14 News Special Report: Key to Danger - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

14 News Special Report: Key to Danger

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It's a danger most don't consider, but when you buy a mass produced lock, there's a good chance someone else has the key. 

"It just doesn't make sense when you buy a lock and someone else has a key to it, period. I would like to know that my key is the only one that fits the lock," locksmith Glen Peifer said.

It's a danger most consumers don't consider. 

"It's all about revenue," Peifer said.

"My mom always said you get what you pay for," consumer Ginger Watson said. 

Watson was pleased with the price of a dead bolt she purchased at a big box retailer.

"$9.97, wasn't bad," Watson said.

Not so pleased when we told her a little known secret. Peifer says most big box retailers only carry a limited number of different keys for each brand of locks they sell.

"I would say it would be very low. It would probably be under 10 or 20," Peifer said.

Take Schlage for example. The company manufactures 30,000 different keys. A spokesperson for Schlage says they constantly rotate the thousands of key codes they ship to retailers.
   
But how often are retailers rotating their inventory?

At a Home Depot, we found seven Schlage deadbolts on the shelf and all seven had the same key.
   
Out of nine handle and deadbolt sets, there were only two different keys available, meaning every other customer would have matching locks on their doors.

It didn't take long to find matching keys for several brands, including Defiant, Gate House, and Kwikset.  
   
Finding a match to Watson's Gate house-brand lock was as simple as matching a serial number on her key.

"Wow. Scary. Because someone could be helping me in the store, look at the number, 'Here you go ma'am', memorize it. Grab the same thing right quick or wait and just trail me home," Watson said. 

Key manufacturers tout the convenience of matching keys to customers who want the lock on the front door to match the back door.
   
But safety experts say that convenience comes with a risk in situations you may not have ever thought about.

Think about how often you surrender your keys... the valet, the gym. Have you ever just tossed your entire set of keys on a hook before your workout? What about those membership cards that need to be scanned?

Safety experts say always separate your car key from your house key, lowering the chance of someone stealing your key's identity.

"Maybe they think what are the odds? But I think if they really Knew what the odds were, they would choose not to do that," Peifer said.
   
We asked Home Depot and Lowe's how many different keys are available in their inventory of locks.

Home Depot said, "We don't break out the information you are requesting."

Lowe's said, "We aren't able to provide information on inventory." 

Schlage offered this advice... ask the retailer where you purchased your lock if they will re-key it for you.
   
The safest solution, albeit the more expensive solution, is to invest in a lock that requires a custom key that cannot be duplicated.

"Do they not understand that the next customer that comes by and grabs this lock off of the shelf, that they have a key to their house?" asked Peifer.

A possible key to danger when consumers unknowingly risk security for convenience and lower prices.

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