Friday, May 6, 2011

Societies, associations and guilds can act like union thugs

Was reading Bob Ewing’s report on Breitbart presents Big Government entitled, “THIS IS IT: Will Florida Republicans Fight for Economic Freedom Tomorrow?

His article questioned “whether Republican Senators will live up to their promises to remove job-killing regulations.....or cave in to power special interests and high-paid lobbyists?”

Today, the Senate votes on HB 5005 which removes needless licensing for hair braiders, theater workers and interior designers.

His article goes on to talk about how The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) represents less than three percent of all designers yet through their economic and political power have lobbied states to endorse them alone as the only one who should set the rules for the entire industry. Rules like one needs a college degree to match the drapes to the sofa.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it. A society, association or guild, with money and with leaders who lack character and decency and want to stifle competition, can turn into a bunch of union thugs expecting tribute for the right to work in their industry.

At the end of Bob Ewing’s report is a link to the Institute for Justice. The Institute site lists the Republican Senators who will be voting on this issue. I’ve emailed them all asking them to support HB 5005. Just put: Support HB 5005 in the subject line. That’s about all they can take the time to read at this point.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I don’t like this last minute emailing or calling, because legislative aides who receive the emails or answer the phones have no way to verify whether or not the person sending the email or calling is even a Florida resident. All the more reason for Floridians to make their voices known now.

Bob Ewing’s report:

Institute of Justice

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SOPL founder asks his NY State representative to read The Locksmith Investigator

Tom Lynch, the founder of the Society of Professional Locksmiths, copied me on an email he had sent to his state representative, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, recommending she read my investigative report, Accurate Answers?, as well as the summary of the report detailed in my February 7 posting.

Locksmiths in NY are currently fighting more regulation purported to combat criminals posing as locksmiths. However, more regulation of law-abiding locksmiths does not stop criminal activity. Only by enforcing existing fraud laws can criminal activity be lessened. Following is Lynch’s email.

DO NOT PASS Locksmith Licensing Act 2011 A985

Dear Assemblywoman Jaffee,

Please take a moment to review an investigation conducted by award winning investigative news journalist Barbara Haiss Martin of "The Locksmith Investigator" news blog of Altamonte Springs, FL.

Summary: An investigation was conducted regarding the call for licensing locksmiths within the state of Florida and the claims being made for the justification. The claims turned out to be falsely presented to lawmakers in order to present an urgent need for regulation. Florida ultimately did not pass the bill as a result.

The same misleading activity is being conducted here in New York and elsewhere by individuals who represent a minority within the global community of locksmiths who do not speak for the entire industry. These same individuals have an "ends" agenda centered more around financial gain in the form of forced proprietary education programs, restriction of trade, elimination of competition and the smaller Mom & Pops operations, then it does consumer safety or protection.

The attempts to create hysteria by using the issue of criminals "posing" as locksmiths to force regulation upon the hardworking Mom & Pops is unjustified. New York State,as in Florida and elsewhere lack the sufficient data to support the claims being presented and it would be an unfair penalty against the Mom & Pops who have conducted themselves ethically.

The ancillary costs associated with the passage of such a regulation which is not being considered will cause great harm to an industry which has conducted itself honorably. Existing laws are in place for New York to address criminals abusing the public trust and should be enforced.

Reference: The Locksmith Investigator

Articles - April 6th through February 7th 2011

Please note both the May 24th & particularly the 25th where I am quoted as to "The Fabric of the (Locksmith) Industry"

cc: NYS Assembly

Tom Lynch, CRL
Director of Operations
P.O. Box 87
Sparkill, N.Y. 10976

Monday, February 7, 2011

Wall Street Journal reporter looks at how regulations effect job growth

Reporter Stephanie Simon with the Wall Street Journal has written an excellent article entitled "A License to Shampoo: Jobs Needing State Approval Rise" about regulation of occupations and the reasoning or lack of reasoning behind it. It's a fascinating look at what is happening around the country and is worth the read. Click on the name of the article to link to the story.

