How thieves can break into your hotel room using just a piece of paper

Apr 05, 2018

If you don’t already ensure you leave your valuables in the safe at reception when checking in to a hotel, this may convince you to do so.

An alarming video by a locksmith shows just how easy it is for criminals to sneak in to a locked hotel room with just a piece of sturdy paper.

In the video posted on YouTube by MM Developer, a man is shown closing the top lock-latch on a door with a mortise lock below. Someone on the other side then manages to push open the mortise lock – which apparently doesn’t have the deadbolt activated – with a folded-up takeaway pizza menu.

Once that’s open and some wiggle room is created, after a few tries, he can then shove the piece of paper between the top latch and the doorframe to prise latch away from its catch and open it. This process takes less than 30 seconds, making it unlikely that the intruder would be caught in the act of opening the door.

In the video description, the locksmith explained: “Using only the paper pizza menus that were pushed under our door during the day, I can shim open our hotel room door, defeating both the striker and the top swing-arm latch in under 30 seconds. Faster times can be achieved if you aren’t trying to video”.

The video, which has had more than 250,000 views, generated plenty of responses. “It really is amazing just how many doors can be opened that way & that quick,” one viewer noted in surprise.

But while most commenters seemed impressed, not everyone happy that the man had shown potential thieves how to easily break into hotel rooms. “MM Developer, giving criminals new and innovative ideas since 2018,” one noted sarcastically.

The video doesn’t address whether a activating the deadbolt in the mortise lock – which is not necessarily available on all hotel-room doors – would prevent such lock-picking, but presumably it would because the deadbolt would not be shifted from its catch by the weight of a piece of paper, however sturdy.

If, however, you’re even slightly nervous about the security of your hotel room, there are ways other than a deadbolt to minimise your risk of being targeted by thieves.

If your hotel room has a safe, don’t use it unless you can set the security combination yourself. Hotels pride themselves on having safes in their rooms but at least some of the staff will either know the pre-set combination or have keys to the lock, so there’s always a chance they could access your stowed stuff. Besides, in-rooms safes are rarely bolted to the ground so can easily be carried from the room.

Secondly, put the ‘do not disturb’ hanger on your door during your stay so hotel staff will leave your room as is and outsiders will be given the impression the room is occupied. If you do need sheets changes etc, then by all means take it off, but the fewer people in your room around your belongings, the less of a chance that items will be stolen.

Ask hotel reception staff to place your belongings in the main hotel safety deposit box, giving you a receipt for the items stored. Hotels are usually not considered liable for items stored in room safes, but are liable for items stored in the front-desk safe. Ask your hotel about this issue to ensure that’s the case where you’re staying.

You could also consider purchasing a portable safe, a portable safe lock bar or a simple door alarm that can be attached to your hotel room door. And always padlock your bags when you’re not in the room, as that will be sufficient to deter many opportunistic thieves who don’t wish to spend the time breaking in to a suitcase.

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Have you had items stolen while on vacation? What security measures do you take?

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