Marking Keys With “Do Not Duplicate” Will Not Protect Your Business

As the old saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. For many businesses, the weakest link in their security systems is the keys used to unlock the front door and other protected areas. Unauthorized key duplication is one of the top causes of illegal entries into homes and businesses, accounting for about 40 percent of cases where the method of entry was unknown. Some business owners have their keys stamped with a "Do Not Duplicate" notice thinking it will prevent someone from making an unauthorized copy. Unfortunately, this is not the case at all. Here's why this method doesn't work, and what you can do to increase key security.

No Laws Regulating "Do Not Duplicate" Keys

Many people believe that putting Do Not Duplicate (DND) or similar wording on a key will make it illegal for anyone to make a copy of it without permission. The reality is, putting this message on a key is no guarantee it won't be copied.

For starters, DND keys are generally not protected by law. Many commercial locksmiths have a standing policy to not duplicate DND keys, but they're not legally required to have such a rule. For those that do choose to make DND keys, there is no process they must follow to ensure people are authorized to have the keys duplicated.

Some commercial locksmiths may take down the requesters' driver's license numbers as a way of protecting themselves in case something happens. If the locksmith has a personal relationship with a particular business, he or she may contact the company to verify the person has permission to get a copy of the key made. Many that do ignore the DND on keys, however, will simply make duplicates if the blanks are readily available.

Another problem is you don't necessarily have to go to a locksmith to have a key copied anymore. In the last few decades, automated key duplication machines have begun popping up in retail stores all over America. These vending machines will make a copy of any key it has a template for, and there are no humans operating the kiosk to turn people with DND keys away. People can also make copies of the shape of the keys, upload them to an online key duplication service, and have the duplicates sent to their front door with no or few questions asked.

Even the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) advises its members to treat DND keys the same way unrestricted keys are handled. In fact, the association tells members to let customers know DND keys are not particularly secure and that they should invest in more secure key control systems if they are concerned about unauthorized duplication of keys.

A Better Way to Prevent Unauthorized Key Duplication

No system is 100-percent criminal-proof. A determined ne'er-do-well will find a way to get what he or she wants, even if it's a duplicate key for a highly restricted key control system. However, investing in a system that uses restricted keys will dissuade the majority of people who are likely to attempt to illegally procure copies of keys to your business.

Unlike DND keys, restricted keys are protected by patent laws that allow companies to dictate when and how key blanks for their systems are distributed. In general, the keys to a restricted key control system are marked with registration numbers. To obtain key blanks for their system, the owner must call the manufacturer and provide the registration number and identifying information. The keys can also be ordered through locksmiths approved by the manufacturer to make copies of restricted keys, but the locksmiths must follow the same procedure for obtaining key blanks.

This type of system, coupled with other key control measures, can enhance your business' security by minimizing the risk a disgruntled employee or thief will be able to obtain an unauthorized copy of keys to your front door.

For more information about restricted key systems and how they can help you protect your business, connect with a commercial locksmith.