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Cyber locksmiths surge in popularity, prompt security concerns

Websites, apps make copies of keys with picture

Local 6: Morning News at 5a
Local 6: Morning News at 5a

ORLANDO, Fla. – Making a copy of your house key just got a lot easier. In fact, you don't even have to leave your house to do it.

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There's a surge of cyber locksmiths popping up online and in app stores that allow people to copy a key by simply taking a photo of the front and back of the key, uploading the photos to a website and then waiting a few days for it to arrive in the mail.

But while this kind of technology makes it easy for you to get into your home, it could also make it easy for crooks.

Think about how often your keys leave your sight, whether you hand them over to a mechanic or valet, if your house key is also on the ring you're handing over one of the main things that protects your family and your valuables.

Local 6's Mike DeForest decided to test it out by taking two photos, front and back, of the master key to all the managers' offices at the station. He then uploaded them to Keysduplicated.com.

The key is inscribed with the words "Do Not Duplicate" and true to their rules, the online company sent an email saying they would not make a copy of the key.

DeForest tried again, this time uploading two photos of a simple house key belonging to another Local 6 employee. Within minutes the company sent an email saying the copy was a success and we could order one for just $6.

"Most of the images we get are (from) people who are just trying to copy the keys from their houses," said Ali Rahimi, founder of Keys Duplicated, stressing his company won't take any photos that look like a passerby quickly snapped the pictures from a distance.

"We ask for both sides of the key in part to make sure the person taking the picture has enough physical access to the key to turn it over."

Rahimi thinks there are too many obstacles for a crook to have to jump through to get a key made on their site, like using a credit card and entering a billing address.

"If anything bad happens, law enforcement can figure out what happened," Rahimi said. "The risk is high, you'll get caught."

But Richard Carr, founder of Self ReLIONce Self Defense says people should take their own precautions and treat their keys like their credit card.

"Always have a plan before you go out. If you know you're going to be handing over your keys to someone bring the spare car key," Carr says. "Have a set of keys for you and a set for whoever is going to service you. Give them only the key for your car, not for your house."

As for the key to a Local 6 employee's home that we sent to Keysduplicated.com? A copy arrived in the mail just five days later and although it took a little jiggling, the lock popped right open.