Do You Know What Bump Keys Are?

What are "Bump Keys?"  Have you heard of them?

Bump keys are an easy, Internet-available way for non locksmiths to get into your home.  Or most any home. And they are proliferating.

Where are they coming from and how are they proliferating?  The photo to the right is of a set of bump keys.

Notice two things - they all seem to be cut with the same pattern.  They are. Many keys are stamped "Mexico."  These keys are "Made in Mexico."  Many bump keys also come from Central America and almost all bump keys are used in untoward ways.  An American locksmith will have his own set, but will not cut a set for you.  They are a real problem in my area - metro Washington D.C.  They might be in use in your area too - right now!

The police say to watch out!

The keys on the right are patterned to fit various locks.  American door knobs, the ones on the front doors of most American houses, usually come in one of three patterns.  The keys in the photo fit a dozen.  The key, and another small tool, allows these locks to be "bumped" and opened.  There is NO evidence of a break in.
Detectives have used these for years!

How is it done?  Burglars and thieves are very good at watching neighborhoods.  They search for patterns of behavior and schedules.  It is easy to determine when someone is not home just by vigilant observation.  A van pulls into the driveway and backs up to the garage.  The van is clearly labeled, "________ Cleaning Service," or "________ Painting Company."  What neighbor watching out the window would question that?  They get out, go to the front door, and appear to go right in.  Obvious to the neighbor is that they have been given a key.

They have not!  A practiced bumper can get in with the first or second try, within seconds.  To anyone watching, it is a fluid and easy motion.  They are in.  What are they interested in?  Anything quick and easy, money or jewelry sitting around, but mostly your hard drive.  Within a couple of minutes your computer is out the garage door, wrapped in a drop cloth or whatever, and into the van.  There is someone there ready to forensically dissect your computer.  They want credit card information, bank accounts, you name it.  Once the credit card number, and password, or pin number, or 3-digit code on the back is obtained, they return the computer.  If they know you will be back soon they may take it altogether.  Mostly, it is returned to its place and they leave with no evidence they have been inside. The best bumps are those where you, or the police, have no idea someone has been inside.  Nothing has been stolen!

Within one hour your credit card information has been converted into a pirated card and is used on the street in Bangkok, Paris, Bogotá, Beverly Hills - wherever!  Or an ATM card, and your bank account is drained.  Or both.

YOUR IDENTITY IS COMPROMISED!  Good luck with that...

My Recommendation:  Call your local police department and ask if they suspect such keys are in use in your area.  Call a locksmith and ask his recommendations.  There are many.  On my house I have installed Medeco locks.  They cannot be bumped.  They are not cheap, but worth it.  The keys cannot be copied if lost.  The key pattern is registered to me.  I can take the locks with me should I move.  Those locks, and a good security system, protect me and my family, especially when away. 

Two types of good Medeco locks can be purchased here and here. 

These links are both similar to the excellent locks I have on my house, but the first link is satin nickel finish and the second is bright brass.  Look into it! 

This bump key problem is getting worse and fast.  Be proactive!

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Ian Niquette, Square One Home Inspection (not verified) | Sat, 05/09/2009 - 12:04

Jay, I didn't know this was such a big problem. Maybe I should get one of those instead of a Supra Key though, lol. Seriously though, that is something people should be aware of, thats why a nice heavy slider is always a nice extra to have on the doors. Have a good day Jay.

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Jay performs inspections Monday through Saturday, throughout Northern Virginia, from his office in Bristow to Leesburg and Centreville, to Great Falls and Vienna and everywhere in between!