I did post the following comment on the site:

Excellent, well-research, well-balanced, well-written article. I especially liked how Stephanie Simon exposed how many actual complaints there were in an industry that proponents of regulation would have had to lie about or fail to mention to get their regulation passed. Last May, I wrote 3-part investigative report for my blog on how a national locksmith association working with one small local locksmith association attempted (and failed) to get a locksmith law passed in Florida. The point man for the local association was none other than the former president of the national association, a fact he failed to mention to lawmakers. The group exaggerated their importance and influence in the locksmith industry, over-stated the scammer problem in Florida by giving legislators a booklet of 200 “locksmith misconduct” news articles without mentioning that only 4 actual stories were from Florida and none about professional locksmiths, besmirched the character of hard-working locksmiths by not distinguishing between the professional locksmiths and the call-center owners who were dispatching scammer “locksmiths” and they did not mention what practically eliminated the scammer problem before the legislative session began. Attorney Generals around the country began using existing consumer protection laws to arrest the call-center owners. One AG reached into Florida and snatched out one of the largest owners in the country, David Peer, effectively shutting down a nationwide operation. Peer is still sitting in a jail in Missouri. So what was behind this whole locksmith legislation push (besides stifling competition), not only in Florida, but also in other states? While on one hand proponents kept screaming “consumer safety” attempting to get lawmakers to pass the bill “to protect the public,” what the other hand had done was write the legislation to include expensive and unnecessary initial and continuing education and training that, oops! the national association just happened to sell. Fortunately, we now have an anti-regulation Governor in Florida. To read the full investigative report, Google the words “Locksmith Investigator” and look for the series “Accurate Answers?” starting on May 24, 2010. Again, kudos to Stephanie Simon for a balanced and in-depth article that looked at occupational regulations and the reasoning (or lack of reasoning) behind it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Locksmith Investigator blog wins award

Congratulations on being one of Top Physical Security Blogs. Your blog was a great resource that not only kept your readers up to date, but provided vital information for keeping their homestead safe. Just by blogging, not only have you raised awareness for those interested, but also provided a place to go for answers when looking to ensure the safety of their family.

Thank you to the people at and We appreciate the honor.

Barbara Martin and Carol Leff, Editor

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Conclusions and suggestions for locksmiths

The time for locksmiths to become involved, stay informed and unite against any attempt to license them is now. The effort to stay free from licensing will require infinitely less effort than complying with all the licensing rules should another attempt be successful. But if locksmiths can show they are alert, united and working to solve problems within their industry, any future assault to licensing will be lessened.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Continue to strengthen networks - socialize, stay in contact with other locksmiths. Build a database of all the locksmiths in you county or city and get to know each other.

2. Continue to stay vigilant against any assault to your economic freedoms or attempts to enslave you to continual taxes, fees or unnecessary training.

3. If not in an association, join one or start one in your local area.

4. This is a biggie: Do NOT vote for leaders in local associations who are in favor of locksmith legislation. To do anything else is unwise.

5. Educate the public wherever you go about genuine locksmithing, your business and your association. Associations could print cards or fliers for members to hand out. Educating the public that all businesses are already required to display their business tax ID or occupational license (at least it’s true in Florida) and to ask to see it is important. “Locksmiths” who refuse to answer simple identity questions are hiding the fact that they are not locksmiths. They don’t want their victims to know who they are or how to contact them.

6. Educate your representatives during their campaign events or visit them in their district offices. Develop an “elevator speech” whereby you can state your opinion briefly and clearly. Provide them with information they can read later. Find out how local representatives can strengthen anti-fraud laws by requiring all businesses (including locksmiths) to give a written estimate for work over a certain amount of money. Also, emphasize that the state has to take a stronger stand in educating the public.

7. Visit your local news media to educate them about your association and what your members are doing to thwart the scammer issue. Ask for the local association to be listed as a news source for local locksmith stories. Associations should develop a list of items reporters can use to correctly discern whether the person showing up for a lockout job is a scammer or a genuine locksmith and post it on their website. Emphasize that scammers are not locksmiths and ask them to please put quotes around the word “locksmith” when writing about them. At newspapers, speak to the Managing Editors. At television stations ask for the Assignment Desk Manager. Leave information.

