While You’re Away

While You’re Away

blog-image To make it look like you’re home (even when you’re at the beach), pay a lawn service to keep landscaping tidy in effort to deter criminals.

When you’re getting ready to go on vacation, your to-do list probably doesn’t include outthink the bad guys. But it should. According to FBI statistics, a burglary occurs every 18.2 seconds in the U.S., and you’re more vulnerable when your property appears easy to access because no one’s home. To avoid a break-in while you’re away, take these preventative actions before you leave.

1. Don’t announce your travel plans on social media.

It’s one thing to post on Facebook or Twitter that your kid got straight As; it’s a whole other thing to post, “On our way to the airport – going to Costa Rica for a week!” Even with privacy settings, criminals can gain access to your accounts and glean valuable information about your whereabouts and the fact your house is empty. “Some burglars join social media groups to troll for chatty victims,” says Chris E. McGoey, a security consultant in Los Angeles and host of the crime and loss-prevention podcast, “Crime School.” You’re better off waiting until you return home to post those photos of you zip-lining with your kids.

2. Ask a trusted neighbor to make it appear you’re home.

Having an overflowing mailbox visible from the street is one way to alert potential robbers your house is empty, so either have the post office hold your mail or arrange for a neighbor to pick it up every day. “Good neighbors can also perform many other duties to simulate that someone’s home like opening and closing window shades, turning lights on and off, and putting out – and bringing inn– garbage cans,” McGoey says. “Also arrange to have a neighbor park their car in your driveway at different times of the day and night.”

3. Keep up appearances.

To fool home invaders, prepay to have someone shovel snow, mow the lawn, trim the hedges or rake leaves while you’re gone – chores you’d do if you were home. Keeping shrubbery trimmed has a safety element: It’ll be easier for neighbors to spot any prowlers or someone casing your home.

4. Cancel newspaper deliveries.

A pileup of papers on your front lawn is easy to spot by anyone driving around looking for their next target. It’s practically an invitation to come inside! So go online or call the paper to request a temporary, vacation stop on your daily deliveries.

5. Display a home security sign on your property.

A sign on the lawn and decals in the windows from an alarm company sends a strong message, McGoey says. “It says that a home might have an alarm system and be armed, and might activate and summon the police if a burglar breaks in.” That potential is enough, he says, for most burglars to find a different target. But if you don’t have a contract with a security company, don’t display a fake, homemade sign. “Many are very obvious and sends the message that your security is fake, too.”

6. Check that all doors and windows can be locked.

Don’t make it easy for burglars to gain access through an open or unlocked window or door. Several weeks before your trip, check that all locks work; if not, fix them yourself or call a locksmith. And when you leave the house for vacation, double-check you’ve locked up everything.

7. Put lights on timers.

According to McGoey, most home burglaries occur during the daylight hours when people are away at work or school. “However, well-placed light timers do a great job of signaling home occupancy at night and can simulate normal homeowner movement from room to room. “A poor strategy is to leave exterior lights on 24/7 for an extended period,” McGoey says. Lights that never turn off scream, “No one’s home!”

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