Undercover stings reveal the dangers unlicensed locksmiths pose to unsuspecting victims

When you're locked out of your home or car, you call a locksmith for help, but if an unlicensed locksmith shows up to do the job it could cost you.

Unlicensed locksmiths are operating here in North Carolina. Investigators say they could pose a threat to your safety and security as they might not be insured, cause damage, overcharge you, or be hard to track down if there are any problems. It's against the law for a locksmith to operate in North Carolina without a license, and the NC Locksmith Licensing Board invests to make sure locksmiths are licensed. The board even hires private investigators to make sure locksmiths are following state law.

Stopping Unlicensed Locksmiths

We went with private investigators, Leroy Everhart and Craig Humphrey on undercover stings they set up throughout the Triangle to make sure the locksmith's they called for the job were licensed.

"There are folks out here that will not do good work," Everhart said.

The first stop was in Apex at a nature park. Humphrey locked the key in his truck and called a locksmith company he found online.

The woman who answered the phone for the online locksmith company told Humphrey she would send a locksmith to his location. He asked how much the job would cost, but she said a locksmith would call him, and she couldn't tell him how much because it depended on what the locksmith needed to do once he got to the truck.

When the locksmith showed up, he told Humphrey it would be $89 to unlock his truck.

Humphrey asked the man if he was insured and licensed, and the locksmith replied, "Oh yes, and I'll give you a receipt too. In North Carolina, you must be licensed."

The locksmith got to work, it did take some time for him to do the job, but he eventually unlocked the truck and Humphrey got the key from inside his truck. He was then told it would be $108 for the job, and Humphrey paid it.

That's where the other private investigator Leroy Everhart swooped in to confront the man who just unlocked the truck. Before Everhart could do that, the locksmith took off, even running into Humphrey with his car. Everhart yelled for him to stop his car.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! You are getting ready to commit an assault here. Hey, watch out!" But the locksmith still refused to stop.

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Locksmith takes off when confronted by private investigator



Fortunately, no one got hurt.

"He would not be afraid to speak to someone or write a receipt if he was licensed," Everhart said.

Besides not stopping to talk, Everhart said there were other signs he was not licensed.

"Getting in the particular vehicle that we had today would take a good locksmith about 30 seconds to get into. This guy appeared to be looking for instructions on how to open the vehicle, he had to use two pneumatic bags, and it took him a while to get in, so it was obvious he wasn't well trained."

Apex police officers investigated and eventually caught up with the unlicensed locksmith; his name is Ahmen Abumzroa. Officers charged him with hit and run failure to stop. The case is now working its way through the court system.

The director of the NC Locksmith Licensing Board said Abumzroa has applied to get his locksmith license, but it has not been approved yet.

The next stop for the private investigators hired by the state's Locksmith Licensing Board was a shopping plaza in Hillsborough. Humphrey called another locksmith company he found online and told them he couldn't get into his car because the key fob wasn't working.

"I don't know if there is a problem with the key fob or what? I have the key, but it's not doing anything," Humphrey told the locksmith when he arrived.

The locksmith introduced himself as Roy, and he didn't take a look at the key fob; instead, he got his tools and got to work. It didn't take him long to unlock the car.

I then confronted Roy.

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Diane: "Excuse me, sir, are you a licensed locksmith? Do you have your license?"
Roy: "No."
Diane: "Do you have your license to be a locksmith?"
Roy: "Not with me."
Diane: "Do you have it at all? Do you have a license?"
Roy: "No."
Diane: "Do you know you have to be licensed to be a locksmith?"
Roy: "Sorry."
Diane: "You didn't know you had to be licensed to be a locksmith?"
Roy: "No, to open cars."
Diane: "To open cars?"

Roy: "Not to open cars."

Then private investigator Everhart started asking the questions.

Everhart: "Hello, Roy. Back to the old ball game, aren't you?"
Roy: "Yeah."
Everhart: "You got a locksmith license?"
Roy: "No."
Everhart: "You insured?"
Roy: "No."

The director of NC Locksmith Licensing Board said there is a court order for Roy Abudram to not operate as a locksmith, but that's not stopping him.

"This is the sixth time we have had action with Mr. Abudram. If he comes out and is not licensed and training and so forth, and damages a car, or he damages someone's house, there is no recourse for him," Everhart said.

Police arrived at the scene and took action against Abudram. Officers investigated and found while Abudram doesn't have a locksmith license, he also doesn't have a driver's license.

Officers gave Abudram citations for both. His case is also working its way through the court system.

Troubleshooter Takeaways

The biggest Troubleshooter Takeaway is to make sure the locksmith you're hiring is licensed. You can do that here.

Do not just google locksmith and the city you are in, because you might end up with a call center who contracts the job out to anyone. What you want is a local locksmith center licensed in the state.

Before any work is done, get in writing the cost and what exactly they will be doing. You don't want to fall victim to a bait and switch, where you are quoted one price on the phone, but once the locksmith gets on site, the price jumps up.

Once the locksmith shows up on-site, ask to see their license as they must carry it. When it comes time, pay with a credit card, that way if there is a problem, you can dispute the charge.
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