The Christmas holiday season is a great opportunity to see distant relatives, enjoy a break in the warmth of summer and take the time to do some of those classic road trips that you just can’t manage at other times of the year. But unfortunately, the Christmas period is also a perfect time for thieves to break into unoccupied homes and steal valuable household items while the owners are away.
When you’re trying to enjoy a relaxing break away from home, the last thing you want to be worrying about is the security of your house while you’re away. By taking a few simple precautions, however, you can significantly reduce your chance of coming home to a burgled house. Here are some simple and practical ways to secure your unoccupied home over the Christmas break.
1. Don’t boast about your holiday plans on social media
Sure, you’re excited about your 3-week rafting trip down the Yukon or your tour of ancient Slovenian castles. Letting the Internet know all about your plans in advance (or posting photos of your trip while you’re out of town) can serve as an open invitation to thieves looking for an empty house. The best time to share slideshows and juicy details with your online friends is when you return.
A survey carried out by home security experts Friedland1 has revealed social media is being put to use by today’s home burglars. 78% of ex-burglars interviewed said that they strongly believed social media platforms are being used by current thieves when targeting properties.
2. Tidy up the garden before departure
Thieves love houses with dense shrubbery right up against the windows – it hides their illegal activities. Any foliage that might give thieves some cover should be trimmed right back before you leave. Mow your lawn a day or two before departure as well.
3. Have a trusted friend, relative or neighbour check your house while you’re away
It’s a good idea to leave your key with a trustworthy person so they can get in if there is any kind of emergency. Have someone pick up your mail once or twice a week so it doesn’t pile up in the mailbox. They can also collect any of those free local newspapers that end up on your driveway in your absence. Leave a reachable phone number so you can be contacted if necessary.
4. Make sure your garage door is secure
If your garage has an automatic door, consider turning off its power supply so it can’t be opened by a thief with a universal remote. Remember that if a thief can easily get inside your attached garage, they can then work on your home’s door locks in complete privacy, taking all the time they need.
5. Consider installing a home security system
Some home security systems are pretty advanced these days: they might feature surveillance cameras that you can access with your cell phone or alarms that alert you immediately (wherever you are) if a window or door has been compromised. Alarm systems with a loud noise (like a car alarm) will often cause a thief to leave your house in a big hurry – before they’ve had a chance to stroll out with your new flat-screen TV.
6. Don’t leave convenient break-and-enter tools in an unlocked garden shed
If your home has a little storage shed out back, lock it up. Otherwise, you may inadvertently make it easier for a thief by supplying them with a handy hammer, axe or crowbar that you’ve left behind in your unsecured shed.
7. Secure all windows and doors
Windows and screen doors are a favourite access point for home thieves, so make sure yours have good locks. Fit security screens where you can, and use deadbolts on your back door so you can lock it from the inside. Place a wooden rod or metal bar in the track of your sliding windows and doors, so that even if the locks are picked the thief still can’t slide them open.
8. Keep track of all your house keys
Homeowners can easily forget about the ‘well-hidden spare key’ they’ve left on a high ledge, under a mat or hiding beneath a rock, garden gnome or potted plant. Rest assured, experienced burglars know all about the not-so-clever hiding places where people leave keys, so take all your spares with you.
9. Use lights with a timer
Having lights (both internal and external) that turn on and off at pre-set intervals can help create the illusion that you’re still at home. However, you can go one better and get one of those nifty smart phone apps that let you control the lights from afar – and change up the timings whenever you like.
10. Pull those plugs
It’s not a bad idea to unplug your appliances before you leave. This not only helps you reduce your energy bill, but protects your electrical equipment from power surges.
Of course, taking steps to secure your house can make a big difference. However, if the worst happens, you need to be prepared! By choosing the right Home & Contents insurance can give you peace of mind and you do not have to worry about the financial burden after a theft or break-in. If you already have an insurance in place, make sure your details are up to date and you have the coverage you need.