Six cool home security products on Kickstarter

I’ve always loved gadgets: Macgyver, Mission Impossible, Bat Man, etc. Especially when they relate to home security!

When I visit San Francisco, I love to visit the International Spy Shop and check out the latest gadgets. I’m also a big fan of kickstarter, and check out products on that platform nearly every day. In this post, I’m excited to share a few of the products that I think are really cool, and relate to home security :) put out a killer article (reprinted below) that goes over some of the coolest home security products out there – products that are really pushing the needle & changing the way that we think about home security. See below:

Every year, hundreds of new products enter the security industry to help keep you and your belongings safe. Some of the most creative — from a belt buckle that hides credit cards to software that safeguards children — are found on Kickstarter. We took a detailed look at upcoming Kickstarter campaigns and highlighted the six coolest safety products.

1. Wallet Buckle

Wallet Buckle

The Wallet Buckle, which was featured on the “Today” show, efficiently holds and hides up to five cards in a stylish belt buckle. This is a safe solution invented for the places you go where a wallet or purse is necessary, but may be a pain or a security risk to carry — like a concert or sporting event. The buckle’s innovative tapered design securely fits IDs and credit cards so they can’t fall out. There is space for you to grip your cards and slip them in and out, but the pinched buckle creates tension so the cards stay put when you want them to.

The Wallet Buckle designers have already spent years developing the perfect product after testing and feedback from customers. The belt buckle comes in various designs for both men and women, and customization options will be available soon.

My $0.02: I’m a huge fan of the flag and have a lot of flag-related gear, so this works great for me. If you’re looking for a different design, they’re planning to release a few more after the product launch. Since almost everything is put on the card these days, you could swap your wallet out for this belt and carry credit cards, ID, etc. Pretty cool!

2. Fitti Guard

Fitti Guard

The sharp-looking Fitti Guard watch goes beyond the abilities of other smartwatches and fitness wearables. The Fitti Guard safeguards wearers from environmental elements with sensors that monitor air quality, UV rays, radioactivity, humidity, and noise pollution. The Fitti Guard app features a customizable user interface, giving wearers control over their exposure limits to harmful environmental conditions. If the sun is too bright or air pollution is too dense, Fitti Guard will alert you to put on sunblock or step inside.

This product’s battery lasts up to 21 days, and it also includes popular features of other fitness wearables — like a step counter, heart rate monitor, activity recognition, sleep analysis, and calorie counter.

My $0.02: what a cool idea! For people who live in cities with poor air quality (a list of the most polluted cities here), this could be a game changer. Cities like LA, industrial cities like Bakersfield, and areas with poor ozone like Visalia could really benefit from this product. Great way to keep an eye on your health & surroundings.

3. Light Eye

Light eye

Light Eye, a Bluetooth security light, turns your old smartphone’s camera into a monitoring device. Install the Light Eye electronic light in the location you want to monitor — like your car or front door. When motion is detected, the Light Eye flashes and turns your smartphone on via Bluetooth to take photos or record video. The companion Light Eye app will then email you the pictures or video your smartphone captured.

Light Eye is IFTTT compatible and works on standby mode, so neither it nor your phone needs to be constantly connected to a charger or powered on. Light Eye allows you to customize alerts and alarms in the app, and batteries should last 4–7 months.

My $0.02: how cool! This reminds me of something that a spy would have: a mobile notification that there’s an intruder! Since we all sleep with a smartphone nearby, this could be a great way to keep an eye on the backyard, the front gate, etc. without installing an expensive system.

4. FillaBox Recycling

The liquid inside the disposable bottles invented by FillaBox Recycling safely destroys any unused medication or vitamins. The patented liquid is made with a charcoal blend that binds to the medication and neutralizes the drug. The bottle can store up to 50 pills — either over-the-counter medications, prescriptions, or vitamins — rendering them harmless. When full, the bottles can either be thrown away or sent back to FillaBox Recycling for carbon credits — they burn the recycled bottles to generate electricity.

FillaBox Recycling is a safer alternative to flushing pills down the toilet or throwing them in the trash. This technology is the first of its kind and offers a way for people to dispose of their pharmaceuticals at home without compromising their drinking water.

