Avoiding Holiday Break-Ins

People use locks to guard their safety and security. And there’s no time they need it more than during the holidays, which are notorious for break-ins and burglaries.

That’s why the team here at Omega Locksmith wanted to take a few moments to talk about some things you can do to keep your home safer.

Get screw-type window locks.

They’re super hard to open from the outside, and your homeowner’s insurance plan will typically give you a discount if you have them.

Get a monitored home alarm system.

There’s nothing like having a system which calls the police for you when you have an intruder. Deadbolts are your first line of defense, but burglar alarms are your second.

Control access to information.

“Loose lips sink ships” applies to home security just as easily as it applies to wars. Make sure you’re careful not to broadcast times when you’re not at home or don’t plan to be at home. Watch those social media posts, too. That innocent “check in” from the mall cafe tells everyone you’re not home as surely as announcing your vacation plans does.

Don’t leave branded boxes at the curb.

Take that big screen TV box out at the last minute on garbage day, or take them yourself. Otherwise, you’re running advertisements for burglars who might be interested in stealing your holiday presents. Why leave enticements for The Grinch?

Control access to keys.

Believe it or not, most burglaries are “inside jobs.” This means it’s often someone who you know–someone who may even have access to one of your keys. And with key copying apps making it easier than ever to get a copy of your keys fast, you absolutely must be careful who you allow to gain access to your keys.

Don’t let anyone have a key unless they absolutely need one. And if you think people already have keys who really should not, consider calling us to order a residential re-key. Better to be safe than sorry. Call Omega Locksmith to schedule your re-key today.

How Long Does It Take a Dealership to Provide New Keys?

What would it be like to be without your car for 2 to 3 weeks? Chances are, your life would be far more difficult. You’ll either have to get a rental, which will cost hundreds of dollars, or you’ll have to start navigating public transportation–which may or may not be feasible for you.

But that’s exactly what will happen if you lose a transponder key and attempt to get help from your car dealership. They’ll want to sell you on replacing an entire computer system, instead of a simple key. This process is not fast, which means you’ll be living without your vehicle for weeks.

Plus, computer replacement is expensive. A full ECM replacement really does take up to three weeks. Who needs that?

How long does it take a qualified locksmith to replace keys?

We can usually take care of this problem very quickly by using the “reflashing” technique. We simply reprogram the existing computer and teach it to accept new keys.

We then hand over your new key set so you can get back on the road. It’s simple, it’s fast, and it is far, far less expensive. Reflashing costs a couple of hundred dollars, whereas computer replacements cost a couple of thousand.

Why don’t dealerships just reflash car keys?

Well, we don’t want to be cynical here, but…it’s all about the money.

First, dealerships aren’t really in the business of locksmithing to begin with, so they don’t want to buy reflashing equipment. Second, their reasoning is this: why wouldn’t they want to get that extra couple of thousand dollars for replacing your computer? From their perspective, the loss of your car keys comes as something of a windfall.

Don’t go through this hassle and expense.

Contact Omega Locksmith today. We’ll dispatch one of our trained locksmiths to you at any time, day or night. We’ll get you back on the road in no time.

Hey Chicago, We’ve Expanded!

Here at Omega Locksmith we know there is truly nothing more frustrating than being locked out of your car when you’ve got somewhere to be. That’s why we recently added new vans to our fleet and new employees to our team. We wanted to give Chicago 24 hour, 7 day a week, 365 day a year coverage.

We just noticed more and more people are having a great deal of trouble with their transponder keys. Those keys are pretty awesome until they stop working, seemingly at random and without warning. And unfortunately, the dealership is not open 24 hours (and is the last place you want to go to replace your transponder keys anyway). The dealership has also been known to charge thousands of dollars for key replacements.

Meanwhile, we can reproduce keys for over 2,300 cars for just a couple of hundred dollars per visit. We can also typically show up at your location within 30 minutes or less, especially if you’re out in suburbs like Lombard.

Click here to read our explanation of why dealerships take so long and cost so much.

Rest assured we were not haphazard about hiring our new team members. We looked for locksmiths who are passionated, experienced, trained and trustworthy. After verifying their integrity and skills we took the time to train them on the latest key cutting computer system. This was actually a lot of fun — some of our new guys were pretty excited to see what they’d be able to do when armed with the latest technology.

So go ahead, give us a call. You’ll get a free, straightforward quote and fast service at any time, day or night.

