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Smartphone app makes it easy for burglars to duplicate keys

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SAN DIEGO, CA (KSWB) — Advanced technology offers ways for anyone with a cellphone the opportunity to become a burglar.

A smartphone app called KeyMe allows users to photograph a key, then upload the image to the app which sends it to a local locksmith to make a duplicate.

Users have the option to have the key mailed to them or go to a local locksmith and pick it up. The cost for the duplicate is a couple of dollars.

Fox 5 tested the app by snapping a picture of Fox 5 editor Alison’s key without her knowledge. (She left them out on a desk while she went to the break room.) Then, the picture of her key was uploaded to the app for $10. The picture and corresponding code was taken to a local locksmith to make a copy. We warned Alison we would be breaking into her home at some point, but she didn’t know how.

“That’s freaky,” she said when we walked in to her apartment after opening the door with a copied key. Fox 5 tested it again with two more keys.

“It spit out two correct codes,” said locksmith Todd Songer from Village Lock & Key in Poway. “We checked them against a real lock and they work.”

KeyMe isn’t the only app out there. There is also Keys Duplicated and Belgian KeySave. Users must plan ahead though for the app to be helpful.

“People who think ahead have an exterior key safe in their home, they have a key at their neighbors, they’re prepared and they never call us,” said Songer. “People who lock themselves out 99 percent of the time don’t have their own phone with them; half of them don’t have a car. They’re locked out with a dog, their bathrobe.”

What about someone scanning another person’s keys without their consent? Law enforcement officers said being aware is crucial.

“(You should) know where your keys are at all times,” said San Diego police Officer Mark Herring. “Having them in your possession; if they’re not in your possession, knowing that they’re in a safe and secure place so something can’t happen to them.”

Also, think ahead before handing your keys off to a valet or mechanic.

“Remove the other keys that are on the key ring,” said Officer Herring. “There’s no sense in giving somebody your house keys or your other keys they don’t need so a simple basic thing like that will help keep you from being a victim a crime.”

The company reassures users that their process, which requires keys to be removed from the ring and photographed on both sides with a white background, is designed to strictly prevent flyby pictures by strangers. The company maintains the app is safe in that it offers a digital trail to the person responsible, should a key be photographed by someone other than the owner.

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