My $0.02: great idea. I know how dangerous prescription drugs are, not only for the environment but mainly for the potential abuse by our loved ones. This is a great way to keep them safe.

5. Rated 4 Kids

The intelligent Rated 4 Kids system filters Internet content through a combination of hardware and software. When this touch-screen system is plugged in to your router, it becomes the gateway between your devices and the Internet. You will no longer have to rely on subpar browser safety settings to protect young minds from the dangerous parts of the Internet. This comprehensive, Cloud-based filtering service relies on ratings from you and your community, so if other parents rate a website as inappropriate, Rated 4 Kids will also block it for your child.

The software allows parents to define settings for each device and control content differently based on each child’s age. Alerts are sent to the parent if a child has been viewing questionable content. Parents can also set curfews and screen time limits to disable the device during certain hours like homework time or bedtime.

My $0.02: There’s a whole lot of crap on the internet, and if this box can protect your kids and also reduce viruses, I’m in.  I don’t have any software on the computers in the house now, but maybe I should…

6. Dash


The thin, minimalist Dash travel wallet secretly carries your most important documents when you travel. Three compartments hold your IDs, credit cards, boarding passes, currency, and passport. Made for travelers who are tired of the awkward fanny pack, the Dash wallet is discreet. It fits into the front or back pocket of pants, or even a shirt pocket. Dash weighs less than one ounce and is made from durable, eco-synthetic leather.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a common debit and credit card payment method. Unfortunately, it is also a popular way to electronically pickpocket and can be a threat to travelers. The Dash wallets are made with RFID-blocking material and come with a two-year warranty — though they should last your whole life.
These exciting and ambitious products still have time to make it to development if they are fully funded, though many prototypes won’t be created until late 2016. Visit their fundraising pages and contribute to their goals to get first dibs and special perks. In the meantime, find the perfect security system to keep you and your family safe.

My $0.02: fashion & function. I have a slim wallet anyway because my back got messed up from sitting on a fat wallet for too long, so I think that this is cool. I don’t travel on planes enough to make it worth it, but the RFTD blocking function is pretty cool and would probably protect you in your daily life: at the grocery store, in line at the bank, etc.

Aftermarket Car Alarms: The Top Products

As locksmith professionals, we always need to stay abreast of the latest industry trends: smart locks, fingerprint locks, commercial ANSI locks, automotive locks & alarms, etc. Of those different areas, car alarms and automotive security probably vary the most: from a 1991 Honda Civic to a 2016 Porsche Cayenne, the difference between alarm systems, door locks, and keys is absolutely huge. Older cars are easy to gain access to using automotive locksmith tools like car key jigglers, slim jims, etc., but car alarms are becoming more and more advanced. Even third party alarms have come a long way, and can offer some must-needed protection to car owners who are looking to beef up their security.

Safewise breaks down the top aftermarket automotive products below. Read the full article here.

Nearly 700,000 vehicles are stolen in the United States every year. Alarmed? Don’t worry. You can buy a car alarm to upgrade the security of your vehicle and prevent car theft from happening to you. Thanks to huge advancements in technology, now you can choose a car alarm with a number of convenient perks—from smartphone compatibility to remote start functions.

If you’re worried about your car and want to ensure its security, we’ve tracked down some of the best car alarms on the market today. Compare models below to determine which device will keep your car in the driveway and out of thieves’ hands.

1. Viper SmartStart VSS5X10 remote start + security system

This is the newest 2-Way car alarm to be unveiled by leading car alarm company, Viper. Until this model, you’d only be able to control your car’s security system with a two-way remote device. Now, you can use your smartphone to communicate with your car alarm and control it from virtually anywhere.

To get up and running with the Viper SmartStart VSS5X10, you’ll need to have a compatible device or order the SmartStart system, and then download the SmartStart app on your smart device. When you’re all set up, look forward to getting everything from security alerts to command confirmation on your phone. The device also allows for keyless entry, remote starting, GPS compatibility, and so much more. When you purchase this model, Viper will also include a free 60-day service trial so you can see if you like it before you commit.

This car alarm model retails for $699.00, but we’ve found it listed for much less online (around $300). Check out local Viper-certified service centers near you to see where you can purchase and have this device installed.

