Lock Bumping: A National Threat?

Just because your door is locked doesn’t mean your home is safe. In fact, if you have traditional pin-tumbler locks in your home, then you could be at an increased risk for home invasion or burglary, says the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC).

A technique called “lock bumping” allows criminals to quickly and quietly bypass pin-tumbler lock using tools that cost less than a $100, and the NCPC is calling it “a new trend in home burglary.”

“It’s been spreading in Europe ever since it came out on German television in 2004,” says Barry Wels, a member of The Open Organization of Lockpickers (TOOOL), a Dutch locksmith group that has been advocating the threat of bumping to consumers and government officials.

This simple technique has become an increasing problem all over the world thanks to a catalog of online how-to videos, and many security experts say the vast majority of homes in America are at risk.

Lock Bumping 101

Also called key bumping, this lock-picking technique can open a door using a retrofitted “bump” key and a hammer. To bump the lock, a criminal must first file the bump key to fit the same size and shape as the lock. Once a match has been made, the key is placed inside the lock and struck lightly with a hammer until the lock turns open. When done properly, this tapping motion pushes the tumblers upward, forcing them to release the lock.

Locksmiths have been bumping locks for years, but it wasn’t until it received national attention that the average person started catching on to it.

“If you take a motivated 15- or 16-year-old and give him an hour or two and $100 to invest in tools, he can open most locks,” says Wels.

The Dangers of Lock Bumping

It doesn’t take a lot of skill to bump a lock and the tools to do it are cheap. Anybody can learn the process by perusing the internet and watching a few YouTube videos—plus, you can easily purchase bump keys online for around $20 or so. This method is an effective way to pick most locks and it can be done in less than a minute without making much of a disturbance.

Complicating matters is the fact that there are little to no signs of forced entry when a lock has been bumped. If someone tries to bump your lock you can sometimes find a small indentation above the keyway from the driving force of a hammer, but a skilled person can gain entry without a scratch. Older locks made from softer materials can get these same dents from normal, everyday use, so unfortunately there isn’t a definitive way to know if you’ve been a victim of bumping.

How to Protect Against Lock Bumping

As a homeowner, there is no price tag for the safety of your family. Lock bumping is a very serious danger—especially since the simplicity of this technique is being exploited in the media. To protect yourself, make sure you consult with a professional locksmith and ask him to assess your risk for lock bumping.

Additionally, you can also protect yourself by doing the following:

– Purchase keyless, anti-bump locks
– Invest in an alarm system
– Install adequate outdoor lighting

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