Sadly, as technology gets more sophisticated by the day, so do scams. And some are so subtle that you wouldn't even know that you've been had until well after the fact, if ever.

We've all read about plenty of phone scams, credit card scams, and online scams. But there's one scam in particular that is especially seedy, preying on people when they're the most frustrated and think that they're doing the right thing.

The locksmith scam has become an epidemic, and any of us here in Ocean County can become victims. 

Here's how it works - like we've all done at one point or another, you end up being locked out of your home or office. It's late, maybe it's cold, you don't have anyone within reasonable distance who can bring you a spare key, so you do the only thing left to do; you go online and search for a nearby locksmith.

Thankfully, you quickly find a nearby locksmith with 24/7 service, and their website even says that it should only cost you around $30. So of course you tell them to please hurry, and rescue is on the way.

This is where things take a turn for the worse.

The locksmith arrives, does a few technical looking things, frowns, and tells you that they'll have to drill the lock and install a new one. And it's going to hurt. To the tune of up to $350.

Of course, the locksmith is the expert, right? So you resign yourself to the fact that you have no other choice, and you pony up the big bucks just to get into your warm home.

You've just been scammed.

I was stunned to learn how widespread this scam really is, and how legit it can all seem to someone who just wants to get into their house.

I heard about it from the excellent podcast "Reply All", who detailed the roots of the scam and exactly how it works, in addition to bringing in an expert, New York Times reporter David Segal, who researched and wrote an in-depth expose on the practice.

So, what can you do to avoid getting scammed?

Thankfully, AARP has put together some excellent bullet points, among them:

  • Find a reputable locksmith before you need one. Most of us go through the process of finding a good local doctor, dentist, babysitter, and more, so it would make sense to know who you should call if you get locked out before you need them.
  • If the locksmith shows up in an unmarked car, end the process right there. If there's no company name and local phone number on the vehicle that the locksmith shows up in, there's probably a very good reason for it.

And quite possibly the very best piece of advice:

If you're told the lock has to be drilled and replaced, find another locksmith. Experienced and legitimate locksmiths can unlock almost any door.

You can read all about the roots of this particularly shameful scam by clicking over to David Segal's very thorough NYT article by clicking here. And I really do highly recommend checking out the "Reply All" podcast. It's entertaining and informative, and definitely makes my commute a lot more pleasant!

Have you fallen victim to a scam like this in Ocean County? Tell us about your experience in the comments section!

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