Like the name implies, a locksmith is a professional contractor who specializes in entry systems such as locks, door knobs and other security features. Once strictly tradesmen of all things related to locks, keys and safes, a modern locksmith may offer much more technologically advanced products such as closed-circuit TV monitoring systems, residential fire and burglar alarm systems, remote keyless entry fobs for cars and digital access systems.
For most homeowners, there are only a few life events that call for the services of a locksmith. The most common instances include when you’re moving into a new home (or someone in the home is moving out) or when you’ve accidentally locked yourself out of your home or car.
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In most cases, it’s relatively easy to shop around for a locksmith when you need locks changed, but it may be a different story when the lockout requires emergency service. Before you’re ever locked out of your home or vehicle, find a reputable locksmith you can trust. It’s much easier to be taken advantage of when you’re in need of quick help and at the mercy of the first locksmith you call.
A number of locksmith scams have cropped up over the years involving emergency lockout services. Often flooding Internet search engines with fraudulent local listings, these sham locksmiths often don’t carry the licensing or credentials required.
The emergency locksmith scam often involves a locksmith insisting that a home’s lock needs to be drilled out, rather than spending the time to open the lock without damaging it. Fraudulent locksmiths will also inflate the final bill and insist the customer pay in cash.
Follow these seven tips to help avoid a locksmith scam:
• Be wary of locksmith companies that answer calls with generic phrases like “locksmith services,” rather than a specific name. If a locksmith cannot or will not provide the business’ legal name, find another locksmith.
• When the locksmith arrives, ask for identification, including a locksmith license where applicable. Alabama, California, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas all require locksmiths to be licensed.
• Get an estimate before any work begins, including emergency service.
• Ask about extra charges for things like emergency hours, mileage or service call minimums before you agree to have the work performed.
• If the locksmith’s on-site price doesn’t match the phone estimate, don’t allow the work to be performed.
• Most legitimate locksmiths will arrive in a clearly marked vehicle.
• If you’re locked out, be cautious of companies that recommend or insist on drilling or replacing the lock upfront. Most experienced locksmiths have the skills and tools to unlock almost any door.
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When you lock yourself out of your home or car, time is usually of the essence. DIY methods of getting in can cause irreparable damage to doors and locks. So it is important to find a locksmith near you who can be on-site quickly. Enter your zip code above and HomeAdvisor will connect you with locksmith services nearby.
Residential locksmiths don’t only handle emergency situations. They can also enhance security with high-quality deadbolts and padlocks, they can change locks, they can extract broken keys, they can handle safes, and they sometimes offer security system services. Hiring a locksmith near you can also be beneficial outside of emergencies:
- They can save you money if they don’t have to travel far (they may waive trip charges).
- They may be familiar with your neighborhood and be able to recommend specific security products.
Enter your zip code and let HomeAdvisor connect you with locksmith companies nearby that are ready to help.
Lock changes—whether they are at your home or business—can be pretty steep depending on the security level of the lock you need. This is another example where you can cut costs by purchasing the materials yourself. If you know what type of lock you need, most distributors will charge you wholesale cost. Then, you can hire a locksmith to install the locks for you.
An even better way to save money when changing your locks is to have the locks rekeyed. This is where the locksmith uses your existing lock and manipulates the pins inside the cylinder to fit a new key. It’s one of the most requested services from new home owners. With this money saving tip, you can feel safe and secure in the new home and still have some money in your pocket.
Homeowners should take note that a single-cylinder deadbolt can be breached if an entry door has glass panels, because a burglar can break the glass and reach inside to unlatch the deadbolt. A double-cylinder deadbolt will protect against this, and Ball recommends homeowners keep a key close by but out of arm’s reach. However, the double-cylinder deadbolt can be problematic in the event of a house fire because a key is required to unlock the door from the inside.
Another solution may simply be to replace the door itself. Many exterior doors are designed with security in mind, using reinforced glass or small windows far enough away from the lock to prevent a burglar from reaching in.
For additional security, Cronk says, avoid hiding a spare key under the doormat. “Get a secure lockbox for your Hide-a-Key,” he says. He also recommends new homeowners have their locks changed, because there is no way to know who previously had keys to the home.