Heading out of town for the holidays? It’s the most wonderful travel time of the year. Unfortunately, it’s also a prime time for home break-ins. According to the FBI, December is a peak month for burglaries as people leave homes unattended during the busy holiday crunch. If you’re planning on being away, even for a few days, here are a few ways you can protect your home from would-be intruders.
Don’t Post Your Location on Social Media. Everybody will love your yuletide pics on Facebook with your favorite cousins, but post them after you get home. Announcing that you’re 200 miles away for four days is like leaving the welcome mat out for burglars. Robbers have gone high-tech, and they’re savvy enough to check social media for your posts. If you must post a pic, use Instagram instead, and be sure to use its privacy settings to limit who can see your photos. Make sure everyone else in the house is on board with this as well—don’t forget to tell your kids to resist posting their every move on social media.
Hold the Mail and Papers. A pile of newspapers on your driveway or porch, plus an overflowing mailbox screams one thing: “No one’s home!” Request the post office put a hold on your mail for the duration of your travels. Also, set your newspaper service to stop delivery while you’re away. Or, ask a trusted neighbor to grab the mail and papers for you so they don’t pile up.
Inform Your Neighbors. Let a trusted friend or neighbor know that you’ll be out of town and ask them to keep an eye on your house. Ask them to get any packages that are left on your doorstep. Also, don’t leave a key under the doormat—it’s the first place a robber will look. Ditto for the flower pot on your porch. Consider giving your neighbor a key just in case they see anything suspicious.
Install Motion Lights. If you have motion lights, ensure that they are activated and ready to go off at night. Also, keep drapes and shades closed so people can’t see into your house.
Keep Holiday Gifts Hidden. Did you receive a new TV or other electronics as gifts and now have big boxes to toss out in the trash? Better to put them out for recycling after you return from your trip.
Test Your Security System. There’s nothing like assuming you’re covered in an emergency or break-in, only to find out key components of your security system are malfunctioning or out of batteries. It doesn’t hurt to double check before the holiday season, and to run a diagnostics test. If you’re unsure how to, contact your security system provider and the monitoring service. Make sure security decals are visible in the window.
Look Like You’re Home. Do whatever you can to make your house look normal and occupied. Plug in a digital timer for lamps or lights to turn on at night, and set up a radio to turn on during the day. Don’t disclose on your voicemail that you’re “In Colorado skiing! Catch up with you in a week!” Keep your regular every day voice message instead.
Secure Your Entryways. Install good locks and deadbolts on windows and exterior doors, and make sure they are locked before you leave. Also, if you have sliders, place a bar in the door jamb for extra security. Double-check all doors before you leave.
Install Security Cameras. Mount cameras at every entry point to your property, and keep tabs using a smartphone app. Security cameras are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased for as little as $150 – $300. A word of warning: Make sure that nothing is obstructing any tabletop cameras before you leave, like soda cans, or books, or anything else that might get in the way of your surveillance attempts.
Hire a House Sitter. A trusted house sitter can serve two purposes: 1) to keep watch over your property, and 2) to take care of any pets you may have, saving you money on kennel charges. Added bonus: Fido and Kitty will be happier in their own digs with a pet sitter.
Resources: Locksmith Lion, This Old House.com, Lifelock.com, Ready.gov, Security Today