WTOL 11 Special Report: Key to Danger - KPTV - FOX 12

WTOL 11 Special Report: Key to Danger

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(Toledo News Now) -

When you buy a mass produced lock, chances are very good someone else has the key to your home. It's a danger most consumers don't consider.

Lock expert Glen 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," said Peifer."It would probably be under 10 or 20."

Take Schlage for example, the company manufactures 30 thousand different keys. A spokesperson for Schlage said they constantly rotate the thousands of key codes they ship to retailers.

But how often are retailers rotating their inventory?

At one Home Depot, our investigation shows that of the seven Schlage deadbolts on the shelf, 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.

This investigation quickly found matching keys for several brands...including Defiant, Gate House, and Kwikset.

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

Ginger Watson was pleased with the price of a dead bolt she purchased at a big box retailer.
"My mom always said you get what you pay for," said Ginger Watson,"$9.97 wasn't bad."
She was not so pleased when we told her this little known secret.

Finding a match to Ginger Watson's Gate House brand lock was as simple as matching a serial number on her key.

"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," said Watson. 

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 to re-key locks in some cases.

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?" said Peifer. 

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