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FRAUDULENT SCAM

VIEWS: 7 PAGES: 4

									                 SaleS & Marketing




Fraudulent Scam
                         W
                                     hen the new AT&T “Real” Yellow Pages     stores; anything but locksmiths.
By Arnie Goldman                     for Southeastern Michigan arrived, I        Do you know federal law states that you cannot
                                     was at first surprised to see that the   advertise a phone with a fake address? Obviously,
                         total Business to Business book was now 313          AT&T is not worried that it will be prosecuted
                         pages thin. This was the book that used to be the    when it knowingly or unknowingly advertises
                         “bible” for all homes and businesses, the yellow     thousands of companies with phony addresses.
                         book that we waited for each and every year. “The       When I looked at its Yellow Pages phone book
                         Real Yellow Pages” shows its famous logo next to     and online directory at www.yellowpages.com,
                         these words on the top right corner: “Most Seen.     these were the numbers of locksmiths listed in the
                         Most Used. Most Trusted.”                            following cities: 30 in Ann Arbor, 38 in Farmington
                            When I turned to the Locks and Locksmiths         Hills, 32 in Southfield, 27 in Dearborn, and 255
                         Section in the middle of the book, I was stunned     in the city of Detroit. I know, however, that
                         to see the number of locksmith listings in the       there are actually no more than 25-35 legitimate
                         Southeastern Michigan territory. I have worked       total locksmiths in all five of these metropolitan
                         much of my life for a Detroit area locksmith         Detroit cities. So has the Yellow Pages just become
                         distributor. I know many of the legitimate           a “Big Book of Lies”?
                         locksmiths in the Southeastern Michigan area.           Nowhere else in the Yellow Pages is this
                         Sadly, these locksmiths with real addresses and      fraudulent scam as prevalent. What consumer
                         real phone numbers are surrounded by over            can now trust that any of the names and numbers
                         400 listings of names like these: AAA Allied         is “real and trusted?” ?
                         Locksmith, A Emergency A Locksmith, A 1-24              Real locksmiths in the Detroit area and
                         Hours A Locksmith, Always 24 Hr A Locksmith,         around the country are becoming very angry and
                         Any 24 Hour Emerg Locksmith, Locksmith,              frustrated. They already face the difficulties of just
                         Locksmith & A 7 day locks, Locksmith Affective       staying in business in these difficult economic
                         Always Available Emergency, Locksmith Always,        times. And now, they also have to deal with the
                         Locksmith Anytime Anywhere Emergency,                scourge of phony locksmith listings and the
                         Locksmith Available, Locksmith Express,              terrible public relations that this has caused.
                         Locksmith 1 & Down Speedy, Locksmith 1 &                This plague is nationwide. Scott Reid from IDN
                         Emergency, Locksmith 24 Hour Inc., Locksmith         Acme said that he told the Oklahoma Attorney
                         24 Hours, Locksmith 24 HR, Locksmith 007             General that the number of listings in the
                         Emergency, Locksmith 0 & 0 24 Hour, 1-24-7 A, 1      Oklahoma City phone book ballooned from 68
                         2 3 24 HR, 1-24-7 A Locksmith, and 0 1 24 Hour       last year to a staggering 1743. In an article from
                         A Locksmith…                                         the Marblehead (MA) Reporter, (“Picking your
                            These are just to name a few listings. OVER 400   pockets, not your locks,” Feb. 15, 2009), Nikki
                         individual listings in three pages have different    Gamer wrote, “Fratini, owner of Seaside Lock &
                         addresses and different phone numbers. The           Key Locksmiths, said fraudulent listings pervade
                         listing of “Locksmith” in Detroit, for example,      phonebooks from the YellowBook to Verizon’s
                         has 38 listings on various streets with different    Yellow Pages. He was recently outraged when an
                         phone numbers. When one of my salesmen drove         unknown company listed his company’s address
                         to some Livonia and Farmington Hills addresses,      as its address. When he called the company to
                         he found homes, churches, utility boxes, grocery     complain, on the other end of the phone was


