MISSION, Kan. — It was the middle of a weekday afternoon when Linda Collier locked her keys in her car. Luckily (or so she thought) she had a cell phone with her and Googled for a locksmith.
“As soon as he got there, he said, ‘Don’t worry. I’m going to take care of everything,’” 68-year-old Collier said.
But what the locksmith did next surprised her. After quickly unlocking her door, he said he would need to make her a new key.
“I thought, ‘Why?’” Collier said, admitting she was too intimidated by the locksmith to ask.
After making the key, the locksmith warned her before grabbing her debit card that “This is going to cost you a lot of money.” Even with that warning, the price was shocking — more than eight times what the service should have cost.
“He said $1,000,” Collier recalled. “I said I don’t have $1,000.”
That’s something the locksmith soon learned when he swiped her debit card. Collier said the locksmith then demanded to know whether she had a son or husband who could pay him. She didn’t.
Finally, he relented, telling her that because she reminded him of his grandmother, he would cut her a deal for $500.
“I thought if I remind him of his grandmother, he must have hated his grandmother,” Collier said.
The receipt he gave her had no identifying information: no address, no phone number. It simply said “locksmith service.”
Plus the key he made her only worked in her ignition. It won’t open her door.
What was just another day on the job for that locksmith was financially devastating to Collier, who relies on her Social Security check to cover the majority of her expenses.
Not knowing what to do, Collier called FOX4 Problem Solvers for help.
“I felt like you guys are concerned about people,” she said. “You are concerned about senior citizens and people that get ripped off. I felt like he took such advantage of me because I’m an older woman.”
FOX4 suggested she immediately report the debit card transaction to her bank’s fraud department. But the bank told her there was nothing it could do since she had signed a receipt to accept the charge.
Collier was one of more than a dozen people we’ve either met or heard from across the metro. They all have similar stories.
FOX4 has uncovered multiple locksmith scam operations in the Kansas City metro. They often use fake addresses as their supposed locations. They almost always provide receipts with no identifying information and constantly change their phone numbers.
Problem Solvers called the number Collier had dialed, but no one answered the phone and there was no message. Other locksmith scammers we have called will answer the phone by simply saying “locksmith.” That’s because they operate under multiple company names.
Many of the operations appear to be based in Missouri, but when victims have asked the Missouri Attorney General’s Office for help, they tell us they’ve never heard back.
Fortunately, Collier met her locksmith in Johnson County, Kansas, where the district attorney has a reputation for protecting consumers. Collier has reported the incident to the DA’s consumer fraud division and it’s looking into her case.