8. Work together and find ways to legally stop scammers that are working in your call areas. They are not too hard to find if you need a lock job done.

Here’s what I did recently concerning another industry and it may be something 2 or 3 locksmiths can do together:

Recently, I got tired of the annoying phone calls by a bogus “survey” company trying to set up appointments for an “educational” home energy audit. Energy Conservation Group was the new name they were using this month and as usual, was not listed as a valid company with the State of Florida. The callers wouldn’t give me their address or any other information. I did the only thing I could. I went on the offensive and booked an appointment.

When the representative got to my house, I asked for ID and he gave me an ID from Energy Labs – name, picture, phone number. No address. While my husband distracted him by showing him our hot water heater in the utility room, I rifled through the notebook he left on the coffee table and got the name of the actual company behind the scheme and checked it and Energy Labs online.

Now the only thing I had to do in order to report the company to the consumer protection agency for violating telemarketing laws was to listen to his spiel. Was he really here just to conduct an energy audit and educate me as the telemarketer said or would he put on the hard-sell? For the next few minutes I listened to him talk about the benefits of his product, but challenged him on every point about his company’s credibility or why he was truly there.

“Our company’s been in business 27 years…”

“Really? Energy Labs is not even a valid company in the State of Florida.”

“Oh, well, Energy Labs is just the manufacturer. Solar First has been in business for 27 years.”

“Really? The State says it was first incorporated in 2008.”

He ignored my remarks and continued with his hard sell explaining to me the easy financing and how I would save $90+ a month in energy costs. It will only cost me a payment of $135 a month – but I’d be saving energy!

“Well, if you buy the $13,000 solar hot water heater you get all these tax credits, plus, you get your attic insulated for free – a $1,500 value.”

“Really? I just checked with Lowe’s and it’s only $200 if I do the insulation work myself using their machine. Besides, I thought you were just here to educate me. I didn’t know you would actually try to sell me something. I have to think about all this.”

“Of course, we’re here to educate you,” he said as he handed me two energy solution tip sheets. “We only sell to people who want to be sold.”

The persistent rep continued to try to sell me and finally gave up only after I told him I scheduled the appointment under false pretenses to find out who he really worked for and that I wasn’t buying or financing anything. The only thing I forgot to do as he left was to walk him out to his car and get his tag number.

Locksmith networks in each community could go on the offensive together as well. Call the scammer numbers and schedule a lock job. Ask for ID when they get there. Wait to see if they pull out the only “locksmith” tool they have – a drill. Remember the purpose of the call is to gather information (car tags, photos, etc.) to turn into consumer protection agencies or local law enforcement agencies. Just be sure not to get physical. Local locksmith associations can also post the results of their “stings” on their websites with photos of the perpetrators (check with legal counsel first). I’ll tell you how it works out with the “telemarketing sting” I conducted.

In summary, locksmiths must continue to inform and strengthen their networks, must go on the offensive with scammers, must make contact with their representatives and must stay alert to the next assault on their freedom.

Update: The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and local police fraud agencies are investigating this group. The company keeps calling me using various names (Power Saver Association, National Electric Advisors, etc.). I make appointments every time, but they refuse to come out. Apparently, I’m blacklisted. Since they won’t come out to my house but continue calling me, now I explain to the “survey taker” what I’ve found as an investigative journalist. The company is using unethical business practices and they need to find another job. Since if their employer requires them to lie and cheat to get into people’s homes, they will lie to and cheat them. In addition, God will hold them responsible as if they did the wrong deeds themselves.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Summer's over, back to work

Well, it’s been interesting having the summer off instead of just the two weeks I had planned. I really did have some conclusions to that big investigative story I had written, but when I submitted the article to my editor, Carol, it wasn’t pretty.

“Call me right away before you post anything,” was the urgent message she’d left on my voice mail.

I had written conclusions for both ALOA (Associated Locksmiths of America) and for locksmiths in general. Carol felt the ALOA conclusions I wrote could be potentially libelous. Okay, so I guess I really didn’t have to state the obvious – that some of them can be a bunch of stinkers and maybe their members should consider voting them out of both the local and national organizations. Since the investigation was so well-documented, I believe it spoke for itself.

