The SOPL Shines a Light on The Dark Side of the Locksmith Industry - Locksmith Licensing is Shady Business!
Written By: Barry Campbell, Director of Operations SOPL
Kurtis Ming, from CBS 13 in Sacramento, recently reported on “The Dark Side of the Locksmith Industry.” There are some notable things about this report, both good and bad. The first is his reference to the “one time nature of locksmiths.” While most professional locksmiths endeavor to foster relationships with repeat, long-term customers, I think Ming has pointed out a popular misconception – that the main reason to call a locksmith is when you've locked yourself out of your home or vehicle, or perhaps to replace a lost car key. Sure, people who think like that probably also think the local hardware store carries the best in lock hardware, but the point is that there is a huge potential market out there of people who simply don't know any better.
Then there is the “simple lock picking” comment. More correctly, the report might have focused more on the “simple lock.” Not hard to teach someone to pick open a hardware store lock, but most locksmiths can combinate even these locks to be more difficult to pick. Professional locksmiths also may have the tools and knowledge to enable them to bypass even the “unpickable” lock without damage. Part of the problem, in this case, may have come from within the industry. How many of you have had a call to “pop” a lock? Many are easy, but many are not – sometimes by design and sometimes because of the condition of the lock. Regardless, the implication that picking is easy and should not cost much is unjustified.
I rather like the response of locksmith David Knosalla in an article from The Princeton Union-Eagle, where he was able to quickly and easily open a safe - “You called for an expert and that's what you got.” Now, if you carry just a long-reach tool and a drill for all your unlocks, you're no expert; but if you are a professional with the tools and knowledge to tackle virtually any situation, you are justified in charging what you are worth.
The article improves when Ming identifies the “locksmiths” called out to unlock the homes, including their license numbers. Yes, what more proof do you need that scammers can get a license whenever they need to? Even better, he confronts a spokesman from the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services that oversees the locksmith licensing. The interview was priceless:
Heimerich told Call Kurtis BSIS had received 281 locksmith complaints in the past two years, but Call Kurtis has learned only 17 locksmiths were actually cited, and none had their licenses revoked.
That's right; 281 complaints, 17 cited, and not a single license revoked in two years! How many times does it need to be proven? Licensing neither stops the scammers nor protects the consumer!
The saddest part of the report, though, had to be the recommendation from the California Locksmith Association (CLA). Given that the ineffectiveness of licensing was just shown, they could only recommend that consumers should verify the locksmith's license. Was that really the best they could do?
So in the darkness of it all the Society of Professional Locksmiths has helped shine a light on the shady business of licensing and how it is contributing to a false sense of security and a false sense of safety for the consumers. As these news reports increase we may see some bright sides in the coverage but in the end we find that relying on the idea of someone being licensed is like standing in the dark.
Can anyone seriously claim that licensing has illuminated our industry?
The Associated Locksmiths of America or should I say, ALOA Security Professionals Association since they have removed the word "locksmith" from their image are now proposing to petition the Federal Trade Commission to consider certain acts by a locksmith to be deemed "criminal" activity.
The irony of this is that it is intended to be the silver bullet that curbs all scammer activity and consumer ripoffs which are not conducted by the locksmith community, but by individuals "posing" as locksmiths. For some reason in my view, this association's leadership continues to be obsessed with government regulations, licenses and rules, and the more they are rejected the more desperate their efforts become.
In a recent ABC News article, hardworking honorable mobile locksmiths found themselves betrayed and abandoned while consumers were being told to only pick a lock shop or retail storefront for service which makes all mobile locksmiths look like criminals. It also presented recommendations like not to pay cash for a service and that any trained locksmith can open "any" lock, which any true professional knows is not accurate or honest. When these types of articles are presented to the general public they are crafted from talking points obtained by those wishing to drive the agenda of licensing which leads to the restriction of trade.
Locksmith Bryan Patricks posted in a LinkedIn discussion that he did his research and contacted ABC News KSTP and when he asked where the news station got their information from, he was told the following - "Your locksmith association and editorial outlets."
Bryan Patricks also stated that he discovered the news article was shared on the Locksmith Ledger (a locksmith magazine and editorial content) social media page. When he posted an observation and objection to the fact that the consumers were being directed only to retail storefront operations or lock shops, and that several of the consumer tips were misleading and inappropriate - his post was deleted!
Eventually, someone from the Locksmith Ledger did admit in the same LinkedIn discussion that licensing is not working, but we never seem to see any editorials saying so or reporting on the position of those opposed to it. Not one article was ever run to reflect the deception discovered in Florida by the Locksmith Investigator (Accurate Answers? Parts 1, 2 & 3 - Neglected facts and mis-characterizations lead to wrong conclusions). So what's really going on?
