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

Press release: 08/01/2015

  1. More than 6,000 burglaries take place every year where the thief uses a key to access the property
  2. Nearly one in three Brits (29%) regularly leave a key hidden outside their home, under doormats, plant pots and gnomes
  3. Brits have given out close to 20 million 'spare' keys and since lost track of them

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[1]. 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[2].

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[3]. 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[4].

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[5].

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.

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.

Selwyn Fernandes, Managing Director of LV= home insurance

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Notes:

  1. Figures calculated from FOI request responses. 2.74% of burglaries involved a key on average, which equates to 6,091 burglaries in January-November 2014, based on responses from 23 police forces.
  2. Figures calculated from FOI request responses. Overall, burglaries have been falling year on year since 2009 but the estimated number of burglaries with keys increased. In 2013 there were 510 burglaries with keys per month on average, while in 2014 there were an average of 554 burglaries with keys per month.
  3. Source: ICM Unlimited. 54% of people who leave a key hidden on their property say they leave it out for a friend or relation to gain access to their home.
  4. Source: ICM Unlimited. Of those who leave a key hidden on their property, 42% say they do this because they have confidence in their hiding spot (24%) or trust in the safety of their neighbourhood (24%).
  5. Source: ICM Unlimited. GB adult population is 47,358,000. According to the research, 17% of British adults have lost or misplaced a set of house keys - losing an average of 2.32 sets of keys. 17% of the total population is = 8,050,860 (number of people who have lost or misplaced keys). 8,050,860 x 2.32 = 18,677,995 or 18.7 million (number of keys lost or misplaced).

For further information please contact:

Vanessa Chance, vanessa.chance@lv.com, 0208 256 6996/ 07947 380074


LV=

LV= employs 6,000 people and serves over 5.5 million customers with a range of financial products. We are the UK's largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.

When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

We offer our services direct to consumers, as well as through IFAs and brokers, and through strategic partnerships with organisations such as ASDA, Nationwide Building Society and a range of trade unions.

Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. LVFS is a member of the ABI, the AFM and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF.