a man named Ron Malka. According to business listings filed with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, Ron Malka is the registered agent of a company called “Locksmith Near Me.”
The state filing lists an address as a newly built home near the Plaza in Kansas City, so Problem Solvers paid a visit. We met a man about to pull into the garage. Inside of the garage was a van marked “Locksmith Near Me.”
Based on photos we’ve seen, the man about to pull in was definitely not Malka. He, however, agreed to call Malka and let him know we were standing outside. He told us that Malka was not at home. As he told us that, the garage door started to close. The man got back inside his vehicle, apparently no longer interested in going inside the garage, and drove away.
Later that night, Malka called us and even promised to talk to us in person about allegations made by not only Wilcox, but another former employee, both accusing him of overcharging and misleading customers.
But Malka didn’t keep that promise. Instead, we heard from his attorney who insisted Malka runs an honest business, and upset customers that we’ve featured in the past on FOX4 were not customers of his locksmith company. He also said that any former employee talking to us was just trying to smear Malka’s good name.
Meanwhile, complaints about locksmiths keep rolling in.
“I think it’s just pathetic,” said Larry McKinney who hired what he thought was a local locksmith that he found online: Blue Springs Locksmith & Key.
The locksmith rekeyed three of his locks, including a dead bolt, charging him more than $400 – nearly four times the going rate.
Even worse, the very next day, the newly rekeyed dead bolt fell out of the door when someone tried to use it.
“I called them back and said can you come and fix this lock?. They said we will have to get our supervisor to do it,” McKinney never heard from anyone again.
There is no Blue Springs Lock & Key listed with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office.
So Problem Solvers tried to pay a visit to the office Blue Springs Lock & Key had listed online near downtown Blue Springs. That’s when we discovered the address actually tracked to a realty company, not a locksmith.
The owner of the realty company, who has been in that location for 16 years, said she has repeatedly tried to reach someone Blue Springs Lock & Key to get them to take down her address. But has had no success.
Those who have worked for unscrupulous locksmiths or hired them want them to be stopped. They’ve even contacted the Missouri Attorney General’s Office but so far no one except FOX4 Problem Solvers is listening.
If you believe you’ve been taken advantage of by a locksmith, file a complaint with the Missouri AG’s office and dispute the charge with your bank or your credit card company. Meanwhile, keep the name of a legitimate locksmith on your phone, whatever you do, don’t just Google one.