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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.  And the silver key on the right is stamped "Mexico."  These keys are all "Made in Mexico."  These keys typically come from Central America and 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 keys are 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.

Look into it!  This problem is getting worse and fast.

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 69 commentsJay Markanich • December 17 2008 09:46AM

Comments

Very, very interesting blog.  I had no clue what bump keys were.  That is very scary to think that someone could break into your home and you would have no idea. 

Posted by Carol Swain, Realtor, -www.swainsells.com- Bucks County, Pa (Keller Williams Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Carol - in my area this is a huge problem.  These keys are also used for home invasions, increasing here as well.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

This is a new one to me and I"m sorry to hear about one more way that people take advantage of other people and instead of using their abilities to add value, they find ways to steal from others.  thanks for the recommendation on the kind of lock to use to prevent this problem.

Posted by Retired Notworking over 10 years ago

Pretty scary. Makes me think that people should take extra precautions installing a home security and alarm system. Good to be aware of this. Thanks for the post.

Posted by Michael Sahlman, e-PRO - Miami Beach Florida Luxury Homes (www.HomesForVIPs.com - Keller Williams Realty) over 10 years ago

I am never surprised at what people will do instead of work.  Yes, this is a problem in many areas of the nation.  thanks for posting the information.  It's at least better to be informed than to be surprised.

Posted by Bruce & Mary Smith, REALTORS, Savannah Lakes Village McCormick SC (Savannah Lakes Homes) over 10 years ago

Colleen, Michael. Bruce & Mary - Yes, yes and yes!  This business that good and productive people have to "give back" rubs me the wrong way.  In my opinion it is the thieves, burglars and societal scum that need to give back, until it hurts...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Wow a new one here. Passwords wont work on this one i guess. My brother he lock smith has us fixed so we cant get bumped. He also reinforced all the locks with steel.

Posted by Chip Jefferson (Gibbs Realty and Auction Company) over 10 years ago

Laura - that's how you do it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

I'm glad we have two dogs that bark as soon as an ant attempts to enter our driveway! Good girls, Jilly and Riley!

Posted by TheMillsTeam YourSebringRealtors, 863-212-5441 (Advantage Realty #1) over 10 years ago

Jay, this is very scary news.  While I live on the 16th floor in a condominium building and expect there's less likelihood of someone targeting my particular unit, people do get in to the locked building just by walking into the lobby while another resident enters.  This always disturbs me.  Identity theft can be a horrible crime. I've had friends go through it.  That's why I purchased the LifeLock identity theft protection service.

Posted by Brian Block, Northern Virginia & D.C. Real Estate (RE/MAX Allegiance, Managing Broker/Branch Vice President) over 10 years ago

Andrea - dogs are great, but can be compromised by a pro.

Brian - Lifelock is worth every penny!  P.s.  Often, when I inspect condos, I wait for someone to let me into the lobby to await the realtor...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

I'm glad to see there is a resolution to this problem Thanks for the heads up.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 10 years ago

Michael - life, it seems, is a series of offense, then defense, then offense, then defense...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Jay, Bump keys or not. If a criminal is intent on getting in your house, they will. Now, if they can only devote some of that time to doing good. I've seen something on TV about this in the past but didn't realize they were proliferating. Thanks for the tipoff.

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 10 years ago

Thanks for the heads up;  I had not heard about bump keys...just one more infuriating and frustrating example of people who prefer to scheme and scam rather than put in a day of honest labor.  I'm so sick of people who characterize those who steal from others as "desperate," when they are just criminals, plain and simple. Thanks for the warning.  I'll pass it along to my clients.

Posted by Susan Haughton, Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results. (Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545) over 10 years ago

Susan - so, so agreed.  They should give back...

Richard - a friend of mine is a detective on the DC police force.  What you say is true.  He tells me that burglars know more about your house than you do.  The trick is to make it as hard as possible.  Once inside, however, in my opinion, their rights are left at the door or window.  Then they belong to me...

As ingenious as some of these people are for crookedness and scamming, I always wonder why they don't devote some of that energy or mental effort toward good.  The fact that they DON'T, my friend, makes them real idiots. In maryland, PG and Montgomery counties are in the thick of it...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

you know what amazes me about crooks...the effort is take to rob someones house is typically more effort than would be put into some job somewhere........instead of taking the belongings of hard working people....why don't they just get a job.