Instead of taking the time then to rewrite the conclusions article, I put it aside and did some ghost writing for my former publisher, David. After all, he did drive in from out-of-state and sit right in my office. Gotta take care of what’s in right front of me. I’d get back to the conclusion article soon enough, I thought.

The summer was busier than I expected and getting back to it just wasn’t that easy. Vacations, helping both sons move – one to Colorado to go to college, the other to another town closer to hubby and I, then the sad, but not unexpected passing of Will Leff, Carol’s husband of 52 years. We all needed some time off especially Carol. She’s in Colorado to visit family, friends and my son, and I promised to behave while she’s gone.

Tomorrow, I’ll post my revised conclusions article.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Accurate answers? Part 3: Neglected facts and mischaracterizations lead to wrong conclusions

Neglected Facts by FWCLA and ALOA:

How locksmiths are trained.

Florida locksmiths are professionally trained. Check out FWCLA’s website. Their website touts “Florida West Coast Locksmith Association is all about education.” They have trainings scheduled every month as do other associations. Strange how they didn’t mention that, but then it looks like only the Associated Locksmiths Of America (ALOA) answered this question.

Locksmiths regularly receive training through local associations and locksmith suppliers who bring in safe, lock, equipment, tool and software manufacturers and vendors to certify locksmiths on their products. Locksmiths train to make their jobs easier, expand their services therefore gaining more business and service their customers better. They have file drawers of certificates and storefronts, warehouses, storage sheds and vans crammed with product and equipment to prove it. New locksmiths learn from long-time locksmiths and supplement their training at locksmith schools either online, distance learning, video or CD classes or attend classes at conventions or seminars. Most locksmiths feel it is not appropriate to be burdened with costly regulations and mandatory and continuing education. At an estimated $50 a credit hour, SB 658 is requiring 16 credit hours or an $800 burden on already professionally-trained locksmiths. Mandatory training of trained locksmiths will not stop the criminal element – only enforcement of current anti-fraud laws will do that.

Locksmiths certifying themselves?

When I interviewed Senate analyst Mandy O’Callaghan she said she had some concerns about whether or not the locksmiths were certifying themselves. She said she asked FWCLA lobbyist Janet Mabry about who would be doing the training and was told it would be the locksmith/employers or a major locksmith employer who would be providing the training.

Okay, so maybe Mabry just didn’t know what was going on in the locksmith industry. It’s possible. Maybe she was confused -- after all this is the lobbyist who every time she was asked at a committee meeting who she represented or every time she introduced herself or signed an appearance card, she couldn’t even get her client’s name right. She always said she was representing “Florida locksmiths” or “the Locksmith Association” instead of the Florida West Coast Locksmith Association. The first time I noticed it, I thought it was just a mistake, but after hearing or seeing the same faux pas on every committee video or tape recording, I began to wonder – was it intentional or is she really confused? Maybe overstating whom they represent is a normal “fib” for a lobbyist – I don’t know.

I explained to O’Callaghan that a large chain like Pop-A-Lock, that had their own training center, may be certifying their employees, but most locksmith businesses are a one- or two-person businesses and they do not certify themselves.

Questions 10 & 11 combined
What is the cost of regulation, including indirect cost to consumers and the method proposed to finance the regulation? (Question 11 addresses the cost to locksmiths and FWCLA and ALOA gave the same answer to both questions.)

Answer: ALOA and FWCLA state that the cost depends upon how many the state feels it can license plus the cost of administering the license. They list $500 (Illinois) every two years to $100 (N.C.) every year. They point out that it is less than $1 a day to maintain a license.

Not completely accurate
FWCLA and ALOA failed to address:

The cost to the professional locksmith would be significant as it includes licensing fees, mandatory and continuing education, as well as the cost to maintain and store records on customers and employees. All these costs would have to be passed on the public.

Question 12

Provide any previous efforts in this state to implement regulation of the profession or occupation?

Answer: FWCLA and ALOA state that Dade County had a locksmith licensing ordinance.

