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After giving you a good tip on fake plumbers, The invoice warns you against fake locksmiths.

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Locksmiths... not barred!

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In addition to not being the right color, Charles-Vincent's supposedly new door handle and lock Chevalier appear to be used.

  • François Sanche (View profile)François Sanche

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Charles-Vincent Chevalier, a resident of Verdun in Montreal, was the victim of a form of extortion. When we met him last summer, he was still troubled by what had happened to him the previous week, when he thought he was dealing with a simple locksmith. Rather, these were individuals linked to a person who had already been the subject of a report byThe Bill in March 2023 for his misdeeds in plumbing.

It all starts with a Google search. After noticing that his key was difficult to turn in the lock of his front door, Charles-Vincent Chevalier typed in two key words: locksmithand Verdun. A sponsored link appears at the top of the results: www.serrurier 247.ca (New window). He makes an appointment. A man introducing himself as a locksmith arrives shortly after. The speed of his verdict surprises Mr. Chevalier.

There, immediately, the door handle had to be changed. There was no doubt about it. That surprised me a lot.

A quote from Charles-Vincent Chevalier

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Charles-Vincent Chevalier did business with Serrurier 24/7 after clicking on a sponsored link in Google.

The 24/7 Locksmith employee does not have the spare parts and must go get them. When he returns, he is no longer alone. An individual accompanies him.

While the men begin work, Mr. Chevalier receives his invoice by email. He has a shocker: The price of the handle has doubled, and the total amount is $971.54. I am scandalized. It doesn't make sense.

To discuss the price, he must call the locksmith again, he is told. The person on the phone doesn't want to hear anything. The two technicians finish the work, then… wait. The men refused to leave until I paid. Me, I'm all alone. How am I going to interact with two men who have the same build as me? It's going to be difficult if the situation escalates.

Only payment method available: Interac. It will therefore be impossible to cancel the transaction. He pays. Interac indicates that the payment was collected by a certain Julie Lévesque.

After their departure, Charles-Vincent realizes that his lock is not new; the finish is already attacked by oxidation. But Locksmith 24/7 no longer responds. He goes to the address of the business: the premises are empty.

To At that moment, I was completely aware that I had been fooled.

A quote from Charles-Vincent Chevalier

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The lock installed at Charles-Vincent Chevalier by workers from Locksmith 247 looks used.

Described as endemic in the United States, the fake locksmith scam knows no borders. Everywhere, busy, poorly informed consumers fall into the trap after accidentally clicking on a sponsored link from Google.

And their recourses are almost non-existent.

A negative review on Google? The comment will immediately be followed by rave reviews. And since the misdeed is halfway between theft and poor workmanship, the police often direct injured consumers to the small claims division. But what's the point of sending your formal notice to a false address?

Charles-Vincent Chevalier admits that he should have done some checks before calling Locksmith 24/7. In Quebec, the Private Security Act requires locksmiths to hold a permit issued by the Public Security Bureau (BSP (New window)). The BSP is mandated by the government to enforce the law. Verification done (New window), Locksmith 24/7 does not have a license.

Beyond the necessary consumer education, many criticize the ease with which fake locksmiths (and other repair professionals) can circumvent Google's rules to rise to the top of search results through the purchase of sponsored links.

According to Patrick Perreault, president of the digital marketing agency Perimeter, Google has worked miracles for small businesses by giving them unexpected access to low-cost advertising . Thousands of businesses in Quebec are able to grow today because they have access to this advertising. But that also means that, sometimes, less honest or downright fraudulent actors slip in.

However, locksmith verification measures (New window) have been put in place by Google in Canada. Locksmiths wishing to open a Google business profile (allowing you to purchase sponsored links) must participate in a video interview with a company agent and provide documents proving they are in good standing.

Patrick Perreault does it for his clients, but according to him, the procedure has setbacks. We have had cases where, by mistake, one of the files sent [to Google] was empty. It was a scan of a passport, but we sent them a blank page. It went like a letter in the mail. So, even if we try to put measures in place, it is absolutely not perfect.

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Patrick Perreault believes that Google has opened the door to the advertising market for small businesses, but that this carries a risk for the consumer .

Last spring, Google launched the Advertising Transparency Center (New window) to allow consumers to know the identity of the advertising account holder who purchased the ad. This page can be found by typing the name Advertising Transparency Center into Google or by clicking on the three dots to the right of a sponsored link.

In the case of Serrrurier 24/7, the Transparency Center reveals that the account manager is Cédrik-Alexandre Brazeau-Verati. In March 2023, The bill revealed that the name of Mr. Brazeau-Verati was associated, with another person, with plumbing websites without a valid license, which were the subject of complaints from many consumers.

How was Mr. Brazeau-Verati able to advertise as a locksmith without having a license [from the BSP] in his name? asks Patrick Perreault, who reminds us that a locksmith must pass the document and video interview test.

So, he would have slipped through the cracks twice. And that's what I would ask Google to explain to us.

A quote from Patrick Perreault, president of the digital marketing agency Perimeter

When asked about this, Google said it does not share specific information about its security measures. Bad players will often use this information to undermine our efforts and circumvent our rules, we were told in English.

Google adds: We have reviewed the ads in question and removed those that violate our policies.

Mr. Brazeau-Verati's account is still online, but inactive since August 8. Mr. Brazeau-Verati could not be reached to answer our questions.

The Google Advertising Transparency Center indicates that Cédrik-Alexandre Brazeau- Verati has published sponsored links for both plumbing and locksmith services.

In the group with which Mr. Brazeau-Verati is associated is his ex-spouse Laurie Boies, who is currently facing charges of illegal practice of plumbing by the Corporation of Master Pipe Mechanics of Quebec. Ms. Boies' mother, Julie Lévesque, is believed to be the one who received the $971.54 payment from Charles-Vincent Chevalier, according to the Interac receipt.

Questioned on this subject, Laurie Boies and Julie Lévesque deny engaging in illegal activities. Julie Lévesque claims to be only a paid secretary.

In this case, who owns Locksmith 24/7? Ms. Lévesque refused to answer us. Laurie Boies swore to her grandmother in heaven not to be associated with a plumbing company. But it was she who answered us when, a few days later, we called a plumbing company newly online: Plombier Chez Rémi.

This company, which does not hold a CMMTQ permit, was at the top of the results thanks to a sponsored link purchased from Google. His advertising account has since been suspended, following our call to Google.

Charles-Vincent Chevalier filed a complaint with the police and the Bureau of private security.

I won't get that money back. In fact, I was aware of it hours after the event. This gesture is rather my civic duty.

A quote from Charles-Vincent Chevalier

Consumers in the emergency looking for a locksmith can consult the Register of license holders (New window) on the Private Security Bureau website.

Those desperately looking for a plumber can consult the Directory of Members of the Corporation of Master Pipe Mechanics of Quebec. (New window)

Word of mouth can be very useful to them, as well as Google's natural search results.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">The report by François Sanche and director Stéphanie Desforges is broadcast on Tuesday, November 21, on the show La invoice on ICI TÉLÉ.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116