Over the past two years ALOA has fielded the following complaint from frustrated locksmiths with increasing frequency: “The scammers have hijacked my listing and are stealing my calls. My call volume has dropped and no one will help me!” This complaint can evolve from a number of...
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However, some business names are SO common that no one can really claim it as their own. “A1 locksmith” is an extremely common name in many cities and variations to the name such as “A1 Lock and Key”, “A1 Safe and Lock” or “A1 Locks and Locksmiths” are going to be VERY hard names to defend and Google® is unlikely to delete any listings that are this common. Another similar variant that will be extremely hard to defend is a personal name and the word locksmith, such as John's Locksmith.
Q. What other sneaky things are the scammers doing to rip me off?
A. One of the most effective tactics used by scammers is to take out multiple listings of your business name from the phone company so they appear in Directory Assistance databases. These listings can appear in 411 for a year or longer before they show up in local phone books or even the Internet. The trick is to outnumber you in the directory assistance database so that when a customer calls 411 and asks for “AA1234 locksmith,” the directory assistance operator is presented with several phony ‘AA1234 locksmiths' of which only one is your true listings.
To combat this you have to call directory assistance from multiple mobile phones and your local land-line phone and specifically ask for your business name. Do this 10 times to ensure that you are always given you number. What you may find is that two out of 10 customers are given the scammer phone number. That could help explain a 20 percent reduction in sales over last year wouldn't it?
Q. I'm sick of these scammers. How can I help put an end to this nonsense once and for all?
A. They will continue to surface as long as there is money to be made. The best that we can do is work together with our associations, law enforcement, the legal system and educate the public about the scammers.
Many of us can certainly step up our marketing game but we need to build from a firm foundation. That foundation starts with the name of your business. If your business has a name that is not ‘trademark-able', meaning the legal system will not grant you a trademark on your name…a strong defendable name will make your company reputation harder to ‘tap into' by our clever adversaries.
Q. I have tried EVERYTHING but the scammers have taken all my ads and have taken out dozens of variants of my business name in 411. If something doesn't happen soon I will be out of business!
A. One locksmith who had variants of his name hidden in 411 experienced a $40K per month reduction in sales. This staggering loss was only resolved through formal legal action against the perpetrators. This process started with a consultation with an attorney, involved professional investigation, multiple subpoenas of third party phone companies, affidavits from customers who were deceived, numerous reports to state licensing agencies and ended in an agreement to transfer custody of the numbers (and several other stipulations). This process took approximately six months and about $25K in legal fees.
Q. I want to fight but I don't even know who I'm fighting against. Aall of the addresses are fake and the call center that answers won't give me any information. What do I do?
A. The scammers have developed a very sophisticated web of shell companies and camouflage. However there is a way to clearly identify who is doing this to you. It starts with visual proof (internet screen shot or saved text message from 411 or copy of yellow pages) and the phone number(s) of the offending party. The phone company providing the number is identifiable by using a site such as www.usaphonelookup.com this will tell you the phone company of origin.
One thing is certain, if you simply stand by and ignore how technology is affecting the industry or depend on others to fight for you…the only thing you will have to worry about is if the scammers are hiring.
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A successful, established New Jersey locksmith finds that his competition is not another local businessman, but an out-of-state phone bank using a name too close for comfort to his company’s name.