Inaccurate: Dade County has an existing locksmith licensing ordinance and it’s been operating well since 1995. FWCLA and ALOA did provide a link to Dade County’s ordinance in their answer, so it may have been a typo. Dade County’s ordinance does not, however, burden the locksmith with mandatory and continuing education. Miami locksmiths, who pay $600 every two years for a license, verified that the locksmith suppliers in the area invite vendors on a regular basis to provide certified training programs.

Question 13

Provide any other information the committee may consider relevant to the analysis of the proposed legislation?

Answer: FWCLA and ALOA state that “many consumers falsely believe that all locksmiths have had a background check and have some proficiency in their trade. There is no way to evaluate this unless locksmiths show that they have a license. With the advent of ‘Phony locksmiths’ defrauding and overcharging the public all over the country, the public is demanding that something be done.” The legislators are then directed to the ALOA’s website page with the 201 “locksmith” stories.

Inaccuracy #1: FWCLA and ALOA did not cite their documentation that determined what consumers do or don’t believe. Florida consumers can rightly believe that professional locksmiths are proficient because they are professionally trained and they actively acquire skills and training to enhance their service and livelihood. Consumers also are likely to presume that any professional trades person would be proficient in their trade. We assume, for example, that car mechanics are proficient in what they do. Most pay for their own schooling and training. Some of them get certified on particular cars or systems as locksmiths can get trained on specific locks and systems. But car mechanics are not required to be licensed or required to take continuing education classes and neither should locksmiths.

Inaccuracy #2: There is an evaluator. The marketplace is the evaluator. It evaluates car mechanics and professional locksmiths alike. Those who don’t measure up lose clients and eventually go out of business. With the advent of the Internet, consumers can go to government or association sites to assure themselves that they are calling a legitimate locksmith.

Inaccuracy #3: Apparently, the “public demand for something to be done” is not very high as locksmith scams are not even listed as one of the top 83 scams on the State’s consumer protection website administered by State Attorney General Bill McCollum.

McCollum’s office lists only one current “locksmith” investigation on its website and it’s for David Peer’s call center. Peer’s already sitting in a Missouri jail cell as that state’s Attorney General sent the U.S. Marshals after him for fraudulent crimes against Missouri residents and mail fraud.

According to Rachel Slone, media contact for McCollum’s office, there have been 62 “locksmith-related” crimes in Florida in the last 3 years or an average of 21 per year.

Slone said, “We have one active ongoing investigation and several of these complaints relate to this active case.” She said that she could not reveal the name of the person in the active case since the person was unaware of the investigation. When asked if they were locksmiths or those posing as locksmiths, Slone said, “We won’t know until we complete the investigation.” (See link below.)

According to Sonya Perez, the media contact for the Miami-Dade Consumer Services Department, where a locksmith licensing ordinance has been the law since 1995, there were 31 complaints against locksmiths in the last 3 years or an average of 10 per year. Perez, however, could not state how many complaints were against any of Miami-Dade’s 450+ registered locksmiths and how many complaints were against those posing as locksmiths.

According to Judy Pepper, President of the Better Business Bureau of Central Florida, there were five complaints against locksmiths in 2009 in Central Florida with a total of 81 throughout the state. South East Florida counties had the highest number of incidents with 53. Unknown is whether they were locksmith complaints or “locksmith” scammer complaints.

According to Terrance McElroy, spokesman with the State Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, the department did not have a lot of complaints against locksmiths in 2009. He said it would be difficult to pull out specific data due to the way they input and track their information. Once it becomes a frequent complaint, they categorize it. Locksmith complaints have not been categorized.

“I don’t think we’ve had an excessive number of complaints,” McElroy said.

Totals from these agencies for 2009 for the whole state
    21     Attorney General’s Office
    10     Miami-Dade Consumer Services
    81     Better Business Bureau
    ?     Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services
        – too small to categorize
    4     Newspaper articles

How many of all these 116 reported incidents are duplicated to more than one agency is unknown. Let’s assume for arguments sake that 50% are against professional locksmiths – that figure would be less than 60 complaints in the entire state. I personally think these are mostly “locksmith” scammer complaints.