Pros: This is the first model available that works with smart devices—allowing you to control your car’s security system from just about anywhere. If you have a compatible device, you can get SmartStart or you can purchase the SmartStart systems.

Cons: This is an expensive car alarm, but it is about as technologically advanced as you can get these days.

The lowest price we could find: $275
2. Viper Color OLED 2-Way Security + Remote Start System

Until this model was dethroned by Viper’s SmartStart system, it was as state-of-the-art as it got. Don’t get us wrong, it’s still one of the better car alarms on the market, it just doesn’t have the ability to connect to your smart device through an app and function from anywhere.

What the Color OLED 2-Way Security + Remote Start System is able to brag about is its range of sophisticated security features including starter kill, which immobilizes your vehicle and helps protect it from hot wiring, and a shock sensor that can distinguish between light blows and heavy impacts.

It’s also quite loud. This car alarm has a 6-tone siren that does everything from emit light chirps for small impacts to sounding a 120-decibel alarm for heavy blows to your vehicle, so if someone tries to pull a fast one on your car, they better have ear plugs.

The remote itself is quite advanced aesthetically and functionally. It offers two-way communication with your vehicle from up to a mile away. You can start your car, pop its trunk, or view and respond to security alerts—all from an elegant, colorful user interface.

Pros: This device has a digital interface that’s both pleasing to look at and easy to use.

Cons: Unlike the Viper SmartStart VSS5X10 that allows you to operate your car’s alarm system from anywhere, your remote only has a one-mile range.

The lowest price we could find: $305
3. Viper Value 1-Way Security + Remote Start System

If you are seeking a sophisticated alarm system without the costly extras, Viper’s Value 1-Way Security + Remote Start System is for you. The model offers many of the same features as its two-way counterpart, without the powerful OLED remote. You can still trigger alarms and immobilize your vehicle at the push of a button, but you won’t have access to on-screen alerts. You’ll have to work with a lower range as well; the remote only works up to one quarter mile from your vehicle.

Pros: This model is 2-way ready in case you’d like to upgrade. That’s great if you’d like a cheaper alarm, but something that is able to communicate with you if someone is trying to break into your car.

Cons: You’ll only be able to interact with your car’s alarm system if you’re within 1,320 feet of the vehicle. Since it’s 1-way, you also won’t know if someone is tampering with your vehicle unless you see it yourself.

The lowest price we could find: $40
4. Python SmartStart

If Viper produces the best car alarm systems in the industry, Python’s products run a close second. Much like Viper’s SmartStart alarm, Python SmartStart uses cloud technology to allow you to use your smart device to connect to your car alarm. Lock, unlock, arm, disarm, and much more all from your phone. You may also utilize its GPS features to locate your car, set up alerts to tell you if your car enters a certain area, and keep tabs on how fast your car is going. If you have kids, this can help you keep tabs on their whereabouts as well as enhance the safety and security of your vehicle.

Some other cool features to note are the parking meter alert that sounds when your parking space’s meter is going to expire, complimentary roadside assistance, and SmartSchedule—a tool that syncs your schedule with the weather to tell you if travel is going to take longer than expected.

Find out where you can buy a SmartStart system and/or have it installed. If you’re ready, you can download the app.

Pros: Python has 14 systems that are compatible with SmartStart and three modules, so you might be able to upgrade your services with something you’ve already purchased.

Cons: Prices are nearly identical to Viper’s, but Viper does include SmartSchedule on its first two base plans whereas Python does not.

The lowest price we could find: $150
5. Python 2-Way Security and Remote Start System

The company’s premium 2-Way Security and Remote Start System once again has many of the same features as the Viper system. Enjoy real-time security alerts and an operational range of up to one mile. This alarm will do its job scaring off intruders with a 6-tone siren, starter kill switch, and more.
Pros: Lucky for you, this model is SmartStart compatible. If you’d like to upgrade, you can do so without having to buy extra equipment.

Cons: Unless you upgrade, you’ll only be able to communicate with your car alarm within a one-mile radius. If something happens to your car outside of that, you won’t be able to act.

The lowest price we could find: $195
6. Avital 2-Way LCD Remote Start With Security 5303L

Avital’s 2-Way LCD Remote Start with Security is another top contender in the car alarm space. This product features all of the functions you’d expect from a premium car alarm system, including a shock sensor that detects any tampering and remote key entry. During a break-in or attempted break-in, your remote will vibrate to alert you. Avital has yet to make the advancement of adding SmartStart technology to its devices, but this is a standard and effective car alarm regardless.

Pros: You can get this device for cheap. While it retails at around $450, you can find it online for about $100.

Cons: Other models and other brands have a longer communication range. Only expect your remote to be able to communicate within 1,500 feet from your vehicle.

The lowest price we could find: $105
7. CrimeStopper Universal 2-Way LCD Security and Keyless Entry System SP-302

CrimeStopper’s premium Universal 2-Way LCD Security and Keyless Entry System offers a host of great features—from sophisticated sensors to an advertised operation range of up to 3,000 feet. You’ll receive one 2-way remote with a 3,000 ft. operating range as well as a 1-way remote with up to 2,000 ft. of communication range.

Like other brands and models, CrimeStopper’s 2-way car alarm puts up a fight if someone is trying to break in. Expect to hear a 120 decibel siren for any tampering.

Pros: You can save a lot with this brand. It’s available online for around $75.

Cons: While you can save on this model, some customers have complained about remotes breaking relatively quickly after purchase.

The lowest price we could find: $77
8. Pyle LCD 2-Way Remote Start Security System with Advanced Impact Sensor

Pyle’s website claims that its LCD 2-Way Remote Start Security System offers “top notch performance on a smaller budget.” The system comes equipped with the two-way communication and LCD display of its counterparts. One cool extra feature is the product’s ignition-controlled locks. When this feature is activated, doors will automatically be locked when your brake pedal is pressed, providing added protection at stoplights and while parking.

Though this alarm has positive attributes like advanced sensors and the aforementioned ignition-control feature, there are reports online about a lack of reliability. The review site cites user reports of radio interference and false security alerts. It also states that the alarm’s user interface is not as intuitive as other car alarm systems.

While there are a lot of great features included in today’s aftermarket car alarms, the large number of options can make choosing the right model difficult. By taking your time to review the various products available, you can find a system the meets your budget and helps protect your vehicle from theft.

This retails for $309, but you can buy it online for around $100.

Pros: This is a basic car alarm system with a reasonable price. If you’re looking for a car alarm system under $100, this could fit the bill.

Cons: Keyless entry, remote trunk release, and other convenient features that have become standard on most systems, are not on the Pyle LCD 2-Way Remote.

The lowest price we could find: $110
9. SCYTEC MobiLink 777 2-Way Car Alarm Vehicle Security System With Smartphone Integration

This is the only other smartphone compatible car alarm brand we came across. It doesn’t use the SmartStart system, but MobiLink to connect to your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry. Although it’s under a different name, you’ll get all of the benefits as the others. Scytek Mobilink 777 2-Way Car Alarm has GPS capability with a subscription, remote control over the locking and arming of your vehicle, alerts that are delivered to your phone, and more.

Pros: If you’re looking for a smart technology car alarm, we found this alarm online for around $250 – slightly better when compared to Viper and Python’s $300 range.
Cons: This product is sold out on many of the websites we researched. This could be due to the limitations of the company and their manufacturing since it’s not as well known as Viper or Python.

The lowest price we could find: $240
10. Excalibur AL-2050-EDPB 2-Way Car Security and Remote Start System

When the Excalibur AL-2050-EDPB 2-Way car alarm is installed in your vehicle, you can talk to it from up to one mile away. That’s 5,280 feet of operation that allows you to learn if your car is being tampered with and to lock up if your forgot when you stepped out of your vehicle.

Pros: You’ll get a second, 1-way remote with this system so you can keep one at home to use in a pinch.

Cons: This is the newest model and has been around since 2013. A lot of advancements in car security have happened since then, so this isn’t the most cutting-edge equipment available.

The lowest price we could find: $260
This should be a good place to start your research if you’re looking for a car alarm system to keep your vehicles safe. Compare the pros and cons of each of these top aftermarket car alarms to learn about the best features and check often for updates.