38 — Locksmith Ledger [4/09]                                                                               www.locksmithledger.com
nothing but an answering service.”          that steal from consumers? That is the         with the state of Illinois for $1 million
   Most locksmiths are aware of the         question. Is it because as the phone           by the company that is financing these
horror stories. As a recent CNBC report     companies’ profits shrink, they look to        illegitimate locksmiths. The Locksmith
from NBC affiliate WRC in Washington        make up revenue? Every listing costs           Ledger has reported on this battle and
D.C. reported, “the huge majority of        money and makes up for some of the             will continue to update readers about
locksmith ads in print and online are       ad revenue that has disappeared. Is it         Bronzell’s war to fight the proliferation
placed by con artists. The general idea     that simple?                                   of phony locksmiths.
behind the scam is to quote you a              I have watched videos from Florida             ALOA displays www.findalocksmith.
reasonable price for the service over       and Washington, D.C television stations        com, which is free to its members. The
the phone and then triple, or even          and videos on www.youTube.com. The             public can go there to find a certified
quadruple that price once they show         proliferation of advertising for this “new     locksmith in their area. ALOA also has a
up. These scammers are banking on you,      kind” of locksmith is spreading fast. So       page on its website that has direct links
the consumer, forking over hundreds of      how can we stop it? What can be done           to all State Attorney Generals so that
dollars for the convenience of being let    by legitimate locksmiths and locksmith         the public may file complaints against
in to your car or house.”                   distributors to end the mushrooming of         the phonies. ALOA believes strongly
   How do “trusted” organizations such      the “phony” locksmiths?                        in locksmith licensing but according to
as AT&T or Verizon allow these ads             Illinois locksmith Mike Bronzell,           Jim Heath, president of Maverick Lock,
by “con men?” AT&T doesn’t advertise        fighting this battle for five years, finally   licensing is not enough. Jim has told me
porn, gambling, or illegal businesses. So   got the phony locksmiths thrown out            that the nine states with laws do not
why do they advertise phony companies       of Illinois, but now is being sued along       have the resources to enforce the law.




www.locksmithledger.com                                                                              [4/09] Locksmith Ledger — 39
SaleS & Marketing

