Last Updated on September 9, 2023
If you’ve been reading the latest headlines, you heard that Liberty Safe is getting a lot of heat over giving out one of their customer’s safe combinations to the FBI.
Some think it was justified. Some are outraged.
Ignoring the politics:
- Why did Liberty Safe have the customer’s combination?
- How can you be sure that no one has your combination?
All major safe manufacturers keep safe combinations on file when they ship you a dial safe. If the safe ships with a digital code, the manufacturer likely keeps a digital override code that will allow entry into your safe. The override code is specific to the lock, and not the same for every safe.
Why Do Safe Companies Have Your Combination?
Without exception, all major safe companies including: Liberty Safes, AMSEC, Hollon, Sentry, Browning, Fort Knox and others will keep your safe’s dial combination code on file when they ship you a safe.
If the safe ships with a dial, they will keep the factory set combination on file.
If the safe ships with a digital code, the manufacturer keeps a digital override code that will allow entry to the safe. The override code is specific to the lock, and not the same for every safe. There is no single code that gets you into every safe.
Safe Manufacturers Keep Codes for Emergencies
Since safes aren’t opened every day, as people start to get a bit older, their memories start to fade, and codes are forgotten with time.
In order to get a safe code from a safe manufacturer, a locksmith is normally used. The locksmith acts as the go between, trusted by the manufacturer to verify that the person requesting the code is the owner of the safe.
Some manufacturers (such as Sentry) may allow you to retrieve the safe code yourself, if you’ve kept verification of purchase and registered the safe when you purchased it.
And, yes, in many cases, law enforcement can retrieve the code with a search warrant, or by showing only legal rights to access the safes, as in the case of Liberty Safe.
Safe Manufacturers Keep Codes In Case of Your Death
Safe manufacturers keep the safe codes so that they can provide this information to your next of kin in case of your departure. This will allow them to enter the safe to retrieve wills and other stored items without having to pay a locksmith several hundred dollars to open the safe.
How to Ensure No One Has Your Safe’s Combination
In the case of dial locks, a safe manufacturer can only record and store your code if the safe code was set at the factory. This means that the combination to the safe is set by the manufacturer prior to shipping the safe to you or delivering the safe to a retailer.
If the dial code has ever been changed by the owner of the safe, the code that is kept at the manufacturer will be an old code and of no use once the combination has been changed.
To ensure you dial safe combination is not stored anywhere, there are two options:
- After ordering a safe with a dial or picking one up at a retailer, have a local locksmith change the safe combination to whatever you want.
- Locksmiths will charge for this is a service, but if this is a concern it is money well spent.
- Don’t worry about the locksmith having a combination! Locksmiths won’t keep a record of your combination unless you ask them. Also, locksmiths regularly drill open safes. They can get into your safe without a combination if they really wanted.
- After ordering a safe with a dial or picking one up at a retailer, change the combination yourself following the instructions in our YouTube video.
- BE VERY CAREFUL. DO NOT SHUT THE DOOR OF THE SAFE UNTIL YOU TEST THE COMBINATION SEVERAL TIMES WITH THE DOOR OPEN AND KNOW IT WORKS.
- There is risk to this method.
- If you happen to set it incorrectly, and close the door, it can cost several hundred dollars to drill and repair a quality safe.
- If you happen to do it incorrectly, but leave the door open, a locksmith will need to come out and correct the problem, costing more than if they just set a new combination to start with.
Digital Safe Locks
In almost all cases, a recovery code can be used to factory reset a digital lock to it’s default values so that someone can access the lock and then change the code.
It doesn’t matter who makes the lock, if it is the safe manufacturer or if it is a lock manufacturer, the lock serial number, or other identification, can most likely be used to get a recovery code for the lock.
To get a digital safe lock recovery code, with few exceptions in almost all cases a locksmith that is registered with the safe manufacturer must be used. The locksmith acts as the intermediary to confirm the client is the owner of the safe.
In no case, should the locksmith provide the recovery code to the end user or safe owner. It is used to reset and access a safe and will be treated as a guarded secret.
Law enforcement may also be able to obtain this code when showing proper legal authority to do so, as in the Liberty Safe case.
A few manufacturers will allow safe owners to retrieve the code if the purchase and ID of the owner can be confirmed. This normally requires that the safe was registered at time of purchase by the owner.
In response to Liberty Safe’s bad press, they are now allowing owners to request that a stored code be removed from their files.
That request can be made on the Liberty Safe Website Here.
But as of now, this is the only manufacturer allowing this to be done. I suspect others will soon follow so you’ll just have to keep an eye out.
Since it will be very difficult for the average consumer to determine if their digital safe lock has a recovery code, and most do, replacing the digital lock with a dial lock is the only way to ensure that your safe does not have a recovery code available. A locksmith that works on safes can replace the lock for you.
Removing a safe override code is something that should be done only if you are concerned that law enforcement can access your safe.
Worrying about a safe locksmith accessing your safe really is a moot point since a safe locksmith can drill into any safe if they really wanted to get into it.
Removing the override code will mean that should the combination ever be lost or if you should pass on, the safe is going to have to be drilled to be accessed and this can cost several hundreds of dollars to achieve.