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Thieves using keys found ‘under the mat’ to burgle homes

8th January 2015 Print

Thousands of homeowners are being burgled with their own house keys, as opportunistic thieves use keys hidden under the mat and in other easily accessible places to gain entry.

Official Police data obtained through a Freedom of Information request by LV= home insurance reveals that more than 6,000 burglaries in 2014 involved the culprit using keys to gain access to the property, as opposed to breaking and entering. The keys were either

stolen at an earlier date, for example as part of a snatch and grab, or found in a hiding place near to the property.

And while the official Police figures show a general decline in burglaries, the number of burglaries where a key was used increased in 2014, indicating a persisting problem.

Despite the security risks, leaving a key hidden outside the home is an age-old tradition and nearly one in three (29%) Brits admit they leave a ‘spare’ hidden on their property. The most common places to hide a key are under a plant pot (19%), bin (13%), rock or stone (13%), doormat (10%) and under a gnome or garden ornament (8%).

The main reason for leaving a key out is so that friends and family can get into the house while they are away from home. One in four (25%) leave one hidden in case of emergency and a similar number (23%) do so in case they ever lose their keys. Those leaving a key out believe it’s safe to do so because they only leave it unattended for short periods of time or they think they have a really good hiding place, while others believe it’s safe to do so because they live in a safe neighbourhood.

While these ‘hidden’ keys may be concealed from view, this is not always the case inside the home with many people leaving keys where a thief could easily access them through a letterbox or an open window. Almost one in five (18%) Brits leaves their keys close to the front door in plain sight (i.e. in a bowl, on a hook or on a table), where burglars could easily hook them out and access the house without breaking in.

The research suggests that when it comes to house keys, Brits are very relaxed about security and are leaving themselves vulnerable to theft. A fifth of Brits (20%) admits leaving their front or back door unlocked when they’re out and millions of people have lost track of spare keys to their home. On average, each household has lost at least two keys that were cut for friends, family or people working in their home, which means that nearly 20 million spare keys are currently unaccounted for.

LV= is today urging homeowners to tighten up their home security by keeping their doors locked when they are out and their keys safe from opportunistic thieves.

Selwyn Fernandes, Managing Director of LV= home insurance, comments: “While the number of burglaries is falling overall, it is alarming to see that the number of thefts where the burglar used a key is increasing. Burglars know that people tend to leave a spare key in a handful of places near their door and will often search these before attempting a break-in. Don’t make their job easier for them by leaving keys where they can easily be accessed. If you must leave a key outside, use a Police approved key safe and only give the code to people you trust.”

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