Woman feels ripped off by locksmith

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PHOENIX -- It's something you hope never happens -- locking your keys inside your car or maybe even your home.

3 On Your Side has a consumer warning just in case you decide to call a locksmith.

Let me say right off the bat that there are a lot of good, reputable locksmiths out there.

But, by the same token, there are just as many unscrupulous locksmiths and, given the chance, they will take you for a ride.

"I live out of this vehicle, basically," Tara Ulinger said. "I'm in my car every day of the week."

Ulinger is in the health care industry and pretty much works out of her car.

"In the process of teaching someone, I'm constantly running in and out of my car, grabbing the CPR dummies, grabbing paperwork, grabbing the fingerprint clearance kit," Ulinger said.

With all that back and forth, Ulinger says she's always careful with her keys but after one long day of work, Ulinger couldn't believe what she had done.

"Somehow I managed to lock my keys in my trunk," she said. "I've never done it before. I've done hundreds of home trainings and I didn't even realize until I'm walking out the door at the end of the day trying to get in my trunk and I'm keyless."

So Ulinger did what most people might do and called a locksmith.

"They quoted me $35 for the trip out here and $15 to get into my car," she said.

Ulinger says after hours of waiting, the locksmith did show up.

"He looks at me and says, 'OK, it's gonna be $125," Ulinger said. "I'm like, 'Excuse me? It's been three hours, you're late and you gave me a quote of $50."

Ulinger's issue has been an ongoing complaint in the locksmith industry.

In fact, two years ago 3 On Your Side confronted a locksmith after quoting our undercover producer over the telephone one price to unlock her car but had a much higher price when he actually showed up to the scene.

Since that report aired, 3 On Your Side decided to see if the locksmith industry has changed its ways.

Our same producer called several locksmiths saying her keys were locked in her car, but she always received the same standard answer: "You're looking at a $35 service call to get the technician out there and a minimum of $15 to open the vehicle, depending on the locking mechanism and how the technician opens the vehicle."

But chances are it will be more -- a lot more. Locksmiths cover themselves by saying a minimum $15 labor charge. But when they arrive, that minimum charge is frequently jacked up and in most cases, consumers are in no mood to negotiate.

That's what happened to Ulinger.

"I'm stuck, I'm at their mercy, and he could take advantage of me so they did," Ulinger said.

By the way, just because you call a locksmith with a local area code, don't be fooled. Many local numbers are transferred out of state and then they'll dispatch some fly-by-night locksmith here in Phoenix to your rescue.

For tips on how not to be ripped off, visit .