I-Team: Locksmiths take advantage of desperate customers

No license needed for locksmiths

TAMPA BAY - Your mechanic, your child's dance instructor, even telemarketers that call your home must all be licensed or registered with the state or county.

But as the I-Team has been reporting, locksmiths who pop locks on homes and cars are not.

We followed one locksmith on two jobs in January after a St. Petersburg business owner complained about his tactics. Lucas Ford called the number in a yellow pages ad after locking himself out of his office, but the phone quote did not compare to the actual cost of opening the door. The quote was $60, but the bill reads $167.

We found the same locksmith working on Casey Kubly's locked car at Tyrone Square Mall.

Like Lucas Ford, Kubly insists the dispatcher quoted her $15, but the locksmith hit her with a bill for $84 after he opened her door.

It is not the first time the I-Team found locksmiths overcharging customers.

In 2011, in Hillsborough County we found three locksmiths quoting locked-out homeowners one price, then tripling the price after inspecting the lock (see http://wfts.tv/Y5NPwI ).

The I-Team uncovered phony business addresses and local numbers that went to out-of-state dispatch centers.

We showed some of our video to Pinellas County licensing board chief Rod Fisher.  And he saw what happened when one of our employees used the same website. She too confirmed the $15 charge with the dispatcher. Once again, the same worker came and opened the door, then shocked her with a $90 bill.

Fisher says he'll speak with the county attorney to determine if something can be done to regulate the industry. And now Hillsborough County commission chairman Ken Hagan vows to do the same.

Commissioner Hagan plans on proposing an ordinance requiring locksmiths not only be licensed but would mandate back grounds checks.

We ran a back ground check on Dennis Osorio who works for Doors Locks and Keys in South Florida. I discovered he was arrested in 2004 on rape charges in New Jersey and pled guilty to criminal sexual contact.  Both Dennis's card and the company say they are licensed and insured, but neither would provide proof.

Both deny any wrongdoing, saying the actual price depends on the lock and the $15 for the car is only for the service call.

The West Coast Locksmith Association is among those who have pushed for a state statute to govern the industry, but it has never passed.  In South Florida, Miami enacted its own law.

We will follow up with lawmakers on both sides of the bay and let you know if it happens here.

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