The former investigator of the state of        States and in Europe is a very serious          manufacturers to work together to do
Illinois told him that in five years, he was   challenge to the entire locksmith               whatever can be done. Instead of fighting
only allowed to go after one locksmith.        industry. Should we just stop worrying          the nebulous companies that are behind
   I spoke with Larry Friberg, former          about it and do nothing? How do we try          these scams, fight the big companies
policeman and locksmith, who founded           to stop this fraudulent scam?                   that are allowing this to thrive. If all of
the website, www.legallocksmiths.                 It is necessary for real locksmiths to       these fake locksmiths aren’t allowed to
com, to fight this mammoth locksmith           join legitimate websites such as www.le-        advertise or if they must provide one
problem with accurate information, lists       gallocksmiths.com and www.findalock-            legitimate address instead of 100, the
of complaints about phony locksmiths,          smith.com. Why not threaten to drop             locksmith market will become a little
and listings of real, legitimate locksmiths.   your advertisements with the phone              safer and a litter better.
He is deeply frustrated that ALOA, state       companies or reduce them, promising                Larry Friberg has lowered the $99
attorney generals, SHDA, and legitimate        to return after you see the lists of phony      locksmith fee for joining www.legal-
locksmiths are not doing enough to fight       locksmiths removed? You could instead           locksmiths.com to ONLY $25 A YEAR,
this huge problem for the locksmith            advertise in local mailers and focus on         a bargain to help fight back. He wants
industry. He is trying to set up an            word-of-mouth advertising, sending out          to get lock manufacturers, distribu-
informed, accurate site with lists of          marketing to your customer base. Be             tors, wholesalers, and reps to become
locksmiths that the consumer can find          careful to service your customers well          sponsors on the site and I am determined
instead of depending on the local Yellow       and make sure they have your real phone         to have my company and many other
Pages or Yellow Book. Unfortunately, he        number handy. Warn them about the               SHDA distributors become active
has had difficulty convincing legitimate       deceptive practice of phony locksmiths.         sponsors. Becoming a sponsor will help
locksmiths to invest $99 a year to be             I suggest writing critical reviews on        Larry take up the fight by visiting with
listed on his site. Larry is not trying to     www.yellowpages.com. You could join             the state attorney generals and local law
profit from his site but is acting to save     Angie’s List, a website that highlights         enforcement. He will also be taking the
the locksmith industry.                        the best service providers in the               petition to the yellow page companies
   When Jim Heath and Larry Friberg            country, or ask your customers to               and whoever goes on the site can sign
went to Florida to meet with Florida           recommend you on www.angieslist.com             the petition. Larry will also continue
state officials, they found another            and www.yellowpages.com. Positive               to work with Mike Bronzell and get
problem that is escalating through the         reviews are powerful marketing tools.           local and national media coverage. He
industry: copycat locksmiths, those            The locksmith industry must begin               will continue his work with the Better
that are stealing legitimate names and         selling itself by proclaiming its most          Business Bureau and other national
changing the numbers. Jim and Larry            outstanding locksmiths, forcing out the         organizations like AARP to warn the
met a locksmith who is fighting a              bad ones.                                       public about this massive scam. In some
“copycat” locksmith who has stolen his            What else can we do? Call your state         cases, he will make personal appearances
company name and is taking “$20,000            Attorney General and write a letter to          to gain more credibility.
a month” out of his business. When             the CEO of AT&T. All of the heads of               As they say, you can’t fight City Hall
the locksmith filed charges against            AT&T, Verizon, and Quest are listed             but you can fight for your own company
the copycat, the man in charge of the          on Yahoo, Google, and other sites with          and for its survival. When legitimate
copycat came by and shot out all of his        their addresses. Why not call your local        locksmiths stop accepting this huge
van and shop windows and cut his gas           television news and newspaper to let            problem and fight back by writing
lines. It was caught on video tape and         them know what is happening? They               letters, signing petitions, joining Legal
shown in an NBC news report that is            love controversial stories about rip-offs       Locksmiths, calling attorney generals,
available on the web (http://video.nbc6.       and many have reporters who specialize          and cancelling advertisements with
net/player/?id=180204).                        in highlighting local liars and thieves.        the local yellow page companies, the
   When I spoke to the locksmith who has          You can ask your distributor to sell         breakout of this pandemic will slow and
advertised with the Yellow Pages for 39        only to locksmiths with real business           may eventually stop.
years, he said he has three attorneys but      cards, addresses, and IDs. Cooperation             Each legitimate locksmith and
still the police dropped all charges, saying   between SHDA distributors and real              locksmith distributor has a responsibil-
they have "bigger crooks to catch." Even       locksmiths can only help the industry.          ity to help. Our industry depends on it.
though he has paid the phone company              I urge SHDA distributors and ALOA to
over $750,000 in four decades, when            join together to fight this battle. I believe
one calls the Operator or searches the         that the entire locksmith industry is           Arnie Goldman is the President of IDN-
Internet today, the fraudulent, copycat        under attack and it is necessary for all of     Hardware Sales, Inc. and a committee
locksmith comes up first.                      the local locksmith associations, ALOA,         member of the SHDA Industry
   What is happening all over the United       the locksmith magazines, SHDA, and              Advocacy Group.


40 — Locksmith Ledger [4/09]                                                                                      www.locksmithledger.com
www.locksmithledger.com   [4/09] Locksmith Ledger — 41

								
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