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How to Outsmart a Burglar and Keep Your Home Safe

Written by | Updated June 16, 2020

To better understand what a burglar looks for, SafeWise consulted Bob, a former thief. Since Bob’s changed his ways, he offered us thoughtful insights and anti-burglary suggestions to help prevent you from falling victim to burglary.

A different kind of curb appeal

Real estate agents aren’t the only ones who are keen on curb appeal—burglars are too. Your curb, yard, and daily behavior can say a lot about the valuable items you’ve got behind closed doors. Below you’ll find a myriad of things that read as welcome signs to a burglar.

Landscaping

You know that large, weeping blue pine you planted out front? Well, it doubles as a hiding spot. Plus, all that money, time, and effort you put into landscaping hints that you might also spend big bucks on things inside your home.

Hiding spots

Consider your yard’s potential hiding spots. Do you have big bushes near doors or windows? Any area that allows thieves to keep down low is of prime interest. Foliage like boxwood shrubs should be trimmed regularly since they can serve as hiding spots.

Windows

The movies might lead you to believe that thieves use high-tech scopes to see what you have lying around the house, but they actually prefer a more rudimentary method of spying—windows! Windows offer a top-quality view of your valuables and allow burglars to see whether or not you have a home security system or a dog.

Toys

Kids won’t always pick up after themselves, try as you might to enforce it. Pricey-looking toys scattered throughout the front yard tell a burglar that you’re willing to spend the extra buck on playthings for your kid but are too busy to pick them up. So you may be likely to leave the house unlocked or forget to arm your security system.

Trash

Rooting through your trash can give thieves insight on what you own. Recycling is of particular interest because they can see whether or not you’ve purchased any big-ticket items. Make sure to break down your boxes. If you leave them intact, it’s easier for thieves to know what to look for when breaking into your home.

Buildup of mail

If you’re leaving town, ask a neighbor to pick up your mail for you. This prevents curious thieves from inviting themselves onto your stoop and into your home.

Resident behavior

Humans are creatures of habit and routine. Unfortunately, this helps burglars figure out when to strike. They’ll pay attention to when you leave, how long you’re gone for, if you’ve locked the door, and whether or not you unload expensive items in your driveway.

How to know if you’re being targeted

Pay close attention to your home’s surroundings and front and back yards. Small changes can indicate that your house is being cased. 

Often, a thief will mark the house to see if anyone is home and will alter the mark to remind themselves to revisit that house. These marks can be as simple as a missing welcome mat or even a miscellaneous item that’s repeatedly left outside of your home. 

The marks are often indicative of a “house draft.” A house draft occurs when a burglar places an item in front of your house. If you remove the item, you’re home. If you don’t, then burglars see that it’s time to seize the moment.

Items thieves look for

Burglars want to spend as little time in your house as they possibly can, which is why they have a list of go-to items. The following items detail what a thief looks for when they’re inside your home—and where they know they can find it!

Identity-related information

Remember that passport application you’ve been meaning to mail out? You left it on the dining room table to remind yourself that it needs a stamp. If a thief gets their hands on your sensitive information, they can do a lot of damage.

Liquor

Teenagers aren’t the only ones who raid liquor stashes—thieves often beeline to the liquor cabinet when you’re not home, so be mindful of where you hide that nice bottle of single malt Scotch. We recommend leaving out a decoy bottle that’s easy for them to find: simply rinse out an empty bottle of spirits, and refill it with similar-looking liquid.

Home goods and decorations

Burglars like a fast steal and an even faster turnover sale. So those decorative plates above the mantle are headed out the door.

Cash

Thieves love cash. It’s impossible to reclaim, and a burglar gets immediate gratification from it. Not to mention, you store it in the most obvious of places—the sock drawer, a small safe, side table, bookcase, or even the medicine cabinet. Speaking of which . . .

Prescription drugs

These pint-sized items go a long way in terms of usage and resale value. And they’re easy to find—burglars often head straight to the medicine cabinet.

Jewelry

Like you, thieves also value family heirlooms. You’ll need a creative spot to stash them other than the back of your underwear drawer—something like a safety deposit box would be more effective.

Tech devices and electronics

This is a bit of a no-brainer. Computers, smart devices, TVs, and other electronic items offer a premium trade-in or resale value, and they’re usually left out in the open.

Firearms

Burglars don’t like messing with a gun safe or locked cabinet, but if they need to go the extra mile for the sake of resale value, they will.

Tools

If a thief can’t get into your house, they’ll try the garage, which likely is laden with tools that will bring in a nice wad of money.

How to prevent burglary

Burglars are unpredictable, but there are plenty of ways you can proactively protect yourself. Below you’ll find a variety of suggestions to assist in anti-burglary defense.

Start a neighborhood watch system

A neighborhood watch system is a resident-run surveillance arrangement that’s intended to thwart crime in your neighborhood. This civilian-based system is a great way to keep your community united and on the same page regarding security issues.

Invest in a security system and cameras

Get visibility on the happenings at your house with a home security system. Your options vary from indoor or outdoor security cameras (without monitoring services) to well-reviewed security systems.

Keep quiet on social media

Vacation is exciting, but don’t showcase your absence on social media—you never know who is watching.

Make your house look lived in

When you’re out of town, make sure you put a hold on your mail. Put your lights on a timer or ask your neighbors to intermittently park in your driveway. Give your home a lived-in look and feel.

Get a smart lock

If you have kids, lose your keys frequently, or want to automate your home, look no further than a smart lock or deadbolt. Some smart locks allow you to lock or unlock the door from your phone, which is ideal for on-the-go or forgetful folks.

Don’t open the door for just anyone

Don’t feel obligated to answer the door—especially if you don’t know the person. If you want to find out if you know a visitor before answering the door, check out our handy guide on smart doorbells.

Rely on your furry friend

Regardless of how cute Fluffy might be, dogs are a formidable presence—a thief will hesitate to mess with their turf. If you’re dog-less, pick up a “Beware of Dog” sign to hang in your front window or porch.

Use privacy film

Line decorative windows with privacy film for added defense against nosy neighbors or thieves. Privacy film keeps inquisitive eyes from seeing your valuables, yet still lets natural light seep through.

Close your blinds

Late afternoon light is wonderful, but leaving your blinds raised opens up your home to passersby and therefore thieves.

Use smartbulbs and motion-sensitive lights

Burglars want to go incognito—smartbulbs or motion-sensitive lights prevent that from happening. Smartbulbs can be controlled from a home security smart hub too.

Always lock your doors and windows

An unlocked door is an open invitation. If you want to go the extra mile, outfit your windows and doors with motion sensors.

Beware of oversharing

Be cognizant of who you invite into your home and how much information you share with that person. Before hiring someone to do work inside your home, verify they’re a professional.

Get a new hiding spot

Burglars know about your sock drawer hiding spot. Get creative—hide valuables in your kid’s toy basket or the canning supplies cabinet. Or better yet, buy yourself a safe.

While there’s no surefire way to prevent a burglar from casing your house, remaining vigilant and taking precautionary measures will help protect your home and family in the long run.

So whether you choose a dog, motion-sensitive lights, or a professionally monitored home security service, you’re on the right track for protecting your home.

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Written by Katherine Torres

Katherine has had several years of experience developing and executing multichannel marketing campaigns, but actually started her career path in journalism. Though she switched gears, she continues to be driven by the need to deliver information that can be helpful for individuals. As an owner of two rescue dogs, she is most interested in technology and products that allow her to keep a close eye on her pets when she’s away. Learn more

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