Beware the Key Copying App

Now, the phrase, “there’s an app for that” extends to making key copies. And unfortunately, this app can actually be pretty dangerous.

The app allows you to scan your key with a smart phone. You get a new key in the mail a few days later.

Nifty, right? Only you don’t actually have to prove the key belongs to you to get it. So anyone who can get their hands on your keys for even a few minutes can have a copy of their very own. The app can’t verify that the scanner of the key is the owner of the key and sends the key out to whatever address is entered into the system.

Let’s talk about how to protect yourself.

Control access to your keys.

Make sure you only give your keys to people you’d want to allow into your house. If you’ve ever left your keys with anyone else, even for a moment (most commonly with car mechanics or with valets) then call a locksmith for a full home rekey and be more vigilant in the future. If you have old fashioned car keys you might need an automotive rekey, too.

In the future, if you have to hand over your car key to someone then take it off the ring. Don’t hand that person the entire clump of keys–the one that contains your house key, your storage room key, your mail room key, your mother’s keys, and so forth. That mechanic doesn’t need any key other than the car key, so that’s the key you give them. Sure, it’s an inconvenience to take the key off the ring and put it back on, but having your belongings stolen is an even bigger inconvenience.

Consider upgrading your lock.

Certain high end keys won’t work with this app. You can consider getting one of those locks. You might even consider a keyless home entry system which allows you to enter a security code instead.

And while transponder keys definitely offer their share of problems they certainly won’t work with this app either. Consider upgrading to a car that uses them the next time you change vehicles.

Don’t use the app.

There are safer ways to make key copies. Can you imagine what will happen if a hacker manages to crack these apps? That hacker will have scanned key copies linked to physical addresses. Crooks will have a field day.

Remember, keys are safety and security devices. They should be treated as such, no matter how technology evolves.

If you live in Chicago or the surrounding areas and need a home rekey to stay safe, call us. We’re ready to help.

A Locksmith’s Vacation Prep Wisdom

I have a friend who lives out of state. She recently went on vacation–and when she did, she made a really huge mistake.

She hired a house sitter, then went to one of those grocery store kiosk things to get a key copy. She gave the key copy to her house sitter and went on vacation some 700 miles away.

A day later, the house sitter calls to let her know the key doesn’t work.

That’s right. She’s 700 miles away. She has two cats who need food, water, and other attentions. And the key copy she had created was not going to work.

She was going to have to get creative to come up with a solution. Ultimately, she ended up getting a professional key copy made and overnighting that key to the sitter, who was then able to get in. This was a huge hassle that cut into her vacation.

These machines are everywhere, so you might be forgiven for thinking that it’s really easy to cut a house key. However, this story shows that they don’t always cut these keys accurately enough to get the job done.

If it’s important enough for you to  make a key copy then in general it’s going to be important enough for you to get it done professionally. Locksmiths do have the equipment to generate extra keys for your home, and of course we test all of the keys before we charge you for them.

Hey, we get you want to save money, but some keys are honestly a little more intricate than others. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, and sometimes you won’t.

Either way, my advice? Test all of your key copies before you go out of town. You don’t want to ruin your Christmas or Thanksgiving vacation because your house sitter or pet sitter can’t get in to do what he or she needs to do. If you’ve made a bad key copy you’ll know before you go, and you’ll have time to fix it.

Just a little reminder to everyone out here in Chicago who might soon be leaving for the holidays over the course of the next couple of months!

How to Spot a Locksmith Scam

Nobody goes looking for a locksmith when they are having a good day. Getting locked out of your home or car is a stressful experience.

However, it’s important to be aware that there are scammers out there who are just waiting to prey on your stress. These people will overcharge you, damage your car, and leave you worse than they found you.

Scambusters will tell you that locksmith scams are some of the fastest growing scams in the nation, so we thought we’d take a few minutes to help you figure out how to spot one.

Scammers are not licensed.

The State of Illinois requires all locksmiths to be licensed. You can look up any locksmith’s license with an easy online search. In fact, we encourage you to do so. We want you to know you’re safe with us.

Scammers overcharge.

Scammers quote prices that are almost ten times higher than any professional locksmith service should ever cost.

Make sure you familiarize yourself with common service cost averages for different services before you call. At Omega, our average call costs between $100 and $300, depending on what needs to be done. Note that the more expensive calls are usually full rekeys on transponder systems which require special care.

