Live 5 News Investigates: Copycat Keys

Live 5 News Investigates: Copycat Keys

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Most of us don't watch over our keys the way we do our credit cards and social security number. But experts warn you should guard your keys the same way you would protect your most precious possessions.

They recommend keeping your keys in your pocket or pocketbook when you are out in public, so your house key can't be duplicated without your knowledge.

Thanks to mobile technology, your house key can now be copied with a couple of quick pictures using a smart phone and a web-based key duplicating service. A duplicate key can be ordered and arrive by mail.

Live 5 News put it to the test with Kelly Parkin, who was surprised when we showed her how it worked. Her reaction was disbelief.

"I never knew that there was a site like that. That is pretty unbelievable. That's so scary, ” she said.

The process is fast and easy. Using

, we took a photo of her key, then flipped it over to the other side, and snapped another picture. It took just minutes to complete the order and was more convenient than heading to the hardware store to have a key made. But law enforcement authorities say in the wrong hands, the convenience could be a concern.

"To be able to get into my residence without my knowledge yes that is a great concern,” Easter LaRoche, the Victim's Advocate for the Charleston County Sheriff's Department, said.

Kelly's keys arrived in the mail in a matter of days, and when we put them in the lock, the keys worked perfectly.

"I can't believe that just happened,” Kelly said. And she's decided she won't hand over her house keys to anyone.

"I'm definitely only giving my car keys to the car wash, and anyone else that needs my car keys," Kelly said.

That means the car repair shop, and she'll watch where she puts her keys when she's at a restaurant or any other place where there are people with smart phones.

Experts suggest you don't tweet a picture of your cute keys..when you get a new one. It could get you some unwelcomed company.

“It's gonna be someone that person knows or someone who's trying to get to know that person,” LaRoche said.

We asked if the company has any new security measures to insure the person duplicating the key is the owner, or has permission to duplicate the key. Here is the company response:

"There are two main types of keys out there: restricted keys and standard keys. Restricted keys are covered by patents and typically have a registration system, which prohibits other manufacturers from making unauthorized productions of the key blank and In many cases, customers must provide proof of ID before a locksmith will cut additional keys using restricted blanks."

But the company says there isn't a way to tell if a person has permission to copy a standard key. 

"In light of that, we try to make the transaction traceable through non-prepaid credit cards and do our best to weed out suspicious keys." The company says they're doing more to prevent copycat keys than most hardware stores and locksmiths.

Bottom line: keep your keys out of sight.

Safety tips from include:

  • Keep keys in a pocket or purse
  • Don't leave your keys unattended, even on your desk at work.
  • Be careful who you let borrow your keys
  • Only hand over necessary keys, not your whole key ring
  • Don't post pictures of your keys..not even if you have a cute new key
  • Not everyone has time to wait a few days for a new key to be mailed to them.
  • In an emergency, you need to call a locksmith.

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