Rossen Reports redux: Some locksmiths still prey on the vulnerable

In November 2011, TODAY aired a Jeff Rossen hidden-camera investigation that revealed some locksmiths charging hundred of dollars for a simple job. Three years later, the Rossen Reports team set up the same scenario to see if things had changed.

Hidden cameras were installed at a suburban house in West Hempstead, New York. As in the 2011 investigation, a licensed locksmith installed simple locks on the home's door, which he said any real locksmith would be able to pick easily. Posing as a homeowner locked out of their house in the rain, a TODAY producer summoned several locksmiths to the home, 

Rather than picking the lock, the first locksmith drilled through it right away. He was happy to sell the faux homeowner a new one for $170. Afterward, when Rossen revealed himself and asked why the locksmith hadn't tried to pick the lock first, he replied: "Because it was an emergency."

The next locksmith also pulled out his drill, and ruined another lock. His price tag: $210. "Are you trying to rip this woman off?" Rossen asked him afterward.

"No I'm not. I cannot pick that lock," the locksmith replied before speeding off.

In fact, nearly every locksmith who came charged more than $200. The last one tried to shimmy the door open without trying to pick the lock, then pulled out his drill. He charged a whopping $415. 

"The lady is outside in pouring rain; you think I'm going to stand for half an hour trying to pick the lock?" the final locksmith asked Rossen afterward. "In the rain? "

"You think it takes about half an hour to pick the lock?" Rossen replied. "We're going to have our expert show you."

Tom Lynch, founder of the Society of Professional Locksmiths, spent only five and a half minutes picking the lock. "Bottom line, consumers are being ripped off, and it's troubling," he told Rossen afterward. "[It's] still a nationwide problem, Jeff. Nobody's doing anything about it but you."

Another issue raised by the investigation was security: Only one of the locksmiths asked if the homeowner even lived at the house. Experts say a locksmith shouldn't open a single door without first verifying that the address of the house matches the supposed homeowner's ID.

The best advice: Don't wait until you need a locksmith to find one. Find a reputable company around your neighborhood and put their number in your phone; that way you have it when you need it.

Learn how to avoid locksmith scams from the Society of Professional Locksmiths.

To suggest a topic for a future edition of Rossen Reports, email us.