I did begin checking counties on Florida’s west coast when I heard a television reporter state in a news report that there were hundreds of locksmith complaints. The four agencies he listed were the Better Business Bureau, the Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services and both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties’ consumer protection agencies.

Pinellas County has the information online and there were 5 complaints all against David Peer. In Hillsborough County, there were 2 complaints (1 against Peer) in 2009. Apparently, the reporter’s figures don’t line up or, under time constraints, he may have relied upon the west coast locksmiths he interviewed to answer truthfully.

Question 14

Name of the person(s) completing this questionnaire and the entity or interested party that he or she represents.

Signed by:
Ken Kupferman, CML, Florida West Coast Locksmith Association
Tim McMullen, ALOA.

Accurate if you don’t count the omissions: Kupferman served as the President of ALOA from 2007 – 2009 and was on the ALOA board for the previous 6 years. Strange he didn’t mention that in the questionnaire or on his appearance cards or in person when he either testified before the committee hearings or showed up to speak.

FWCLA, by the way, was listed as an ALOA Affiliate on ALOA’s website in 2003, but dropped that designation somewhere along the line -- maybe as they began to get more politically involved.

McMullen is the Legislative Manager for ALOA

According to a State of the Association article in the July 2009 Keynotes magazine (page 33), “. . . ALOA played a proactive role in locksmith legislation by providing assistance with the passage of locksmith licensing and related bills in Alabama, California, Maryland and Virginia; monitoring and assisting with the process of introducing locksmith licensing bills in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Rhode Island. . . “

From what I could discern ALOA answered all 14 questions and I‘m crediting FWCLA with 7 answers, although it may not be that high and of those, 3 were inaccurate or distorted the facts. At least 6 of ALOA’s answers either neglected to tell the full story or were complete mischaracterizations and some had multiple inaccuracies.

I don’t know what “assisting with the process of introducing locksmith licensing bills in Florida” means to ALOA, but it appears to be more than just assisting especially when both people signing the questionnaire are leaders in ALOA.

Obviously, there is only one interested party in this questionnaire, only one group seeking to regulate Florida locksmiths – ALOA.

Next post (which may be next week):

I’ll be drawing some conclusions on this situation plus sharing how one locksmith almost single-handedly stopped locksmith legislation in his state by educating his fellow locksmiths what that law would actually cost them. Hope to have these two written the beginning of the week. Then I take two weeks off – to continue writing my former publisher’s memoirs. Then I’ll be back at it. Finally, thank you to all those that wrote such kinds words to me about the work I’m doing. I appreciate it.


Associations – check out the associations’ education (training) pages or notices

Central Florida Locksmith Association First Coast Locksmith Association
Florida West Coast Locksmith Association

FWCLA listed on ALOA’s June 2003 website as an affiliate:
Associated Locksmiths of America
ALOA’s locksmith listings

Podcast of March 3, 2010 – Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee (Video is no longer archived but audio is in the form of a podcast) Scroll down to the Committee’s March 3 podcast. You can also scroll down to the March 22 podcast of the Public Safety & Domestic Security Policy Committee and hear Mabry say she represents Florida Locksmiths..

Janet Mabry’s appearance sign in Packets&FileName=ANRPC_ACTN_3_3_2010.pdf

This link is very long, so go to, then select committees and scroll down to “General Government Policy Council.” From there select the Agriculture & Natural Resources Policy Committee. Once on their page, select “All Council and Committee Documents” from the Committee Document section and select the March 3rd Action Packet. Page 5 lists Janet Mabry signing in as a lobbyist for Florida Locksmith Association.

Miami-Dade’s Locksmith Ordinance

Consumers can file or check out complaints at the following links:

County level - Most counties have a Consumer Protection Ordinance and agency that
handles complaints. Go to the local county page and look for the link.
Also, go to local police or sheriff’s office.

State level -
Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Office of the Attorney General of Florida
To check out current investigations, go to:, click on the “Search Active Investigations” link on top of the column of investigations. Type in the word “Locksmith” and see David Peer’s investigation show up.