Clues That Burglars May Be Targeting You and What to Do About It

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We've all seen clips of strangers walking up to doorbell cameras, doing seemingly nothing, and then walking away. Instead of being relieved that the unknown person walked away, we feel unsettled and wonder, "what's really going on here?"

That's the message that got my attention on NextDoor the other day. A neighbor asked why someone would walk up to their front door and leave blue painter's tape across the bottom and doorjam. This post instantly got my attention. "Marking" homes is a known tactic of some burglars. If they put the tape on a door and it's still in place when they check later, the thief assumes the house is empty and, therefore, primed for a no-muss, no-fuss break-in.

In light of this resurgence of burglar behavior—and the fact that over 50% of all burglaries are residential—I thought it was time for a reminder of signs that could mean potential thieves are casing your home.

Signs that burglars may be targeting your home

  • Painter's tape, flyers, and stickers: It seems innocuous enough, but if you catch someone "dropping off" a flyer or leaving tape or a sticker somewhere on your property, it may be a signal that the home is being watched to see if it's a good burglary target. Remove the item and increase your diligence, watching out for unusual activity around your home.
  • Cars you don't recognize: You should be familiar with the vehicles and people that belong in your neighborhood and on your street. If you spot an unknown vehicle, note it (snap a pic or jot down the license number), look for the driver, and keep an eye on how long it's there and if it returns.
  • Lurkers on the doorbell cam: Video doorbells scare away fewer ne'er-do-wells than we would like. If you see someone approach your home, dodge the camera, look around, etc., download that clip. Share the footage with your household and neighbors, as appropriate. Find out if this person's shown up on other cams in the neighborhood.
  • Paparazzi shots of your house: Even if your home is on the market, people shouldn't be snapping random pics of your house. Pay attention if you catch people treating your home like it's on a red carpet premier for the Taylor Swift Eras Tour movie. Those shutterbugs could be casing the joint for a potential burglary.
  • Flipped welcome mat: Much like the flyers and painter's tape, this is another trick burglars use to see if a home is vacant. If you notice this, fix it right away and be vigilant. If you're going out of town, ask a neighbor or friend to check on your house daily and look out for things like this that could give a burglar the "all-clear" to hit your home.

What to do if you think your home is being cased

  • Document it. Take photos of any suspicious markings, vehicles, or people. If you have security camera footage, download it and save it. Keep a log of events, noting days, times, and any other details that could help stop or catch a criminal.
  • Spread the word. Let your neighbors know what's been happening and find out if they've noticed anything similar. It's also wise to check in with local law enforcement to ensure the casing behavior is on their radar.
  • Lock it up. Make sure all locks on every entry point are in good working order—that means every door, window, gate, garage, etc. If needed, replace faulty locks or add extra security with window film, rods in sliding glass doors, or contact sensors that alert you if something is opened.
  • Upgrade security. Add motion-detecting lights outside, a surveillance camera, or a security system. If you have a security system that you've been monitoring yourself, now may be the time to add the extra support of 24/7 professional monitoring.
  • Borrow a guard dog. According to our State of Safety survey, guard dogs are the second-most used form of home security. If you don't have a pup, see if you can borrow one from a friend for a few days. A dog's presence (and sound) can make burglars think twice about hitting your home. Plus, it can make you feel safer to know you have an extra alert during this time of heightened anxiety.
  • Take a staycation. It's hard to relax when you think your home may be targeted for a break-in. Grabbing the fam and relocating to a friend's house or hotel for a couple of days is not a bad idea. Hiding out won't solve the problem, but it can help you feel safer and reset your stress level. Before leaving, though, let neighbors know and make sure you have a camera or security system in place to help deter or catch any bad actors while you get some rest and relaxation.
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Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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