Phone book company probes locksmiths
Published Wednesday, May 12, 2010 8:01PM PDT
The Yellow Pages Group has launched an investigation into the actions of a local locksmith company after CTV News discovered the addresses it was providing were fake.
Yellow Pages says it's investigating the actions of a company called 123 24 Hour Emergency Locksmiths after they found out some phone numbers used by the so-called local locksmiths were actually linked to an American company accused of defrauding customers.
"We can inform you that the listings in question are in the process of being investigated," wrote company spokesman Perry Schwartz. "We will work with the appropriate authorities to examine any questionable business practices that may have been taking place and remove the listings from our online properties if deemed necessary."
123 24 Hour Emergency Locksmith has numerous listings in the Yellow Pages directory throughout Metro Vancouver, with addresses appearing to be local.
But when CTV News visited three of those properties, we found that those addresses had no locksmiths there at all – instead, they were unmanned switch buildings belonging to Telus.
That's ironic, considering that Telus was the wholesaler for the numbers the locksmith company had listed.
A Telus spokesman wouldn't go on camera, but did say that the company was looking into how to stop someone from claiming Telus property as their own address.
When a CTV News reporter called 123 24 Hour Emergency Locksmith, the person answering the phone said the company was legitimate. However he refused to answer any questions, and wouldn't say where his operation was based.
Both the Better Business Bureau and B.C.'s Solicitor-General have connected 123 24 Hour Emergency Locksmith with a company named Dependable Locks Inc.
American authorities said in court documents that Dependable Locks Inc. is based in Florida and assigns hundreds of locksmiths based in major populations centres in North America from a central dispatch.
The authorities also said that the dispatched locksmiths are instructed to overcharge customers, and then the profits are shared between the dispatcher and the locksmith. Two people from the company were arrested on fraud charges last year.
CTV News recorded a locksmith from 123 24 Hour Emergency Locksmith called to let a customer into her Richmond condominium.
But the locksmith didn't try to confirm it was the customer's address before he attempted to pick the lock, and he didn't provide his own ID. He also recommended the more expensive job of destroying the lock, even though the lock could be easily picked.
"Certainly there are a lot of red flags for this particular company," said the Better Business Bureau's Lynda Pasacreta.
Pasacreta said customers can call and check out businesses with the Better Business Bureau, and use a service like Google Maps to check out whether an address looks legitimate.
"You really want to make sure you're dealing with a reputable company," she said. "You're not choosing something out of the phone book that looks the cheapest."
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward