Brits hand keys worth £750m to thieves

Article date: 14 June 2006

Burglars are set to cash in on a £750 million*bonus this summer as careless Brits leave millions of keys lyingaround their homes.

With doors and windows being left open in the hot weather and homessitting vacant during the holiday season, burglars could cash in ona one-stop-shop - stealing on average £2,405* worth of contents andcars per household.

The 2006 Cash for Keys Report, compiled by Norwich Union Insurance,reveals 80% of Brits have up to five sets of keys in their home,with half (50%) of people keeping them all in one place. To makematters worse, one home in eight (12%) puts labels on keys, givingthieves a helping hand with clear directions for a fast hit.

Norwich Union Insurance has teamed up with ex-burglar, Bob Turneyto gain an insight into the habits of UK burglars. Having spent 18years honing his stealing skills before changing his ways to becomea probation officer, Bob shares his insider knowledge: “Themost obvious places to keep keys are the worst places, yet Britscontinue to use them without much consideration for how easy theyare making it for burglars.”

The Cash for Keys Report also revealed Brits are a nation ofcareless key keepers:

  • Eight out of 10 Brits (83%) give out spare sets of keys
  • A third give keys to their neighbours, thus setting burglars upfor multiple hits on the same street
  • Nearly a quarter (22%) have handed out sets of house keys topeople such as plumbers, electricians, gardeners, cleaners andbabysitters and never got them back.

Despite government and police campaigns toencourage vigilance and prevent opportunist burglaries, many peopledon’t take the risk seriously. Two out of five (40%) of Britsstill think they will outwit thieves by hiding a spare set outsidetheir house in case they lose their keys. Some women (6%) evenadmit to stashing keys in their rabbit’s hutch.

With improved security, car theft is now an increasingly trickybusiness so thieves are turning their attention to stealing vehiclekeys from homes instead. If keys are kept within sight or reach ofwindows and doors, burglars use "smash and grab" tactics that takea matter of seconds. While the more discerning burglars go for the“hook and cane” method – fishing for keys throughletterboxes or cat flaps with a hook or magnet attached to astick.

Of course once they’ve got your car keys they can not onlysteal your wheels but load all your belongings into the back ofyour car and drive away!

This is exactly what happened only last week to Tory MP forMonmouth, David Davies.

Thieves broke into his home, stole the keys from the kitchen andthen drove off in his car.

Celebrity homes have also been burgled specifically to steal keysto prestigious cars worth thousands of pounds.

  • England footballer, Frank Lampard was robbed of his Mercedes andAston Martin last year which had a joint value of £195,000
  • Boy band Blue’s Duncan James’ BMW, worth £44,000,was stolen when thieves broke into his family home and locatedthe keys
  • Last month, Arsenal’s Patrick Vieira and his family weregassed by burglars who then drove away with his £40,000 Mercedesand valuable jewellery.

To help Brits keep their homes and cars safethis summer, Bob Turney offers his insider advice and top tips:

  1. Out of sight, out of mind – don’t leave valuablesvisible through windows and doors. Burglars are like magpies; ifthey see shiny things they won’t be able to resistsnatching them!
  2. Don’t key clump – don’t keep keys that unlockcars, sheds or neighbour’s homes on one fob
  3. From handbag to house – if you keep your keys in yourhandbag, make sure there is no link to your address. Ifit’s stolen or lost, it makes easy pickings for thieveswho will get their hands on a lot more than the contents of yourhandbag
  4. Tool kit for stealing – if you have a shed or garage withgardening or DIY tools in, make sure it’s locked at alltimes. Burglars will look out for tools to help them in theirtask, so don’t make it easy for them
  5. Cover your contents – burglaries are a sad fact ofeveryday life; take all the precautions you can to safeguardyour home, including insurance from a reputable company. It willgive you peace of mind that, in the event of a burglary, yourbelongings are covered.

Paul Redington, claims manager from NorwichUnion, said: “The research findings have highlighted somepitfalls in home security allowing thieves to cash in on a jackpotof keys, that literally open the doors to cars, motorbikes,garages, safety deposit boxes and neighbours houses.

“Home owner should ensure all windows are shut when ever theyleave their house. When on holiday, the house should be left secureand we would advise limiting the number of people who know yourhome will be left empty for this period of time. Most importantly,lock car and spare keys in a secure place during you holiday.

“We would urge people to review their home insurance policiesto ensure they have sufficient cover in the event of a burglary,but if they take the advice of ex-burglar Bob Turney, they couldprevent it happening in the first place."


Press office contacts:
Joanna Pritchard,Lexis PR
Telephone: 020 7908 6440 

Rebecca Holmes, Norwich Union Press Office
Telephone: 01603 354 346 or 07800 690 731

Notes to editors:

* Based on ABI data for 2005 which showed:

  • Average insurance claim values for cars - £1040
  • Average insurance claim values for homes - £1365
  • Equals total average of £2405
  • There were 321,000 household burglary claims in 2005
  • With 24 million households that equates to 1.3% of allhouseholds or 312,000 households
  • Average theft value of £2405 multiplied by 312,000 households,equals £750 million.

ICM interviewed a random sample of 1001 adultsaged 18+, by telephone between 19 and 21 May 2006. Interviews wereconducted across the country and the results have been weighted tothe profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British PollingCouncil and abides by its rules. Further information at

Norwich Union
Norwich Union is the UK’s largest general insurer with amarket share of around 14%, with a focus on insurance forindividuals and small businesses.

It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment productsand one of the largest financial adviser (FA) providers. FAsprovide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in theUK.

Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of images areavailable from Aviva's internet press centre at

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