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How safe is it? Companies offer online key copying service

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By Kendall Downing

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Oct. 30, 2014) - FOX59 is bringing you a new warning about your keys. Duplicating one is easier than ever. All you need is a picture, and anyone can get a new key cut online. Police warn criminals could snap photos of a key and show up in your home!

They are direct access to your home, business, even your car. Our keys offer security and protection. If you need a new one, you typically go to a hardware store, like Akard True Value in Zionsville.

Toni Peart can cut your key in a jiffy for a couple bucks.

"We'll try to make sure that if we know the key has been worn a lot and used a lot, that we sand it down to try and make sure that it'll fit when it gets to your house," she said.

But nowadays you can trade the in-person service for convenience and go online. Keys Duplicated is a prime example. The business cuts keys from a picture, then mails them to you.

"At its core, what we're doing is not much different than what locksmiths have been doing for years," said Jordan Meyer, COO of Keys Duplicated.

Police tell FOX59 online key cutting opens the door to sneaky crooks with more sinister motives. A cell phone camera and access to a key are all they need to strike.

"To me, with this, it would be for the more dangerous type of criminal," said Matthew Fillenwarth, assistant chief with the Greenwood Police Department.

Fillenwarth said a routine burglar would not be the kind to snag a copy of your key. Instead, he points out the possibility is there for an inside job--someone you trust using you to their advantage.

"An employee who wants to come back later and burglarize your business will, has that access to keys during work and can take a picture of it," he said. "I also worry about estranged husbands or boyfriends."

Jordan Meyer points to safeguards with Keys Duplicated's online copying.

"We feel that we're offering a safe and convenient service," he said.

Meyer said there is a manual review. Staff email people back if the photos look doctored or strangely shot. A front and back picture are required, and Keys Duplicated only works with a valid credit card, so he said it cannot be done anonymously.

"It needs some identity there which is traceable back to the person who submitted the key," said Meyer.

FOX59 wanted to test the service out. Would it deliver a precisely cut key? How easy is it to get one?

FOX59's Kendall Downing asked a co-worker Kim to provide pictures of a key to her home.

He uploaded the images to the website right from his phone, and then five days later the envelope with keys came right to his mailbox.

He went to Kim's home and tested the key out. It worked.

"Oh my gosh, that is scary," she said, as the door opened.

FOX59 took action and went back to the company with the results. They said to this point, they've heard of no criminal use.

"We have not heard directly from any law enforcement agencies," said Meyer.

Meyer insists the company's safety measures are growing, though he didn't provide specifics.

"We're always improving our security. We have a lot of things, usually we don't go too much into the details because we don't want people to know the types of things we are looking for," he said.

Tim Maniscalo is president of the Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana.

"Great convenience, but you've got to be very careful," said Maniscalo.

He said services like online key copying may have security measures in place, but they are not absolute. A credit card could be stolen and used.

"Something like this is fraught with all kinds of security problems, so you've got to be very, very careful when you engage in anything like this," said Maniscalo.

The bottom line: know who's copying your keys, because nowadays, those old school systems can be cracked with new world technology, he said.

"It's new, and I can understand people being concerned about it. What we're trying to get out there is the message that people should be concerned about the security of their keys whether or not we are around," said Meyer.

Keys Duplicated does not copy car keys, but they soon will.

If you use their service, the first key copied online is $6; additional ones are $4. You can usually get key copies at a hardware store for $2.