ATLANTA -- "I'm mad as hell," Jerry Goodwin exclaimed, standing on his back deck in Acworth, "They said it'd cost about 100 bucks."
He was talking about a bill he got from a locksmith who replaced his lock.
"It was 424 dollars! They said, 'Oh yeah it'd cost a 100 bucks', a 30 dollar call out and 70 dollars, to replace the lock."
Jerry Goodwin is not alone. The Governor's Office of Consumer Protection has been getting complaints about locksmiths, accused of gouging customers.
That's why we sent up 6 hidden cameras to reveal what can happen when you're desperate and locked out of your house.
We asked Carl Hinson of Decatur Lock and Key to assist. He's been in business since 1975 and has a Better Business Bureau rating of 'A'. He's also a member of the Associated Locksmiths of America. He put a cheap lock on the back door of an Atlanta house and showed us how easy it was to pick.
He said he'd only charge $75 for the job and he provided us invoices from house lockouts he had done before. We confirmed the price with another established locksmith, Rick Casper of Lock Doctor in Sugar Hill, who is also a member of the Associated Locksmiths of America and has a BBB rating of 'A+'.
"It'd be a flat fee of $79," Casper said.
However, after calling out a couple of locksmiths from random internet listings we got an eye-opener.
One wanted to charge us $179, another $155. Both locksmiths arrived in unmarked vehicles and both had been called out by a central dispatch even though we thought we were calling locally based companies.
One guy didn't even try to pick the lock. He just wedged it open with air bladders.
"This is supposedly going out throughout the country," Goodwin said.
He's right! Warnings have been placed on the Associated Locksmiths of America's website about mobile locksmiths masquerading as local companies.
"They couldn't give us a physical address. They, instead, gave us a bogus address of another competitor," Goodwin complained.
When we confronted the locksmiths who we called out, they couldn't give us a physical address either. However, after we complained, they did drop the price from $179 to $124 and $155 to $130.
One of the guys even tried to get us to scam our auto insurance for the bill by offering to charge it as a 'vehicle lockout' rather than a 'house lockout'.
"That's totally illegal, and totally unprofessional," Casper responded.
"I think we need to do something about getting these guys out of town," Hinson replied.
If you need a locksmith, take the time to find one you can trust. Search for one in your neighborhood and check out the BBB rating. Try to visit the actual store, or speak with friends and neighbors for referrals. Once you find one, keep the number stored on your phone, ready to call if needed.