Most Americans are eagerly counting down the days to their spring vacations — relishing the chance to get away from the daily grind, check out some new or old-favorite destinations, and forget about their work-related worries for a while. But soon-to-be vacationers aren’t the only ones who are excited about their upcoming escapes. Spring break also marks a golden opportunity for burglars, who know that, when school lets out for the annual spring pilgrimage, families’ houses are left abandoned as they hit the road in search of rest and recreation.
Whether they’re headed to the beach, the mountains, overseas or just down the road for their spring getaways, homeowners can make their absence less obvious — and their homes less inviting to thieves — by taking these six (mostly simple) steps:
- Break down the boxes — Perhaps one of the most alluring ways homeowners can attract potential thieves is by placing packaging for expensive products out for curbside pickup with the labels showing. After all, the box to that 55-inch, high-definition LED smart TV or that brand-new, top-of-the-line laptop might as well be an advertisement to up-to-no-gooders regarding what awaits inside the home. Homeowners can eliminate this unintentional invitation by breaking down such boxes and bundling them so that the labels aren’t visible or by placing them fully inside the trash can or recycle bin.
- Conceal the can — On another trash-related note, homeowners should avoid leaving the trash can curbside for pickup for the duration of their time away as this can serve as a sign that nobody is home. To avoid this unintentional signal of absence, homeowners can just skip the trash collection while they’re away or ask a trusted neighbor to return the trash can to its usual spot after the collection is complete.
- Save the selfies — Sure, it’s tempting for social media users to post real-time photos and updates to their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts while on vacation. And the Grand Canyon or the Giza pyramids make a great backdrop for vacation pics, ones that are sure to make the poster’s friends green with envy. But can the poster be sure that all the “friends” and acquaintances on his or her account have their best interests in mind — or that all their digital “friends” are actually even who they say they are? Since posting vacation photos right away can serve as a sign to all viewers that the poster is away from home, and therefore as a message to potential burglars that nobody’s home, it’s best for social media users to keep their profiles private and to save their selfies until they get back home.
- Curtail the mail — One of the top indications to a potential burglar that a homeowner is away from home for an extended time — an overflowing mailbox — can often be found in plain sight right at the curb. But the solutions are fairly simple with a little advance planning. Homeowners can ask a neighbor to collect their mail while they’re gone, or even better, most homeowners can put their mail on hold with the U.S. Postal Service by visiting usps.com. For those who subscribe to a newspaper, it’s also a good idea to call in and hold delivery on those, too.
- Be careful with the key — Many homeowners keep a spare key stashed somewhere on the property, just in case they find themselves locked out down the road. But thieves know the usual hiding spots, and they’re quick to check there for a significantly eased entry. Homeowners whose spare keys are hidden under the doormat, under the front-porch flowerpot, in one of those fake rocks (which, let’s face it, stick out like a sore thumb among the real rocks) or anywhere in the vicinity of the front door should rethink their tactics. This article offers a few great ideas for hard-to-find hiding places for spare keys and other household valuables.
- Light up the night — While this one may take a bit more advance preparation than the preceding items on this list, it’s worth the effort and isn’t all that difficult to pull off. Installing motion-sensor floodlights can bring any trespasser out of the darkness when they’re lurking around a home, and many of these lights offer timers that allow them to be turned on and off at specific times of the day, or can turn themselves on when the sun goes down. Just shining a light on a potential intruder is enough to scare many off and it can also draw the attention of any neighbors who homeowners might have informed of their absence.
Of course, one especially effective way to actively deter thieves from entering your home is to install a home security system — as studies show that burglars choose to target unprotected homes three times as often as protected ones. And the latest home-automation technology can allow you to lock and unlock doors, turn lights on and off, view live video and more, all from half a world away on your smartphone. To explore all of the home security, monitoring and home automation packages available from FTC Security, visit ftc.net.