Denver locksmith caught running ‘bait & switch’ scam … again

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DENVER -- We all know that sinking feeling when you've locked yourself out of your home or car. But what’s worse, is when the locksmith you call for help takes advantage of you.

Three years ago, A FOX31 Denver investigation exposed a locksmith company that has been accused of overcharging customers in Colorado and across the country.

Now we've learned Run Local Locksmiths is still at it. And for the time we are hearing from the owner.

When one of our sister stations caught up with Meni Agababayev in Detroit, Mich., he called himself “a business owner like every legit business owner in America."

But his business, Run Local Locksmiths has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau due to hundreds of consumer complaints. Those consumers claim they were victims of a “bait and switch” scam -- quoted one price on the phone but charged much more.

In 2010, Investigative Reporter Heidi Hemmat posed as driver locked out of her car. The Run Local operator quoted her $19.00, but when the locksmith arrived he told her, “it’s $95.00 for the labor plus the $19.00.”

If you Google "Denver locksmith," Run Local is the first one that pops up. It appears to be a Denver company. But if call the 303 number you are connected to a call center in Detroit.

The Run Local operators contact a locksmith in whatever city you are calling from and they get a cut of that locksmith’s fees.

Following our 2010 investigation, the Colorado Attorney General started investigating Run Local Locksmith. The office reached a settlement with Meni Agababayev, Run Local and another employee to avoid formal action for deceptive advertising based on charges that Run Local’s promise of a 15-minute response time and $15.00 charge were misleading.

But that hasn’t stopped the allegedly-misleading tactics.

To prove it, we scheduled an appointment with Run Local last week.

Heidi Hemmat was quoted a $15 service charge and told labor starts at $35. “So that’s about $50?,” Heidi said. The operator replied, “yes.”

But when the locksmith arrived, he tried to charge 3 times more.

“So it’s going to be $135.00 plus the $15.00 to come out,” he said.

We decided not to use Run Local and found another locksmith from CSS Lock and Security. He charged us $55.00 to open the car.

FOX31 Denver made repeated attempts to reach Meni Agababayev, but he never returned our calls.

Then last week we were contacted by the investigators at FOX 2 in Detroit. They were also investigating Run Local, and they found Agabababyev outside Run Local’s call center.

"I don’t think I want to explain to you about my business in the middle of the street,” Agababayev said.

He would also not disclose what percentage Run Local takes for the locksmith referrals or if their locksmiths are encouraged to jack up the price.

Agababayev did say he’s not a bad guy. He even went so far as to call himself a local hero.

“(I am) servicing everyone – holidays, day and night, no sleep," he said. "Just to serve you and your little baby at 3 in the morning when you're locked out of your car in the snow. That’s me coming to save you and your baby when you are outside the door."

The Colorado Attorney general’s office is encouraging customers who feel they were deceived by Run Local Locksmiths to file a complaint. You can do that by going to their website or calling their consumer line 1-800-222-4444.

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