WE ALL know the obvious things to avoid when leaving our homes empty during the holidays – don’t let the junk mail pile up and don’t leave ladders lying around – but if you thought you were safe hiding your valuables in the room the grandchildren use when they come to stay, you’re wrong!
Children’s rooms are often the first place thieves look for valuables.
Natasha Morgan, Home Security Expert and Founder of My Home Watch Australia believes many people unwittingly make their homes irresistible to thieves.
So, what are some of the common mistakes some of us are making and what can we do about them?
1. Secure your rubbish bins
Thieves say they often check the contents of rubbish bins to determine the type of people in their target house — and if they have money. Looking through your rubbish is like a burglar browsing a catalogue of the things you own. Did you just buy a new Smart TV? The box will most likely show up in the trash for the thieves to see.
Tip: Never leave packaging of newly purchased items on the foot path for everyone to see. It’s best that you stomp on them to make them lay flat or place them inside black rubbish bags. Better yet, take them directly to the tip.
2. Trim your hedges and move possible hiding spots
Tall hedges, overgrown bushes and life-size garden ornaments are a great place for intruders to hide while they “case” your home. The bushier your plants are, the easier it is for them to peek into the window to see inside; or just study the comings and goings of the people in your household. Once the intruders figure out your schedules, it’s easier for them to plan the burglary and escape route.
Tip: Trim your bushes and trees regularly so they don’t create hiding spots for thieves. Installing a motion detector lighting system near windows and doors can also help provide added piece of mind.
3. Don’t broadcast your activities on social media
So, the whole family is going to Hawaii and you want everyone to know how excited you are. The burglar will be pretty excited too….
When you brag about your trip on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and similar channels, the burglar will love the fact that they know nobody will be home.
Tip: Stop announcing when and where you going; and for how long you will be away. It might be tempting to keep posting updates of where you are in real-time but that can also be signal for intruders that the house is empty and available to plunder. While you think you are only connected to friends on social media, you never really know who’s watching. So either keep your trips private, or at least wait until you return to upload those photos.
4. Make Your Home Look Alive
The more “alive” your household looks, the lower the likelihood that it will be a burglar’s next target. If your home looks like it’s still lived-in burglars will be less likely to attempt to break-in. Burglars say they often observe houses and wait until the lights have been off for at least two days. That’s the signal to enter.
Tip: There are plenty of affordable smart home security systems nowadays that will help make it look like somebody’s home. You can program a system to turn the lights on and off randomly several times a day. Burglars know that most households do leave the lights on when they go out, but if these lights keep changing, you’re more likely to outsmart them. Some nifty devices can also control your TV, radio and more. In fact, the fancier systems allow you to access your home in real-time through an app, even if you’re kilometres away.
Surprisingly, most thieves aren’t interested in stealing your TV or surround-sound system – they only want small items they can carry in luggage stolen from your home.
And the paperwork or files sitting on your study desk – that’s valuable information to crooks. They may be able to clone your identity and sell your credit to the highest bidder even with just your name and address. It will be a nightmare for you to sort out identity theft, particularly if the bad guys get passports, bank cards and drivers’ licences.
Children’s rooms aren’t off limits and are a major target – that is one of the first places a burglar looks for valuables – at the back of wardrobes and behind cupboard drawers.
And if they can look in through a window they can often see your family calendar – showing when and for how long you are going away.
Tip: Stop and think before you hide valuables in your children’s rooms, or leave your family calendar in view of windows and doors and keep important paperwork locked away securely.
Consider in investing in a decoy safe and place it in plain sight. Thieves will take the one thing that looks to be of most value as they want to be out of your home as quick as they can.