For decades, if you wanted your keys copied, you went to a hardware store or key shop in person. The only way a thief could get your keys was to physically steal them.
Not anymore. Now cutting edge technology potentially allows crooks to open any door with no problem.
The game changer is a new website called keysduplicated.com: All you have to do is snap a clear photo of any house key with your smartphone and upload it to the site. Sophisticated software analyzes the grooves of the key down to the tiniest millimeter, all from the photo. Then a machine drills out the key's teeth, perfectly matching the key in the picture.
The key is mailed right to you. And it's cheap: only $6 a key, and no ID verification.
Police departments are worried that thieves will take advantage by snapping stealth photos of your keys in public, then show up at your doorstep with your key, unlock your door with ease, and walk right in.
You wouldn't even know you'd been had: You'd still have your key, and wouldn't know that someone had taken a photo of it. "Nope, not until something bad happened to you," agreed Det. Sgt. Richard Harasym of the Nassau County Police Department outside New York City.
To see if the technology really works, the Rossen Reports team snapped a quick photo of Jeff Rossen's house key lying on a table, uploaded it to keysduplicated.com, and supplied an address. A couple of days later, duplicates of Rossen's key arrived at the address. And they opened the door to Rossen's home successfully.
The Rossen team spoke with Ali Rahimi, CEO of Keys Duplicated, who did not deny the possibility that bad guys could utilize the website's technology.
To suggest a topic for a future Rossen Reports investigation, email us
"You know there's no doubt that this could be used by somebody to copy somebody else's key; I just don't think it's very likely to happen," Rahimi said. "If it ever happens, it's going to be a jilted ex-lover or disgruntled coworker — people who have other ways of breaking into your house."
Rahimi's company is still new, and so far there are no reported cases of theft related to it. Rahimi says there's a paper trail when customers supply their credit card information. "Security is our top priority, so we're constantly improving it," he said. "It's a never-ending game of providing a safer and safer service. I'd say we're on it."
But one homeowner we spoke to found that of little comfort: "It's really scary. Someone could get into your house at any time. That's the scariest thing I can think of."
Keys Duplicated says they require a valid credit card number, email address and mailing address before they'll ship out any key, but admit they don't verify that its your key or even your credit card. They say they won't copy car keys or high-security patented keys, and won't accept pictures of keys that are blurry or taken from too far away.
Police recommend you treat your keys like you would your driver's license or a credit card: Don't leave them lying around or let anyone you don't trust handle them.
Have an idea for a future Rossen Report? Email us.