Locksmith Scams And How To Avoid Them

By Bernhard Mehl
May 29, 2018

So, you stepped out of the apartment at 7AM to grab the paper and the door slammed shut behind you. Immediately you realize you don’t have your keys – you’re just thankful you decided to put on pants before making your quick excursion to the hallway! But then it hits you, what now? If you’re anything like me, I’m dreading the idea of dealing with a locksmith more than I’m dreading my neighbor walking out on his way to work and finding me in my PJs.

Locksmiths normally fall into the same category as Used Car Salesmen, Moving Companies, and (for me personally) Dentists – all people you would rather never need to talk to, a necessary evil. Sorry if you are one, I don’t mean to offend! Anyway, you’ve probably heard locksmith horror stories: a locksmith shows up, gives you a quote, does the job, and then jacks up the price at the end!

However, fear not. You may think there’s no such thing as an honest locksmith, but I promise there are. I actually work with them every day, plus I know how psychologically and emotionally frustrating it is to find a good locksmith. With that, I want to share my tips, tricks and and indicators for “picking” (ha, that’s a pun) out the scammers.

I want to preface this list with a piece of advice: take everything I say with a grain of salt. Nothing in life is a certainty. There will be exceptions to these rules. But, you’re locked out, so you might as well keep reading! You’ve got nothing but time on your hands!

Signs you may want to call a different locksmith:

1. The “company name” you find online is just a broad geographic area

Many “locksmith companies” are not locksmith companies at all. They are call centers that get a request for a locksmith and immediately sub-contract the job out to a local locksmith. These conglomerate locksmith companies are looking to cover as much geographic area as they can because they can subcontract out 100% of their work. If you see company names such as “Reliable Houston Locksmiths” or “Best LA Locksmiths”, consider it a red flag.

2. When they pick up the phone, they try to avoid mentioning a real company name.

When you call any normal business, the person on the line usually leads off with their name and company. When I don’t hear a company name but instead, “Hello, locksmith”, when they pick up the phone, it’s a red flag for me that I may be dealing with a locksmith conglomerate.  Because these call centers are subcontracting out to dozens or hundreds of locksmiths, they never want to say a company name. Things could get messy if you call a locksmith conglomerate back, expecting to get routed to the first company you spoke with, but end up getting a completely different one.

3. Getting transferred multiple times in one phone call.

These locksmith call centers need to route your call to a locksmith based on your zip code, so you end up getting transferred around until you reach the person that is in charge of outsourcing in your area. Maybe some legitimate locksmiths need to transfer you once, but if they transfer your call much more than one or two times, that’s another red flag.

Why you want to avoid these:


There are a few reasons you want to avoid these situations. The first is that these conglomerates make money by taking a cut from the locksmiths that are really doing the work. Most locksmith companies are small operations with a few people, a truck, and maybe a storefront. They don’t have the same resources as a conglomerate to make themselves easy to find on the internet. And, in a lockout emergency, people normally pick the first result that pops up on Google.

Also, locksmith conglomerates may set prices for common locksmith activities like: keys broken in locks, drilling a lock, new lock installation, etc. so they know how much they will make per job. The locksmith that comes to your door knows these prices, and have a set amount they are responsible for paying to the conglomerate. If they think they can get you to pay more than the normal rate, they will upcharge you and pocket the difference. It could be because they are dishonest, but not all the time. Remember, the conglomerate will take a huge portion and commission of what you end up paying the locksmith.

But now you know better. I hope my tips helped you in distinguishing the bad locksmiths from the good. Check back later for an article on how to identify a legitimate locksmith  company!

PS. This is all well and good for your house or apartment, but if you have any issues with the way you currently access your office, take a look at Kisi for all your key management needs. That way, you never have to deal with being locked out, lost keys and nasty locksmiths.


Phone-based systems are not just a small-business solution. CEO of Kisi, Bernhard Mehl, comments: “If you see the average of three doors connected then that might seem low but, in reality, one door relates to around 50 employees—so those are locations with about 150 people on average, including satellite offices. That’s quite significant.”

Mobile Access Control Adoption by Industry

Kisi examined which industries are investing the most in mobile access control technology. To do so, the average size of mobile access control installation projects by industry were measured. Commercial real estate topped the list with 23.5 doors running mobile access per facility. Education management came in last with 1.0 door running mobile access per facility. 

Physical Security Statistics: Mobile Access by Industry

The number of shooting incidents at K-12 schools, according to the CHDS, reached an all-time high at 97 incidents in 2018—compared to 44 in 2017. Cloud-based access control companies, like Kisi, offer a lockdown feature for active shooter situations or emergencies, making it an effective protective layer for places that are targeted, such as religious institutions, which come in near the top of the list with 4.0 doors running mobile access per facility. 

Based on industry size, it makes sense that commercial real estate tops the list, with 23.5 doors running mobile access per facility. Cloud-based access control enables these larger organizations to scale more seamlessly and allows large organizations, like telecommunications, to deploy the most manageable IT solutions available, eliminating the need to create and manage a business’s own IT infrastructure over time.

“Commercial real estate is, of course, the driver of mobile adoption since they have the largest buildings,” Mehl adds. “The key here is to show that mobile-first technologies are not a risk but an innovation that brings positive ROI and allows agencies to reposition their buildings as forward-thinking establishments.”

The scalabelilty and ease of use in onboarding an organization allows many different types of industries and businesses of different sizes to adapt a cloud-based access control system, either using keycard or mobile credentials for access. 

Mobile Access Control by State

Looking specifically at the United States, Kisi analyzed in which states companies are investing the most into upgrading to smartphone-enabled access systems. Of the currently installed base of access control readers, around 20 percent will be mobile capable by 2022, according to a recent IHS report. Cloud-based systems, like Kisi, are future-proof—allowing over-the-air updates in real time and unlimited scalability for users.

“Mobile unlock technology makes you think of the major tech hubs like New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles,” Mehl adds. “Looking at which states have the largest projects, it’s surprising and refreshing that those are not the typical ‘tech cities, and yet that’s where access control technology really makes an impact.” The fact that the largest projects are seen in states outside of the typical tech startup landscape is evidence that mobile access control is highly applicable across industry sectors.

For further questions about this study, reach out to Kait Hobson (kait@getkisi.com)

Bernhard Mehl

Bernhard is the co-founder and CEO of Kisi. His philosophy, "security is awesome," is contagious among tech-enabled companies.

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