Of course, nobody’s going to quote a $1500 rate over the phone. Instead they quote something stupid low, like $10 or $20, so they can get their foot in the door. Then they show up, disassemble your lock, and tell you, “It’s more complicated than I thought it would be.” That’s when they hit you with the high prices. Some even start yelling, screaming, and threatening you if you won’t pay up–in cash.

Scammers are untrained.

Most scammers are untrained or self-taught, which is why they don’t have a license. Some of them got their “training” by ripping off cars. You have to get a criminal background check to get a locksmith’s license, and they can’t manage to pass one of those, either.

Do your homework!

Researching a potential locksmith is the best way to make sure you are dealing with someone is legitimate. Check the locksmith’s website. Is it a thin site, or does it have a lot of content? Check third party review sites. What are other people saying about the locksmith? Are they licensed?

When you get them on the phone, ask for a ballpark quote. Does it sound realistic and reasonable for the type of job you’re asking the locksmith to do?

Finally, jot down the locksmith’s license plate number once they roll up. This gives you some recourse if they’re dirty, giving you more information to pass on to the police.

You could also just call us. Omega Locksmith has spent years developing a positive reputation in the Chicago Metro Area, and we’re happy to help you. We welcome you to check our licenses or anything else you need to check in order to know we’re on the up and up. We’re here to help, and we care about giving you a great experience.

Will You Lock Your Keys in Your Car on Purpose?

Jaguar is unleashing a waterproof, shockproof wristband that will help people unlock their cars. Oddly, the wristband does not serve as a key in its own right.

Instead, the idea is you will hide your key fob in a special compartment at the back of the Jaguar, touch the bracelet to the compartment and open it to retrieve the key. Then you’ll hit the button on the key fob to open your car.

What could possibly go wrong?

When this thing works well it’s going to be awesome for surfers, swimmers, runners and other active people, as the article in Cars.com mentioned. However, when it doesn’t work you’ve basically created a situation where you’re going to need an automotive re-key. There won’t be any other way to get the panel in the back of that car open.

The bracelet could malfunction. Transponder technology actually malfunctions all the time. It seems like a lot of extra steps, too. If you’re going to rely on transponder technology, why not just go all the way and turn the bracelet itself into a car key?

Keep your Chicago locksmith on call.

Of course, there aren’t a lot of surfers in the Chicagoland area. There are a lot of highly active people, however. If you’re one of them you might love this idea, and we’re not saying you shouldn’t enjoy the technology. Nine times out of ten, it’s going to work out just fine.

But when something does go wrong you need to know who to call. After all, your car is just a fancy piece of metal if you can’t get inside and drive it.

Fortunately, Omega Locksmith is an expert at replacing transponder keys, smart keys, and more. We’ll be able to get you back in your vehicle, even if your high tech bracelet can’t!

New Smart Locks Coming to Homes

Here at Omega Locksmith we’re always watching the latest trends in locks, keys, and smart keys. That’s why a recent Time Magazine article about home smart locks caught our attention.

Time covered the August Smart Lock. You install these locks on your homes, replacing deadbolts. The smart lock is only visible inside of the home, making it harder for thieves to understand what kind of security they’re dealing with.

The homeowner carries a transponder key, and the door unlocks when the homeowner is close enough to the house to trigger a response, much like your car locks do.

Do these smart keys represent a security threat?

These smart keys are amazing when it comes to convenience. Imagine approaching your home with an armful of groceries and stepping inside without ever having to fumble for the house key again.

By the same token, they do create one glaring security threat that should probably be addressed before homeowners rush out to get one. I’m talking about home invasions.

If someone follows you home it would be child’s play to shove you inside of your own home, which conveniently unlocks itself for both you and the invader. Granted, an invader can force the issue with a key lock too, but it takes a little longer, creating more of an opportunity for a neighbor or law enforcement professional to take notice.

In addition, the reviewer noted these keys are so sensitive that it unlocked his house while he was still quite some distance away from it. That could create a serious security threat as well.

With that being said, they should be okay if you combine them with other security measures, like a monitored home alarm system.

But remember, smart keys are touchy.

Like any high-tech gadget, smart keys do malfunction, as do smart locks. We’ve covered this issue before. In fact, many of the calls we receive these days are not the result of lost keys. They’re the result of malfunctioning transponder keys.

