By Ginger Allen


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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Imagine a burglar being able to walk into your house by just opening the front door. It’s not impossible. All is takes is a camera phone. There’s a new way to get cloned keys.

I-Team reporter Ginger Allen showed just how easy it was when her colleague, fellow I-Team reporter Brian New stepped out of the office. He made the mistake of leaving his keys on his desk, so Ginger popped over, took two pictures and then broke the bad news when he got back. We wanted to use these pictures to see if we could get keys made and break into his house.

credit: KTVT

credit: KTVT

We uploaded the pictures straight from our phone to keysduplicated.com. We used this website, but there are other websites and apps using similar technology. “It is an issue,” says Vadim Epelbaum, a North Texas locksmith. “If I didn’t have high security keys I’d be worried about it.” Epelbaum says the technology is out there, but many consumers don’t know about it yet.

We sent away for two keys. They cost about ten bucks and came within a week. We met Brian at his house and tested the keys. They worked like a charm. Brian said, “That was a little too easy.” Epelbaum looked at the key and said it looked great — like a factory original.

KEY Cloning

And that’s the point. Is it too easy for crooks to use the same technology consumers rely on for convenience? Think about how many times you hand off your keys — to the valet, the car wash. As we showed, all it would take is a few quick pics. But the head of keysduplicated.com says the company has provisions in place to stop would-be crooks. “We have a manual review of keys,” says Jordan Meyer. “We reject anything that looks like it has been tampered with.” He also says the company requires two pictures, one of the front and back of the key to ensure that the person sending it had physical access to the key. He also points out that the website requires a non-prepaid credit card, so that if there is trouble, they can track down the purchaser.

Epelbaum admits, the burden is with the consumer. He says of camera copied keys, “It really is for your benefit, but just like anything else, it can be maliciously used.” Epelbaum says you should treat your keys like a social security number or credit card- don’t leave them out. If you give your keys to the valet, only give your car keys. House keys are the only ones that can be copied for now. And consider investing in high security locks. There are new ones that don’t rely on keys at all. Some use keypads where you enter in a code. Others use biometric information or a key fob. But all three are much more expensive than traditional locks.

As for Brian New, he has his own advice — don’t trust your co-workers. He says, “I promise not to leave my keys on my desk anymore.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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