KANSAS CITY, Mo. — We’ve all been there: Stuck outside because our keys are locked inside, forced to call a locksmith for help.
That’s what happened to Joshua Peters, and now he’s warning others not to make the same mistake.
Peters had gone for a walk with his wife and newborn, found himself locked out, and searched for a locksmith on his phone.
The first one he called promised reasonable prices starting at $19.95, so Peters used them. The locksmith arrived 15 minutes later, and Peters immediately asked the locksmith how much the job would cost.
He said the locksmith told him $208, but before he could break into Peters’ home, the locksmith needed Peters to sign a blank screen on his phone that he said gave him permission to enter.
“He showed me his phone, which was just a white screen with a signature line, and so I signed the line,” said Peters, who now regrets having ever done that.
After the locksmith unlocked the door, Peters paid him by debit card and asked for a receipt. The locksmith promised he would receive one in a few minutes by email and then hopped in his car and drove away.
When that receipt arrived, it wasn’t for $208, but $340. According to the bill, Peters was charged $19.99 for the service call, $189 for the house lockout, another $74 in labor and $56.80 as a processing fee.
Peters called the locksmith company just minutes after receiving the bill, but the person answering the phone denied ever having sent someone to his home.
“They answered the phone, ‘locksmith,’” Peters said.
“I said, ‘what company is this?’ because I was trying to find out the website and all the details and she just said, ‘locksmith.’”
“Ok, what company?’ ‘Locksmith,’” Peters recounted.
Peters tracked down the company’s name via some internet sleuthing and his bank debit card statement, filed a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, accusing the locksmith of fraud. The locksmith company responded by accusing Peters of lying and smearing its good name.
That would be the name that Peters said the locksmith company refused to give him.
According to documents from the attorney general’s office, the locksmith company goes by the names “Rocket Locksmith” and “24/7 Locksmiths.” The Missouri attorney general said he couldn’t help Peters get his money back because the locksmith company had produced a signed document that it said proved Peters had agreed to the price.
“That’s not really fair. I didn’t agree to that,” a clearly frustrated Peters said he tried to explain to the attorney general. “That’s the fraud part I’m going after.”
Peters also tried disputing the charge with his bank but lost that dispute because (again) of the document he had supposedly signed. That’s when Peters called FOX4 Problem Solvers, wanting to warn others.
He’s not the only one complaining. We found dozens of complaints online about 24/7 Locksmiths, a dispatch service that appears to be based in Florida and connects people with locksmiths all over the United States.
Mark Stewart of Overland Lock and Key in Overland Park knows all about 24/7 Locksmiths.
“Really low service call price and won’t give you a fixed price,” said Stewart, citing the complaints he has heard from customers.
Stewart said the first warning flag customers should watch for is the low service call price of $19.95
“No legitimate locksmith is going to come out for that,” said Stewart.
He said most locksmiths charge around $60 to come out, but that often includes the service charge, particularly for a car lockout. He said a house lockout would usually cost no more than $100, not the $340 Peters paid.
“The problem with that is most people lock themselves out once or twice in their life so they don’t know what a reasonable price should be,” said Stewart.
Plus, Stewart said neither he nor most locksmiths ask customers to first sign something before they unlock a home or car.
Here’s how easy it is to call 24/7 Locksmiths by mistake – even if you meant to call a different locksmith.
If you Google the name of Stewart’s business, Overland Lock and Key, one of the entries that pops up is the 24/7 Locksmiths’ website with the name of Overland Lock and Key embedded into it.
There’s also a green “Call now” button. If you click on it, it connects you to 24/7 Locksmiths, not Overland Lock and Key.
We know this because we clicked on it. The person on the other end answered “Locksmith.” We asked him if we were calling Overland Lock and Key. “Yes ma’am,” he replied.
We told him that was odd because we were standing next to the owner and only employee of Overland Lock and Key at that very moment. So, how could he possibly be Overland Lock and Key?
He hung up.
How do you protect yourself when hiring a locksmith? Find a locksmith you trust and put that number into your phone. That way, if you ever get locked out, you don’t have to Google for help.