Posted by Konnie Mac McCarthy, Broker/Owner - VA & MD "Time To Get A Move On!" (MacNificent Properties, LLC) over 10 years ago

Konnie - yes ma'am.  That is what I say above!  You are so right!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Wow, that is really scary.  A big, bad killer poodle waiting inside will cure that. :)

Posted by Pam Graham, Jacksonville, Clay & St Johns Counties (All Real Estate Options) over 10 years ago

GREAT tips! Medeco locks. Sounds good to me! What do you think of combo lock with batteries on doors? We have those deadbolts on some properties because it's easy to get in and out without keys.

Posted by Sandy McAlpine, Search Lake Norman Homes For Sale - Lake Norman NC (RE/MAX EXECUTIVE) over 10 years ago

This is scary news. Criminals get more inventive all the time. This is why I have an alarm on my home. They may pick the lock, but if they can't shut the alarm off the cops are coming right away!

Posted by Betina Foreman, Realtor, C.N.E., with WJK REALTY (WJK Realty) over 10 years ago

I saw a special on Dateline or 60 minutes about this -- great post -- JE

Posted by Jason Ellis (Coastal REO Solutions - Myrtle Beach Short Sales & REO's) over 10 years ago

Just like Andrea, we have a dog that barks at everything.  Fortunately he sounds bigger than he is.  And lately we always make sure to set the alarm (which IS monitored - something people forget to confirm).  You can never be too careful, especially in a downward economy and during the holidays when more people get desperate.

Posted by Tracy Williams Pender, MBA, Knightdale & Raleigh, NC Real Estate (Carolina MaxRealty, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Wow, Jay! I have NOT heard of these and it's a scary topic.  Thanks for the advice and sorry to hear that such a thing exists at all.

Posted by Kris Kombrink ~ The Kombrink Team (RE/MAX Excels - Chicago's Western Suburbs) over 10 years ago

Morning Jay,  Yikes,  That is kind of scary !  Never heard of anything like this .

Posted by Bill Gillhespy, Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos (16 Sunview Blvd) over 10 years ago

applause

 

 

Jay - informative post, thank you.

But also clearly the award for the best blog name... Active bRain~ ... I love it.

Welcome to Active Rain  and Merry Christmas

Posted by Ted Baker, MidFloridaMediation.com (Carmody and Associates LLC) over 10 years ago

I have never heard of this... but found "this" online when researching it....

scary!

Posted by Alan May, Helping you find your way home. (Coldwell Banker Residential) over 10 years ago
Interesting for sure.... there's always something to watch out for. Hampton NH Real Estate Patricia AUlson
Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) over 10 years ago

Hi Jay, I want to see the episode where the crooks break in, get their leg chewed off by the big mean dog, take the computer out to the van, and find out... What? $37.00 in the Checking! Leg dtill bleeding Credit cards : OVERLIMIT, leg still bleeding, return the computer to the house, leg still bleeding.. OOPS the Smith & Wesson security system just woke up from his nap......

Posted by Mary Douglas, REALTOR, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado (United Country Ponderosa Realty, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado) over 10 years ago

Thanks for the information, Jay, so very important to know.

Posted by Christine OShea (Christine E O'Shea Real Estate Broker) over 10 years ago

Thanks for the tip, amazing what people will do also amazing people showing how to do it on you tube

Posted by Michael Eisenberg, Bellingham Real Estate Guy (eXp Realty) over 10 years ago

Wow!  What great info.  I too have a big dog, my property completely fenced, and an alarm system.  I'm not too paranoid, am I?

But this is great info and I will suggest to all my clients.  Thanks again for the heads up.

Posted by Heather Peck (Rosen & Company) Las Vegas over 10 years ago

Thanks for the info - I'll spread it to my family!

Posted by Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Thanks for the info - I'll spread it to my family!

Posted by Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 10 years ago

If you have not watched Allan Mays video he posted, you should.  This is very interesting.  My first thought when I read this post was, Dirty Harry had Smith and Wesson, I've got Bandit and Gatsby, but as easily as someone can get in they can deal with dogs before they get anyones attention.  I have a call into my locksmith now to see how to protect our home from this.  Thanks for the post.

Posted by Bill Brannon (Beach Bum Productions) over 10 years ago

Nope I'ver never heard of them!  Thank you for posting this, its great info.

Posted by Lauren Krady Lancaster, PA Realtor (Keller Williams Realty) over 10 years ago

Jay, Had not heard of this. Great info and a well deserved feature post.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 10 years ago

Just spoke to a local locksmith who was very familar with bump keys.  He said locksmiths have used them for years.  He also said at a recent locksmith convention, the you tube video showing a guy making and using a bumb key was a hot topic of discussion.  He said bumb keys do work, but never as easy as the guy in the video made it look.  It was their guess he had set up the lock in order to make it look as easy as it did. 

