RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Have you checked your locks tonight? It may not even matter! They may be vulnerable to what's called a "bump key." Crooks use the altered keys to break into homes--- without a trace.
Locksmiths created "bump keys" years ago for a quicker way to make repairs to broken locks, but now that crooks are using them, more people are looking for ways to protect their homes. I found one woman who changed her locks because of "bump keys".
It only takes seconds before your house becomes a "free for all" for burglars, who can walk right through your front door and take what they want without you realizing until it's too late! It doesn't damage your lock.
"Bump key" how-to videos are all over YouTube. One video from five years ago has had more than two million views.
DJ Jacobs with Richmond Security says "bump" or alerted keys have been used to break into homes, businesses and sheds for years, but college dorm rooms are now targets too.
"They're stealing each other's computers, laptops, iPods, watches, occasional money or credit card," said Jacobs.
We're not going to show you how a bump key is made. But Jacobs walks us through just how easy it is to unlock a deadbolt with one.
"This key here does not work the deadbolt. With a couple of taps it now does," he showed us.
The altered key manipulates the lock tumblers. I gave it a try and with a couple of taps...it's open.
Jacobs says locksmiths created bump keys to repair damaged deadbolts and doorknobs.
"Some locks with age become harder to pick," Jacobs said. "Sometimes they become forged, damaged, rusty, springs get damaged, so the bump key becomes more easier for us to get the lock open."
But the frightening phenomenon has people scrambling to upgrade to something that can withstand a bump key.
Mary Ruth did after a rash of break-ins at a Richmond apartment complex where she used to live.
"Two. I heard about two and they were in about a week time frame and that was it," she said.
Her home wasn't hit, but it didn't matter.
"Yeah, very scary because you were invaded your privacy is gone," Ruth explained.
Jacobs says more people are stopping in asking for high security locks. He sells one with a key that can't be duplicated.
"You can only get the key through us with a photo ID. No exception," Jacobs said.
Ruth says she's working to put the special locks on all her doors to give her peace of mind.
"Very costly though, but well worth the price," she said.
The price for high security locks can range anywhere between $145 to $235.