If you choose to install one of these locks in your home you should be prepared for the possibility that they’re going to give you problems. Keep your local locksmith’s number in your phone and on a card inside your car, just in case. There might be no worse feeling in the world than the feeling that comes with knowing you can’t get inside your own house. You need to keep the solution close at hand if you’re going to rely on a high-tech entry system like this one.

Fortunately, if you live in Pilsen, Downer’s Grove or anywhere else in the Chicago metro area, Omega Locksmith already has you covered. You can install your high-tech smart lock with confidence, knowing we’ll be on the case if something goes wrong.

Soon, You’ll be Able To Unlock Your Car with Your Phone


Mercedes has a new smart key option. Instead of carrying a key fob around you’ll be able to unlock your car with your smart phone, instead.

A UK car magazine ran the story, so it’s not clear whether these smart phone key options will be released in the US, or when that might happen. Sometimes seeing an early technology like this tells you everyone will be using them for every car in ten years, and sometimes these technologies just fall flat.

What are the advantages of smart phone transponder keys?

For starters, you’ll have a lot less to carry around, and you’ll reduce the chances that you’re going to lose your keys. After all, most of us are pretty attached to our phones.

In addition, these keys are supposed to work even when the phone is dead, which means you won’t have to worry so much if you run out of juice. This was almost a requirement of any smart phone solution–everyone’s had that situation where their phone goes out at the worst possible time.

What about the disadvantages?

Well…there are several.

First, you have to physically touch your phone to the car in order to get it started. Sure, this is a first world problem, but it almost defeats the purpose of having a smart key in the first place.

It also doesn’t work with iPhones. While we’re not phone enthusiasts per se, plenty of people have opted for iPhones over Androids. Options are nice, and right now the only option an iPhone user would have would be to go back to the same old transponder keys Mercedes has been using.

Then there’s the matter of finding a locksmith if something goes wrong. As long as the SIM card option can be replaced with a new transponder key at any time there’s no problem…we already have the technology to make it happen. However, if the SIM option will require us to have an entirely different set  of tools or poses unique compatibility issues there might be some lag time between the roll-out of this technology and the profession’s ability to catch up. This may mean bleeding edge Mercedes drivers may have no choice other than to turn to the dealership in most cities in the event their SIM key malfunctions or their phone is lost.

Either way, we’ll stay on top of it.

Of course, we won’t let this change catch us off guard…after all, you heard it here first. We’ll continue to keep an eye on the technology so we can make sure we’re always ready to serve our customers here in the Chicago metro area, no matter how they choose to activate their cars.

Some Transponder Keys Have a Security Flaw

Automakers have switched to transponder keys and smart keys because they are supposed to be safer. It is certainly true that these types of keys do make it harder for the average criminal to take off with your car.

However, they are not invincible.

A recent post on the Car and Driver blog reveals hackers have been able to explot a flaw in 25 makes of vehicle, including common brands like:

  • Audi
  • Buick
  • Cadillac
  • Chevrolet
  • Honda
  • Isuzu
  • Pontiac
  • Kia
  • Volkswagon
  • Volvo

Many luxury brands like Ferrari and Porche made the list as well.

Here at Omega Locksmith we felt it was important to share this news with our readers. After all, those of us who have cars really rely on them, and need to be aware of anything that could make it easier for thieves to take them.

Some manufacturers–notably, GM–have taken steps to close this security loophole. Others have failed to address it, even though they’ve apparently known about it since 2012.

There is not a lot you can do about the loophole — if a hacker car thief really wants your car he’s probably going to get it. Fortunately, most car thieves are not highly sophisticated hackers. Most are opportunists. The vast majority of cars are stolen because they’re left running (which is one reason “warming up your car” on winter mornings can be dangerous).

The biggest issue most people will face with a transponder key is the loss of a key or a key malfunction which requires them to call an automotive locksmith for a replacement.

However, if you are truly concerned it might be a good idea to update your auto insurance policy. If you’re carrying the bare minimum, for example, then you might want to choose a comprehensive policy that will reimburse you in the event that a hacker-thief does manage to hack your transponder key.

It is worth noting, however, that no active hacker-thieving incidents have made it into any news story. To date, there just don’t seem to be any criminals out there who are actually exploiting the loophole. It may require more time, effort, equipment and trouble than it’s worth.

This loophole has simply been exposed by cyber-security experts. In time, we’d expect more automakers to invest in closing it. For now, it’s just something to be aware of…not something to lose sleep over.