Keys to danger: A WAFF 48 News special report - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Keys to danger: A WAFF 48 News special report

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DECATUR, AL (WAFF) -

Would you ever knowingly put a lock on your house that complete strangers can open? As a WAFF investigation reveals, you already may have done just that.

It's a danger most consumers don't consider. When you buy a mass produced lock, chances are very good someone else has the key to your home.

Lock expert John Orr at Brooks Lock and Key in Decatur said big-box retailers may only carry a limited number of different keys on the shelf for each brand of locks they sell.

"You could take the key out of one box and it will actually open the lock in the other box," said Orr.

Take the lock company Schlage for example, they manufacture 30,000 different keys. A spokesperson for Schlage said they constantly rotate the thousands of key codes they ship to retailers.

We asked how often are retailers rotating their inventory. 

A a Lowe's, Schlage locks on the shelf and found most all had the same key serial number, meaning every other customer who picked one up after you, would have matching locks on their doors.

Matching keys were also found for several brands including Kwikset, Gatehouse and Defiant.

Customer Ginger Watson was shocked.

"Because someone could be helping me in the store, they could look at the number and memorize it. Grab the same thing and just trail me home," said Watson.

Key manufacturers tout the convenience of matching keys to customers who want the lock on the front door to match the back door, but experts say that convenience comes with a risk. 

When asked how many different keys are available in their inventory of locks, Home Depot's spokesperson said, "we don't break out the information you are requesting."

Lowe's responded, "we aren't able to provide information on inventory." 

"There's nothing wrong with buying a lock off the shelf, if you take an extra step and spend a little more by taking it to a locksmith to re-key it," added Orr. "The key is basically going to be unique to you from that point forward, so it's worth spending an extra $50 or $60 bucks."

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