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An Experiment in Key Duplication

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

DO NOT DUPLICATE.” In the locksmith business, we are asked to stamp this phrase on countless keys for homes and businesses and it always brings up the question: Why do people request this? This is a tactic known to many as a “visual deterrent.” In other words, it is something that gives the appearance of security to ward off potential wrongdoers. The most common example of this is a scarecrow on a field of crops, which derives its name from the fact that it is a visual deterrent in order to scare the crows from eating or damaging the crops. Unfortunately, in the case of securing our homes with locks and keys, the perpetrators are not birds, and it takes a bit more than a few words to scare them away.

We all have certain things we want to keep safe; things we don’t want to get into the hands of other people. Our driver’s license, credit cards, and especially the keys to our business or home! If those things got in the wrong hands, it would be a disaster! The more copies you make of the key, the risk of compromising the key multiplies. Someone who obtained a copy of your key could go to the local hardware store, put it in the key duplicator, and Voila! They have free access to your home/business and everything in it. Your money, your possessions, your private information, and most importantly, the lives and health of yourself, and your family or coworkers would all be at risk.

But wait! There is a solution! Simply have “Do Not Duplicate” stamped on the key, and you can prevent the keys from being copied! Right? Our account manager, Kevan Starr, set out to test this theory himself. He went to a local hardware store with a key duplication kiosk in order to duplicate 2 keys. Both were the same key, except one was blank, and the other had “Do Not Duplicate” stamped on it. Can you guess what happened when Kevan inserted that “secure” key into the machine? Well, the same thing that happened with the other key. There was no difference, and stamping “Do Not Duplicate” has no effect on the duplication of your key.  As Kevan said in his video, “What does this do? Absolutely jack!” Perhaps it is time to begin thinking of a better solution that can best tackle the problems and risks we are facing.

In their Technical Standards Policy Document, The Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) says, “Do Not Duplicate Keys: Orders for keys stamped “Do Not Duplicate” or similar wording will be handled in the same manner as any unrestricted key. ALOA members should inform the consumer that the use of keys stamped “Do Not Duplicate” or similar wording, is not effective security, and further that the use of such words is deceptive because it provides a false sense of security. Consumers who desire effective security should purchase a patented key control system rather than rely on a “Do Not Duplicate” marking. This does not apply to keys protected by law.”

What is this “patented key control” system? Companies like ASSA ABLOY have been working develop solutions to this problem through products like Medeco or Mul-T-Lock. With these key systems in place, you will have a patented key system that is protected by law from unauthorized duplication. What does this mean? It means that the vendor who installs your patented key control system is the only vendor who has access to the keys and key records for your home, and access to those keys is restricted only to you, and those you authorize to request duplicate keys on your behalf.

Ultimately we must ask ourselves, what is our home or business worth to us? When we look at our key system, does it reflect that worth? Perhaps it’s time to rethink our methods. As we say here at Loc Doc Security, We Believe There’s a Better Way!

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