Safe Rooms

Does your family have a “Safe Room”? Not a room where you hide a safe, but rather a sort of bank vault to keep your family safe in the event of an emergency, like a home invasion or robbery. These rooms are often depicted in Hollywood movies, and are extremely useful in protecting your family from bad actors (not the Hollywood kind).
The experts at wrote a great article to help explain the importance and benefits of safe rooms (summarized below):

Most security experts use the phrase Safe Room rather than Panic Room to describe the concept of having an ultra-secure location within a residence. The concept is simple…prepare a room within the interior of the home where the family can safely retreat during a home invasion or other terrorist threat and summon help.

Think of a safe room as a box with only one opening. You simply fortify the six sides to the box and the single door leading into it. I’ve seen safe rooms that were built more like a bunker or bank vault with eight-inch concrete walls and a steel door. These elaborate designs were also used to store cash, valuable jewelry, and collections. I’ve seen others that had reinforced steel sheeting in the walls and equipped with a video monitor, a cellular telephone, and alarm keypad.

Unlike the movie, most safe rooms are merely fortified enough to delay an intruder so an alarm can be activated or call made to summon the police or security. Any homeowner can create such a room with relatively little effort and expense. The most common reason the average person would want a safe room is fear of assault from a home invasion robber or abusive spouse. The most common reason for corporate executives to constuct a safe room is fear of kidnapping for ransom or fear of home invasion robbery.

Although most Americans would probably prefer to build a bar or a game room rather than a panic room, the benefits cannot be overstated. Although they are probably out of the reach of most of the world because of the sheer cost, panic rooms allow families to have a clear plan of action in case of a burglary or home invasion, and can deliver a lot of peace of mind.

If the safe room is out of reach of your family for financial reasons, you can get many of the same benefits by having a clear plan of action in the event of an emergency. In case of a fire, get on all fours and crawl to the nearest exit, and wait outside in front of your house for emergency personnel to arrive. If everyone in your family is on the same page about what to do an emergency, That’s a big step in the right direction.

How To Avoid A Lockout

Most people get locked out of their home, car, or office at one time or another. By being proactive, however, we can avoid  lockouts while keeping our home safe & secure. The following types of lockouts are most common:

Office Lockouts

Since many offices are much more secure than homes (security cameras, ANSI grade 1 & 2 locks, anti-bumping locks, higher quality hardware, etc.), getting locked out of your office can be a real hassle. However, offices are secure for good reason: they have more assets to protect. Especially for high value merchants like jewelers or high security tech companies that hold their customers’ private information, these security measures are a must. Chris from Locksmith of San Mateo offers a few options for when you’re locked out of your office:

  • If the office is open, you can call a coworker to let you back in
  • If you know where your keys are, and they’re not locked inside the business, you can simply go get them & let yourself in
  • You can call a certified commercial locksmith, who can defeat your exterior locks. However, depending on the security of the doors outside, he may need to damage some of the locks to get you back inside. Make sure that you’re on the same page before he starts, and that he’s insured against any damages

Car Lockouts

Every comedy movie in the ’80s included a scene where a character locked their car with the keys inside. Fortunately, many cars have evolved enough to prevent this from happening, but certainly not all. For instance, a friend of mine had a BMW from the early 2000’s, and she locked her keys in her car several times, because the doors automatically lock, even if the keys are in the ignition, when you close the door. Pretty serious design flaw, if you ask me!

locked out of car


However they happen, car lockouts can be a REAL hassle. If your key is specialized, it can be expensive (& time consuming) to replace. If it’s a smart key, then it needs to be ordered from the manufacturer (remember “Gone in 60 Seconds”?). However, many locksmiths can produce keys for most big name car manufacturers, but it’s important to check with them first. Make sure to include your car’s make and model when you’re on the phone with them, before they send a locksmith out to you.


Elizabeth Weintraub wrote a great article about how to be proactive & avoid home lockouts, based on her own terrifying experience! We’ve reprinted most of the article below, but you can read the whole thing here:


Sooner or later, almost everybody gets locked out of the house. You may think that getting locked out of the house won’t happen to you, but just you wait. If you don’t take preventative measures against getting locked out, it could very well happen when you least expect it.  I never thought it would happen to me, but one day I lost my house keys. I pulled them out of my bag, and the ring holding my keys went flying, unnoticed.

