SPECIAL REPORT: Key to Danger - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports


(WTVM) -

Most people don't consider that the key to your home could be the key to danger.

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

When you buy a mass-produced lock, there are very good chances that someone else has the key to your home!

Ginger Watson was pleased with purchasing a dead bolt at a big box retailer for $9.97, but not so pleased when she discovered a little secret.

Peifer claimed 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," Peifer said. "It would probably be under ten or twenty."

Take Schlage for example. The company manufactures 30,000 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 a Home Depot for example, seven Schlage deadbolts are on the shelf and all seven had the same key.

Out of nine handle and deadbolt sets there were only two different keys available, which means every other customer would have matching locks on their doors!

Finding a match to Watson's gate house-brand lock was as simple as matching a serial number on her key and it only took a few seconds.

"It's scary because someone could be helping me in the store, look at the number and say 'here you go ma'am', then memorize it and grab the same thing right quick or wait and just trail me home," Watson said. 

We asked Home Depot and Lowe's how many different keys are available in their inventory of locks.

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

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

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.

So to protect yourself, they say always separate your car key from your house key because many times we hand over our keys for membership discounts or valet service, but that's not a good idea.

Schlage said ask the retailer where you purchased your lock if they will re-key it for you.

The safest solution is to invest in a lock that requires a custom key that cannot be duplicated.

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