He did say you could put "spool pins" in your lock and this would deter the bump key, but he also said he would not spend the money to do it unless it would make you feel better. 

This guy is one of the best in our area and I am just passing on what he said.  Again, thanks for the post.

Posted by Bill Brannon (Beach Bum Productions) over 10 years ago

I have never heard of these bump keys. Thank you for sharing your informative blog!

Posted by Raquel Allen Colorado & New Mexico over 10 years ago

I use Kwikset Smart Key locks on all my rentals and rehabs because I like the fact that they are easy to re-key with out calling a locksmith.  When I was shopping for the locks the salesperson told me that they were "bump proof" but I had no idea what that meant until now.  I just verified this on Kwikset's website (http://www.kwikset.com/Products/SmartKey/) to be sure.  I also Googled "Bump Keys" and found a manufacture that will sell them to anyone for $30 on the first page!

Great post thanks for the education.

Mike

Posted by Mike Chouinard (DelMae Properties) over 10 years ago

So...where in the DC Area is this becoming prevalent?  I had not heard this news.  We have some home invasions but mostly from already open windows or doors....also, how much is lifelock?

Posted by Sonja Adams (Samson Proprties) over 10 years ago

Thanks for the information. Will now be watching.

Posted by Lisa Glowacki, Real Estate Broker - RI & MA (Lisa Glowacki - Rhode Island & Massachusetts) over 10 years ago

I like the killer poodle suggestion! Thanks for the bump key post  - very informative!

Posted by Meredith Laws, Seattle and Greater Puget Sound Real Estate (Windermere Wall St., West Seattle Office) over 10 years ago

Great info.  I will definitely look into the locks. 

Posted by Larry Story, Total Care Realty, LLC, Greensboro, NC Real Estate (Total Care Realty) over 10 years ago

I don't think I wanted to know that..... but I guess I should say thanks!  Now you have me scared to death.....

Posted by TIM MONCRIEF, Over 2,000 homes sold….. (Keller Williams Realty) over 10 years ago

I called our police dept. and they didn't even know what bump keys were, so I guess they haen't gotten yet. I have had the Medco Locks for years though, I didn't know all that about them. Thanks for the post though, we all need tobe more careful.

Posted by Charles Stallions, 800-309-3414 - Pensacola, Pace or Gulf Breeze, Fl. (Charles Stallions Real Estate Services ) over 10 years ago

Hey, Jay. That was me in the 3:09 PM comment above. Sometimes when I comment, ActiveRain will kick me out and post an anonymous comment. It usually happens when I click on these blog scrolls.

Posted by Not a real person over 10 years ago

I've heard of bump keys, but don't think they're a big issue here ... yet. Of course, if someone wants in, all they have to do is break a window. My killer doxie is always on guard! :-)

Posted by Elaine Reese, REALTOR® in central Ohio (Real Living HER, Powell Ohio) over 10 years ago

Pam - good job!

Sandy - I don't know.  Check with your locksmith.

Betina - if they have scouted your home they already know you have an alarm.  If the alarm is connected to the phone it is easily defeated.

Jason - I had not, thanks.

Tracy - we were burglarized 26 years ago on Christmas Eve!  They took lots of stuff, including all our Christmas gifts.  On the way out they took the time to rip our tree to shreds.  Imagine... 

Kris - I am sorry too.

Bill - glad to give you the heads up!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Ted - thanks!  You're the man!

Alan - I had not seen that but was certain something like that was out there somewhere. 

Patricia - there is nothing new under the sun...

Mary - I am with you!  In addition to S&W at our house, we have Mr. Ruger, Mr. Baretta, BIG Mr. Glock and a police-issue shot gun...

Christine - you are welcome!

Michael - what isn't on You Tube?!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Heather - that is a great start!

Margaret - missionary work is good in many contexts!

Bill - I saw Alan's video.  I am a good bumper and already knew that.  But to have it out there just complicates a growing problem...

Lauren, James and Andrew - most people have not heard of them!  When bumped correctly a door opens as if the key was cut for it.

Bill - the second time!  Bumping is a practiced effort.  It is a skill and can be developed.  As to spool pins, they work, but it is better just to get a good lock.  Not cheap!

Raquel - you are welcome!

Mike - Kwidset keys are one of the three most commonly used in the US.  They are easily bumped.  I know...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Sonja - mostly near the so-called "sanctuary" areas - Montgomery and PG counties in MD and Fairfax in VA.  Prince William had a bad problem until they cracked down on the illegals and crime went down an immediate 70%.  Hmmm....  I think Lifelock is $10/month.  I have had it for two or three years.

Lisa, Meredith and Larry - you are very welcome!  Follow up on the info!

