When you're locked out of your car or home, you need immediate assistance, because – let's face it – it's a hassle waiting when you need to get somewhere or do something, and can't move. But sometimes a rash decision can become a giant headache with a big price tag. Recently, CTV of Vancouver, Canada did an investigative segment on a residential locksmith. A local woman was shocked when - after she'd found a locksmith online with low advertised prices - the technician showed up and picked her lock, but charged more than twice the advertised price. At the time, of course, the resident could do nothing but pay the bill.

Industry experts say finding a locksmith is best done locally. According to insiders, many locksmiths listed online, claim to be local but actually are not. Often, the phone numbers are linked to a call centre and random locksmiths are dispatched. This can make it difficult if you end up having a grievance with the company because, unlike dealing with a local business where you can have a one-to-one discussion, large pools of technicians like this can make it problematic to keep things on a more personal level.

The UK is one of the few nations that do not require specific licensing for anyone involved in the security industry. This means residents should be cautious when hiring someone to access their homes or vehicles because legally, anyone can claim to be qualified to do it. Getting a reputable locksmith can be done first by looking through the Master Locksmith Association's (MLA's) database or other reputable sites that require locksmiths to register. Industry experts also suggest customers to do the following to ensure they are not victims of scam artists:

  • Run a quick internet search including the words "review" or "complaint" with the company name.
  • Confirm the address of the advertised locksmith. If it is not a local address, consider a different one.
  • Be clear about your situation, location and needs so you can get an accurate estimate. Average cost of hiring a locksmith is approximately £130.
  • Make sure the locksmith is insured in case any damage is incurred.

Although you may believe you will never need a locksmith, accidents happen. If you don't have a spare key hidden someplace safe, taking these steps before calling a locksmith can save you time, headache and expenses that make these small tasks worth it in the end.