In another locksmith magazine with editorial content dated April 2013 called The National Locksmith, publisher Marc Goldberg admits his participation and others in manufacturing and distribution engaged in the effort to rename the "locksmiths" because it is "too old". He further states that the new identity of this long respected craft, (which dates as far back as the Egyptians by the way!) will now be identified as "Security Professionals" and to make the public aware of it.
Goldberg's revelations also hint that when it came to spending money to a public relations firm (which would cost thousands of dollars) to reach the general public to raise awareness, that he didn't know how it all was left off, and then came the "scammers". He then discusses how if you Google Locksmiths you will find lots of articles, news reports and government websites advising the public to find a LEGITIMATE LOCKSMITH (code word). And they even tell you how to find one or as they think you find one.
He closes his remarks with the following statement -
"In the end, we couldn't hope to buy the sort of publicity we as an industry are now getting for free." He thanks the scammers and says - "we couldn't have done it without you."
What Goldberg does not tell you is how all the free publicity is negative and harming the industry! There has been and there is in my opinion an "intentional" effort to defame the locksmiths in order to elevate the new "goal" or agendas of a cabal, who claims it is in the interest of the industry. However, the mobile operators and the Mom & Pops seem to be forgotten in this new goal and only storefronts or retail shops are being considered. Mobile locksmiths are not illegitimate and comprise 80% of the industry!
To further throw salt on the wounds of the industry, we find in in the May 2013 issue of the National Locksmith magazine, Editor Greg Mango sharing a letter he received about a news article which was written 1 year ago on June 8, 2012 by Sid Kircheimer for the AARP.
The sender of the letter to the Editor is concerned about how the article is misleading and he/she describes how impossible it was to communicate with the AARP or the author to set things straight. The TNL Editor goes on to say that "knowing the source of the information or misinformation, affords you the opportunity to address the issue and alleviate any concerns". He further states in his editorial - "It is not so much that the information given by the AARP was incorrect, it's more the manner in which it was presented. The AARP article was intended to help the legitimate locksmiths and shine a light about the scammers to its members."
I personally spoke with Sid Kircheimer immediately after the articles release and he was very pleasant and relayed the same "source of information" that Bryan Patricks recently discovered in the ABC news article and he also cited his source in his article, one of which was ALOA. This AARP story was being heatedly discussed in industry social media groups such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and industry forums etc. And why is it that the same misleading talking points are being regurgitated now one year later if it was simply an incorrect presentation? When I contacted the source of the AARP article. I was told that they were misquoted by Sid Kircheimer. However, there was no attempt to correct it. My conversation with Sid did not indicate there was any misquoting going on. So again I ask, what's really going on?
Why is it that these "misquotes" seem to be occurring exactly the same 1 year later? I personally do not believe they are misquotes because if they were, they would not continually appear!
The information in the AARP and now the ABC KSTP News story IS! The manner in which it was presented WAS intended to be incorrect or it would have been corrected. Here we are once again hearing how this was "intended" to help the "legitimate" locksmiths and "shine a light" on the scammers. The "source of the information" was addressed a year ago and yet this continues?
In summary, if the news reports are getting their information from inside our industry and it is being presented incorrectly while intending to help the "legitimate" (which is code for retail storefront operations) as they "shine a light" (which is code for FREE negative publicity) on the scammers (which is code for anyone who cannot pick every lock or whatever other incorrect reasoning), then there is a problem. A real BIG problem.
Whew!! Sounds like a story for Alex Jones!
The excuse of the scammers is being bastardized in my opinion while the media is being used as a tool of misinformation and disinformation for the purpose of hype. Each news story becomes more and more obvious with the true purpose of the reports - which is to facilitate government regulation and licensing which is the "old" goals. It appears our own industry trade magazines are not interested in providing fair and balanced media coverage of the shenanigans.
When you examine the news media coverage, official and unofficial documentation, email communications, social media chatter and trade editorials a picture emerges and it is alarming in my opinion. So what's really going on?
The hardworking locksmiths are not doing anything wrong and never asked to have their reputations or livelihoods scuttled to achieve a goal of a few who wish to control the many.
When you compare the ABC News article, to the behavior of censorship of the alternative opinions and the "new goal" to ALOA's proposal to make certain locksmith acts criminal as seen below, it becomes painfully obvious that what Bryan Patricks was told by the reporter at ABC KSTP news, is not only right - but damning.
Below is the actual proposal to the Federal Trade Commission by ALOA Security Professionals to criminalize certain acts of the locksmith profession. What is disturbing is that one of the things they seek to criminalize is something they advocate, teach and train, which is drilling a lock. Throughout the locksmith industry, drilling a lock for the purpose of bypassing is a technique taught to everyone through every school, local association and correspondence course.
To claim in a news story to the AARP, ABC (other media) and to the general public the notion that any locksmith who cannot "pick open" every or most locks and those who cannot should be dismissed or considered a scammer is irresponsible in my opinion. To attempt to drive consumers away form the hard working mobile operators is also irresponsible in my view and I question why any one of them would support those doing this. Lastly, to attempt to "price fix" by making it a criminal act for a locksmith to charge what the free market system gives him/her the freedom to do, is grossly criminal itself!