When I got home, I discovered that I was locked out. So, I hauled a ladder out of the garage and climbed it, hoping to crawl in the second floor window. The ladder wasn’t high enough to reach the window ledge. In my infinite wisdom, I jumped up and flung my body through the open window head first. I could have killed myself.

How to Not Get Locked Out of the House

One thing you absolutely do not want to do is to leave a door or window unlocked as protection against getting locked out. Because if you know how to break in to your house, a burglar can easily discover that method, too. Always lock your doors and windows.

The secret to avoid getting locked out of the house is to make an extra set of keys, and make sure you have access to a spare key in the event you are locked out.

If you do not have an extra key, you may need to call a locksmith. Do not kick in the door because you may end up replacing the door jamb, door frame and your door, which is far more expensive than paying a locksmith.

Ditto for breaking a window. Locksmiths are cheaper. Just in case, program a locksmith’s phone number into your cell.

Good Places to Stash a House Key

You can’t have too many house keys. First, it helps if all the locks in your home are keyed to one key. You can remove your door knobs and take them to a hardware store, do it yourself (if you know how) or call a locksmith to change all the locks so they unlock with the same key.

Here are places to hide an extra key:

  • Give an extra key to a friend, family member or neighbor whom you trust.
  • Buy a fake rock, put the key inside and hide the rock in the garden. Make sure the rock looks real because burglars know how to look for these.
  • Carry an extra key in a briefcase or, if you’re a woman, your bag.
  • Install a wireless keypad on the outside of your garage and hide a key inside the garage. Bear in mind that in the event of a power failure, your garage door may not open.
  • Lock the key inside your electrical panel and lock the panel with a combination padlock.
  • Attach a heavy duty contractor’s box to a gas pipe and put the key inside.

Bad Places to Stash a House Key

  • Many burglars prefer to enter homes through unlocked doors, but they rarely take the time to search for a key. Breaking a window is faster and more convenient for crooks. Still, that doesn’t mean you should leave a key in a conspicuous spot where a burglar is likely to find it. Here are bad places to hide an extra key:
  • Under the mat. First place people look, not to mention, the wind might blow it off the steps.
  • Under a planter.
  • In the mailbox.
  • In your car’s glove box.
  • Taped inside a gutter.
  • On a window ledge.
  • On your dog’s collar.
  • In the lock itself.

Now of course, after I inflicted bodily harm by thrusting myself through my second-floor window, I found my house keys the following morning, lying on the floor of my office. That episode was the turning point for me, and now I will never get locked out of my house. Providing, I should add, if I can remember where I hid my extra key.

Lock Bumping & How To Prevent It

The concept of lock “bumping”, and the fact that there are many guides across the internet that explain exactly how to do it, is enough to scare the pants off most people. To put it simply, bumping a lock allows someone to defeat a wide variety of residential locks in just a few seconds, with little to no practice. Here’s the explanation from Consumer Reports:

A bump key is made by taking a key that already fits into a particular brand of lock and filing it down. But turning a blank key into a bump key isn’t as simple as it looks in those Web videos.

First, a key must fit into the lock someone wants to pick—even if the key can’t open the door, it must slide all the way into the lock. A thief would also need to schlep around hundreds of keys to the home(s) they intend to enter since there are so many different key fits on the market.

“Just think of the selection displayed when you get a key duplicated in a hardware store,” says John Galeotafiore, our director of testing for home improvement.

Next, the crook would need to file the cuts in the key down to the deepest depths and then use a “bumping” tool to bounce the pins and open the lock.

“Ultimately, the consumer is responsible for assessing the risk of an attack from bumping,” wrote Marc Weber Tobias, author of Locks, Safes, and Security. In a 2006 analysis on lock bumping, Tobias pointed out that apartment buildings or business complexes that utilize one standard lock brand and model face a high risk of having their locks compromised. The same goes for homeowners whose old keys fall into the wrong hands after a lock has been changed for a similar model.

The solution? Fortunately, there are several.

