Low-cost locks may welcome thieves into your home

Lock could be identical to dozens of other locks manufactured by same maker

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - The lock on your front door is your first line of protection for your family and your property.

But there's a secret truth within the lock industry about those low-cost, mass-produced door locks, you've probably never heard of.

"The truth about them is that you can buy a lock at the store and it's very possible that you have just purchased a lock that a lot of other individuals already have a key for," said master locksmith Mark Rushing of Kings Safe and Lock in Houston.

Locksmiths say if you buy a lock set, costing between $20 and $60 at one of the big box, hardware stores made by manufacturers like Schlage and Kwikset, you could be buying a lock that is identical to dozens, maybe hundreds of other locks manufactured by the same maker.

It's a lock that is identical, right down to the key that opens it.

Using hidden cameras, Local 2 Investigates tested that claim, by looking through door lock displays at several Houston hardware retailers. We found entire boxes of locks with the very same key code.

At one store, we found seven locks in the same display box all with identical keys. Right next to that, we found more boxes filled with four or five cloned locks, that were all the same.

Manufacturers put matching key code numbers right on the package for convenience, so consumers can easily buy several locks for their home that can all be opened with one key.

But locksmith Mark Rushing said that's information that burglars are now using to their advantage.

Rushing said by using those matching key codes, burglars can buy 10 or 12 locks with different codes, and create their own key ring of cloned keys that they then will take into Houston neighborhoods.

So how do you protect yourself?

Security experts say take that low-cost lock to a locksmith and have it rekeyed. You could also buy a more expensive lock in the $100 to $150 range. Another option is buying one of the new keypad door locks that require a specific numbered code to open your door.

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