You’ve heard of the thieves breaking in and hot wiring cars, often using high-tech methods, but an Oakland man says a man stole his car in a surprisingly low-tech way.
Dan’s black Mercedes Benz C-55 was parked outside his Oakland home Tuesday morning when a neighbor’s surveillance camera caught a locksmith truck driving up.
His neighbors saw the car parked there for up to three hours. He then believes a thief paid the locksmith in cash, to make a duplicate key on the spot.
“I’m pissed at everyone,” he said. “It’s not supposed to happen and it’s not supposed to happen in the middle of the day. You can see the dude talking to the locksmith person, going over and paying him, the dude gives him the key, he gets in it and drives off.”
When Dan saw the video, he called the locksmith’s phone number printed on his van.
“I said, ‘well you didn’t get any ID?’ and he said ‘no,’ and I don’t understand how that is even legally possible,” said Dan.
NBC Bay Area called that number too, and spoke to Wilson Zhang, who said that was him driving the locksmith truck.
Zhang says he speaks limited English, so we looped in our own Janelle Wang to speak with him in Mandarin.
“He’s like ‘how I’m supposed to know that? He gave me his license. His registration. I didn’t know that, you know, this guy was you know a thief,’” said Janelle.
But Dan said that doesn’t add up, because the registration was in the locked car.
Zhang says it wasn't suspicious because keys to Mercedes usually take hours to create and the man waited patiently outside.
“A lot of people say, when they meet me on the job, the only difference between you guys and a thief is a license,” said Omer Hosh of 24/7 Locksmith Solutions.
He said a criminal can easily pose as the owner, which is why he makes sure he verifies a person’s license and registration, before creating a duplicate key.
Hosh also said it’s way too easy to get a locksmith business license in California. We checked the state website and found there’s no training required – you just have to pass a background check that Hosh says is not very extensive.
“Nobody asks you if you know anything, where you’ve worked before, if you know what you’re doing, they just issue the license without a lot of checking,” said Hosh.
The car drama didn’t end there for Dan. Zhang says he gave Dan the number of the man who hired him to make the key. Dan called, and the car theft ballooned into a car kidnapping, with the thief demanding a ransom to return the car.
Dan showed us alleged text messages where the thief types: “have one thousand in cash ready. 100 bills only. Don’t f this up.”
And there’s this threat – “It’ll pain me to watch her burn. Goodbye.”
“I am so frustrated at what happened,” Dan said. “Yet there’s no way I’m going to pay into them trying to extort me for money.”
Dan says he’s putting his Mercedes in the hands of police now.