  1. Install high quality locks. Not all locks can be bumped, and consumers can buy very high-quality locks which will provide adequate protection from bumping and other entry methods used by criminals, says the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC).
  2. Buy smart locks. Kwikset has been a leader in the transition from traditional locks to smart locks, And has released several high quality Solutions to combat the threat. Smart keys are controlled with either pass codes or your cell phone, Which eliminates bumping as an entry method. Aside from that, it can assure you that your tront door is locked, that your child or other family member has arrived home safely, track when housekeepers and other service providers enter and exit your home, etc.
  3. Install lock bumping countermeasures. Quick add-ons to your existing locks like The Ultimate Lock can prevent any key from opening a lock, which prevents picking, bumping, etc. Consumer reports issued a great report on this subject, going over both cheap & expensive options to keep your family safe.

How to Find a Reputible Locksmith

In need of an emergency locksmith? Before you hire anyone, it’s important to know what to look for.

The Federal Trade Commission has put together a great guide on what to do when you need a locksmith to avoid being scammed:

  • If you’re locked out of your car and have a roadside assistance service, call them first. These services sometimes are included with the purchase of a car, or as an add-on through your insurance company. You also can buy this service separately. Roadside assistance plans often have a list of pre-approved companies to perform services like unlocking cars, jump-starting batteries, changing flat tires, delivering gasoline, and towing.

  • Call family or friends for recommendations.

  • If you find a locksmith in the phone book, on the Internet, or through directory assistance, and a business address is given, confirm that the address belongs to that locksmith. Some disreputable companies list street addresses to give the impression that they’re local. But the addresses may belong to other businesses or vacant lots, if they exist at all. You can verify addresses through websites that allow you to match phone numbers with street addresses. Some legitimate locksmith companies may not include a street address in their listing either because they operate a “mobile” business or they operate their business out of their home and may be reluctant to list that address. If you call a locksmith who doesn’t list an address, ask why. If the answer is that it’s a “mobile” business, you will understand they have no storefront.

  • Write down the names of several businesses, their phone numbers, and addresses for future reference, in case you don’t want to go with the first locksmith you call.

  • If a company answers the phone with a generic phrase like “locksmith services,” rather than a company-specific name, be wary. Ask for the legal name of the business. If the person refuses, call another locksmith.

  • Get an estimate for all work and replacement parts from the locksmith before work begins. In cases of “lock-outs” (being locked out of your car or home), most legitimate locksmiths will give you an estimate on the phone for the total cost of the work.

    • Ask about additional fees before you agree to have the locksmith perform the work. Companies may charge extra for responding to a call in the middle of the night. Ask if there is a charge for mileage, or a minimum fee for a service call.
    • If the price the locksmith provides when he arrives doesn’t jibe with the estimate you got on the telephone, do not allow the work to be done.
    • Never sign a blank form authorizing work.
  • Find out if the locksmith is insured. If your property is damaged during a repair, or if faulty work leads to loss or damage, it’s important for the locksmith to have insurance to cover your losses.

  • When the locksmith arrives, ask for identification, including a business card and, where applicable, a locksmith license. Nine states require locksmiths to be licensed: Alabama, California, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. In addition to a business card, check to see if the invoice includes the company’s name, and whether the locksmith’s vehicle has a name that matches the business card, invoice, and/or bill.

  • Expect the locksmith to ask you for identification, as well. A legitimate locksmith should confirm your identity and make sure you’re the property owner before doing any work.

  • Some locksmiths will work out of a car for quick or emergency jobs, but most will arrive in a service vehicle that is clearly marked with their company’s name.

  • In the case of a lock-out, be cautious if you’re told up front that the lock has to be drilled and replaced. An experienced legitimate locksmith has invested in the tools and education to provide quality service, and can unlock almost any door.

  • After the work is completed, get an itemized invoice that covers parts, labor, mileage, and the price of the service call.

Some of this advice is pretty straight-forward (like talking to family & friends first, comparing several companies and getting quotes before committing to a single provider, etc.), but some are more obscure. For instance, most people wouldn’t think to ask for an itemized invoice that covers parts, labor, mileage, etc. for each service call. In fact, many locksmiths may not be able to provide this on the spot, and may need to email you after returning to the office. Finally, asking if a locksmith is not only licensed (in the 9 states where it’s applicable), but also insured against damages, is an important question to ask. In case of damage to your vehicle, home, or any other asset that the technician may be working on, this extra step should ensure that you can repair your asset without any hassles.

