AG Van Hollen: State obtains judgment against New Jersey locksmith company for fraudulent advertising

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Bill Cosh 608/266-1221

MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Justice has obtained a judgment against Prestige Business Solutions, Inc., a New Jersey corporation that operates a nationwide locksmith business under the name USA Locksmith. The judgment resolves an enforcement action brought by the State in Racine County Circuit Court, based upon a joint investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection into fraudulent locksmith advertising.

The lawsuit alleged that Prestige has no business locations in Wisconsin, but engaged in deceptive advertising to create the false impression that a consumer was calling a local locksmith business. Prestige accomplished this in multiple ways:

1) by using numerous business names that referenced a local community, such as Racine Locksmith, Racine 24 Hour Emergency Locksmith, Racine 24 7 Available Locksmith, Racine Available Emergency Locksmith, Racine Anytime Anywhere Emergency Locksmith, Racine Always Available Emergency Locksmith, and Racine 24 Hour Locksmith;

2) by listing phony addresses for each business name, which either belonged to other businesses or at which no buildings existed; and

3) by listing local phone numbers for most of the business names in its advertisements, which, when dialed, transferred the call (unbeknownst to the caller) to Prestige’s out-of-state call center, which then dispatched a contract locksmith to perform the requested service.

Prestige did not appear in court to defend the lawsuit, and the state obtained a default judgment against the company, which was entered on December 1, 2010. The judgment requires Prestige to pay the State a total of $59,930.60. Of that amount, $9,643.10 constitutes the State’s costs of investigating and prosecuting the case; the remainder is comprised of forfeitures and assessments. In addition, the judgment prohibits Prestige from continuing to use the deceptive practices noted above.

According to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, “dishonest advertising harms consumers as well as legitimate competing businesses. Consumers should be aware that a popular tool of scam artists is the use of false local addresses and local phone numbers that forward calls out of state. We will not tolerate the blatantly deceptive practices engaged in by this locksmith company, and will continue to vigorously enforce our laws prohibiting false advertising.”

This is the second judgment obtained against a locksmith company this year by the Wisconsin Department of Justice. In March, 2010, the State obtained a judgment against Locksmiths, Inc., a New York-based locksmith company engaging in similar practices as Prestige.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General John S. Greene.