Tim - sorry, I really am.  But information is power - go do something about it.  Motivation!

Charles - your locksmith knows all about them!  good for you if you are using Medeco locks!

Rusel - thanks!  I think it is rebloggable.  I didn't know about the extra points, but I don't really pay attention to the point thing.

Elaine - go Doxie!

 

 

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Jay~ Does a bump key work on deadbolts too?  I wouldn't think it could......Vickie

Posted by Vickie McCartney, Broker, Real Estate Agent Owensboro KY (Maverick Realty) over 10 years ago

Yes Vickie - if bumped right they act like they were cut for the lock.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Have heard of these and also heard that the problem is increasing. Thanks for pointing it out to people.

Posted by Bob & Carolin Benjamin, East Phoenix Arizona Homes (Benjamin Realty LLC) over 10 years ago

Bob and Carolin - we all need to learn!  I get so much out of posts on this site...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Thanks for the post, Jay!  I hadn't heard of these, but they make perfect sense - to a thief.  Great tip on the Medeco locks too. 

Posted by Dawn Bach Thurman, Redesign & Staging Services (Eye to Eye Interiors, LLC) over 10 years ago

I had not clue about any of this. Very valuable. Appreciate it.

Posted by Janice Roosevelt, OICP ABR, ePRO,Ecobroker ( Keller Williams Brandywine Valley ) over 10 years ago

Dawn - so very many things make perfect sense to a thief - like stealing.  The locks are invaluable.

Janice - I am glad to help.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

I didn't have a clue they existed.  Thank you for your post.

Posted by Mark Watterson, Utah Real Estate over 10 years ago

Mark - just another service I offer...  de nada.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Jay~ I am not liking the sounds of this at all.  Is it best to get a locksmith to fix all of your locks so they can't be bumped?  Is that the only option?  (well, an alarm would help too) 

Posted by Vickie McCartney, Broker, Real Estate Agent Owensboro KY (Maverick Realty) over 10 years ago

Vickie - you can install what is called "spool pins" into every lock set.  They work.  For the money, it is simply better to install bump-proof locks, like Medeco locks.  There are various however.  Talk with your lock smith...  Alarms are easily defeated, especially if tied to the phone.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

most people dont know that the lock sets you can buy at home depot have a matching pack in the same box. if you turn over the package there is a code on the back that you can match. Quickset usually only has 2 matching sets per case but defiant has 4 per case. Alot of matching lock sets out there.

Posted by Mike Russell, Overland Park Kansas Real Estate (Mike Russell & Associates) over 10 years ago

Michael - that's true.  And they all bump just the same!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Just want to add my two cents worth in. I discovered someone was entering my house without my knowledge because the crooks probably smart butt teenagers in the neighborhood did something to let me know they were coming in - I won't say. But anyway I did research on the internet and could only find very expensive solutions such as Primus and Medeco so I went by Home Depot and just happen to come across Quikset Smart Key. Now I say just happened to because they don't display on their packages prominently that they are bump proof so I did more research regarding this on the internet and found out that indeed they are bump proof and a good low cost alternative. Not only that but they can easily be rekeyed yourself without the use of a lock smith. Lock smiths don't like them because they take business away so they don't mention them hoping they will go away.

I have a friend who is highly mechanically skilled who can fix anything and he saids they are bump proof. He examined one and took it apart. I would highly recommend to everyone and anyone who is concerned about the safety of their family to immediately go to your local Home Depot and purchase one for every exterior door you have. You will feel safer at night. Of course nothing will 100% guarantee that you and your belongings will be safe but at least you have added one extra deterrent to their method and if they do break in to your house you will know about it. I have noticed that I have had things go missing like software and office supplies. In fact all my computer software has disappeared which I attributed to maybe the moving people stealing it but now I know better because office supplies have disappeared, new stuff I just bought which I thought was just misplaced. Some of my music collection on cds have also disappeared. Now I know better, a little bit late but at least I know and all I can do is help others avoid the same fate or worse by making sure your locks are bump proof. Do it now before it's too late!!  Quik Set Smart Key System, can't recommend it highly enough.

 

Posted by Gloria over 10 years ago

Gloria - that is a great alternative.  You should also make sure they did not get any password information off your computer.  What was taken sounds like kids, but you simply do not know!  Good luck with the installation - hope it works for you!  Thanks for visiting Gloria!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Jay, I am glad I went back and read this, we need to do all we can to protect ourselves and our family.

Posted by Diane Williams about 9 years ago

Diane - this is a popular blog on my website too!  It should be - most people know nothing about these kinds of keys!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 9 years ago

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