I would also add that you should do research online on Yelp & other trustworthy directories, and avoid any locksmiths missing a license number or with poor reviews.

Following the advice above will not only result in a better experience with your locksmith, but it will cost less, too!


Evaluating Your Home’s Security

Is your home as safe as it could be? Have you had a neighborhood break-in recently? Or a string of car burglaries? Making sure that your home is protected from intruders, burglars, violent criminals, and others is essential in 2016.

home security inspection

HomeAdvisor published a great article that we’ve reprinted below in its entirety, because we think that continual home security inspections are vital to protecting your family. Please read the article & see our commentary below:

Whether you have a full blown security system or a simple lock on your doors and windows, just about every home can benefit from a home security inspection. Is your house as safe as it could be? Are there a few simple projects that could greatly decrease the likelihood of a break-in? A home security inspection can answer these questions and give you the peace of mind that comes from having a safe, secure home both when you’re inside and when you’re away, too!

Home Security Inspections: What to Expect
Home security inspections are generally quick and inexpensive, but the results of such inspections are likely to improve your property for years to come. A good home security inspection will look at your property as a whole and identify any problematic areas where your home is either unprotected or under-protected. Your windows and doors will, of course, fall under some of the heaviest scrutiny, as these are highly visible entryways for would-be burglars, but these aren’t the only areas that will be focused on. Your garage, landscaping, trees, lighting, and even the numbers on your house will all be examined. Often, it is these areas that present problems and need to be altered.

Secure Homes, Not Impregnable Fortresses
While home security inspections are most likely going to suggest a few improvements to your existing property, they are not meant to make your home into Fort Knox! In fact, you may be surprised at how secure your home can be with only a few unobtrusive alterations. Of course, if you want your home to be a fortress, you can certainly find a security company to fulfill your wishes. However, as most of us are rather fond of our homes’ current condition, a home security inspection is likely to point out a few small characteristics of your property that could be slightly changed to make your home a safer place to be and a less attractive target for intruders.

Who Performs Home Security Inspections
The person who performs your home security inspection is important. A home security company that offers “free” inspections might do a very thorough job, but as they may have an interest in drumming up more business for themselves, the conclusions their inspections lead to may be a bit self-serving.

In some areas, the local police department offers free home security inspections. This is a far better option, as your police department’s only agenda is making your home safer and preventing crime. Not only will they objectively examine your home for security needs, they will also have information available on the types of crimes that are prevalent in your neighborhood, and give you suggestions according to those trends. Even if your police department doesn’t advertise free inspections, you may be able to get one for free (or for a nominal fee) simply by requesting it.

You may also be able to get a home security inspection from an independent third party. There will be a fee associated with going this route, but you will get a very thorough inspection with a clear list of items that could or should be improved without the worry of the results focusing more on what can be sold to you than what you can do better.

DIY Home Security Inspections
While you can find checklists for homeowners to perform their own home security inspections, there’s really no substitute for a professional eye. Checking your door and window locks and trimming back your hedges away from the house are both good starts, but because few homeowners know all the tricks of the trade (and looking at your own home objectively is extremely difficult, anyway), it really is a good idea to call in a pro for this job. As long as you are sure that the motives of your inspector are not to sell you equipment you don’t need or charge you for improvements that aren’t necessary, a professional home security inspection is a far more effective tool than any inspection you can do yourself. Remember, you don’t have to make all of the suggested alterations immediately! By examining your results and performing what you can afford, you’ll be making your home safer one step at a time and staying within your budget, too.

As the article points out, it’s not important who performs the home inspection audit (whether you do it yourself, hire a locksmith, hire a local security firm, etc.): it’s only important that IT GETS DONE! Furthermore, these inspections are more about identifying vulnerabilities then they are about turning your house into an impregnable fortress. Every home will have areas of entry and exit, and  they are important to maintain in case of a fire, earth quake, etc. It is important, however, to identify the areas that are most vulnerable and to mitigate risk as much as possible. In some areas, as the article mentions, your local police may be able to perform a free home security inspection. If you aren’t even performing it, and it doesn’t cost anything, there really is no excuse keep your home secure! The Los Gatos Police website has a quick article that offers a few tips to keep your perspective fresh & your family alert.