On every United States dollar bill (and others) it states - "The following is legal tender for all debts, public and private". After reading the proposal below, it would be an illegal act to ask for this cash, but only if you are a locksmith!
I publicly challenged ALOA leadership and staff to pick any lock of my choosing, at any location, at any time day or night, under any condition and do so within a reasonable amount of time (which is 5 minutes among professionals!) The Society of Professional Locksmiths offered to donate $1000 to their scholarship fund if they could.
Not one person from this organization leadership stepped up to meet this challenge. The reason in my opinion is that these talking points to the media and lawmakers are a false narrative.
Please stop defaming the hard working locksmiths and start defining the scammers and the issues properly, and if these news sources are getting the wrong information as claimed - why can't it be corrected?
Proposed Addition to C.F.R Title 16: Commercial Practices: Rules Applicable to Locksmiths
It is an unfair act or practice for a locksmith to:
1) Break, pry, drill, or otherwise damage or destroy a lock or other security device where industry standards dictate that such an opening should be performed by picking or otherwise performing the opening in such a manor as to avoid causing damage.
2) Cause damage to an entryway, locking device, window, or other property not in accordance with industry standards.
3) Require that payment be in cash only.
4) To charge more than 50% higher total charge industry standards for that local dictate when on a service call.
5) Misrepresent arrival time to a service call by more than 30 minutes. Such misrepresentation may be considered criminal if habitual, fraudulent, and or committed between the hours of 9:00 PM and 7:00AM.
Violation of other sections of this title shall constitute a criminal act.
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
RICHARD G. CALLAHAN
United States Attorney
February 18, 2011
For Immediate Release
OWNERS OF FLORIDA LOCKSMITH SERVICE INDICTED IN SCAM TO OVERCHARGE FOR LOCKSMITH SERVICES
St. Louis, MO: The United States Attorney’s Office announced today that the owners of a Florida based locksmith service were charged in a superseding indictment on multiple federal charges involving a scam to overcharge customers for locksmith services, as well as employing and
harboring illegal aliens.
According to the superseding indictment, Dependable Locks, Inc., headquartered in Clearwater, FL, managed a national network of locksmith technicians, operating from major population centers across the United States, including St. Louis. It also maintained a full-time staff of telephone
operators and dispatchers, who were on duty 24 hours per day in Clearwater. The dispatchers received phone calls electronically forwarded from hundreds to thousands of telephone numbers listed nationwide for emergency locksmith services, all of which forwarded consumer calls to the
call center in Florida. The dispatchers received the calls and the business dispatched locksmith technicians from the area of the call to respond. Many of the locksmith technicians working for Dependable Locks were aliens who were unlawfully present in the United States and were not authorized to work as locksmith technicians.
The indictment alleges that the locksmith company engaged in deceptive marketing by purchasing directory listings and advertisements in cities across the United States that identified the business to the public as a set of local locksmith companies. The company’s listings used multiple business
names, local phone numbers and fake local addresses that had no affiliation with the company. Phone calls to the listed phone numbers were automatically routed to the company’s call center in Clearwater, Florida. In addition, telephone operators for Dependable Locks were instructed by
managers to mislead customers to believe that they would be charged around $54 for a car lockout, while the responding technician was instructed by managers to charge up to $179 for a lockout.
Technicians used techniques such as accusing the consumer who objected to the overcharge of "theft of services," threatening to call the police, withholding the customer's keys or driver's license to compel payment or following the customer to an ATM machine to ensure payment.
The locksmith technicians allegedly were allowed to split the profits of the fraudulently procured locksmith services with the company and were required to remit the company's share of the proceeds by regularly purchasing and shipping cash, checks and money orders to the Dependable
Locks location in Clearwater, FL.
"After more than a year of following numerous leads with ICE and the Missouri Attorney General's Office, we are pleased to see this case continue to progress," said Postal Inspector J.R. Ball of the St. Louis Field Office. He added, "The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is vigilant in investigating
allegations where the mail or postal products are used to conceal or further a crime."
DAVID PEER, Clearwater, FL; and ADAM OLIVKOVICH, address unknown, were indicted by a federal grand jury on one felony count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, five felony counts of mail fraud, one felony count of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens for private financial gain and one felony count of engaging in a pattern of hiring unauthorized aliens. MOSHE AHARONI, Clearwater, FL, was indicted on one felony count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one felony count of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens for private financial gain.
Conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a fine up to $250,000. Mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or a fine up to $250,000. Conspiracy to harbor unlawful aliens for private financial gain carries a maximum
penalty of 10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $250,000. Engaging in a pattern of hiring unauthorized aliens carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and/or a fine of $3,000 per alien. In determining the actual sentences, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines,
which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Assistant United States Attorneys John Sauer and John Ware are
handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As is always the case, charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.