10 Home Security Mistakes That Attract Burglars
Photo: © KatarzynaBialasiewicz - iStockPhoto
A home burglary occurs once every 15 seconds in the United States, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Some homeowners assume it won't happen to them, or that if it does, their insurance policy will reimburse them for the cost of any stolen goods or damaged property.
The fact is that home burglaries occur in all 50 states. Even if you have homeowner's insurance—a requirement if your home is financed with a mortgage—you still have to pay the deductible; not to mention the emotional stress, turmoil, and lost productivity burglary causes. To reduce your risk of being burglarized, you should avoid making the following home security mistakes:
1. Full Mailbox
Whether you're traveling for business or leisure, you should place a hold on your mail with the United States Postal Service (USPS). Burglars will scout residential neighborhoods in search of homes with full mailboxes. If a mailbox is full, there's a high probability that the homeowner and occupants are away, in which case the burglar may break into the home.
Don't allow your mailbox to accumulate mail while you are away. You can place a hold on your mail for up to 30 days by accessing the official USPS.com website, or by visiting your local USPS office. The post master will hold your mail and deliver it on your specified return date. Alternatively, you can ask a trusted neighbor or friend to collect your mail.
2. Parking in the Driveway Instead of the Garage
Why shouldn't you park in the driveway? Aside from the fact that it exposes your vehicle to the elements, parking in the driveway can increase your risk of being burglarized by revealing your day-to-day schedule.
Burglars and other nefarious individuals can see when you leave for work in the morning, on what days you work, and when you return home. Using this information, they can burglarize your home when it's unoccupied.
3. Leaving Doors and Windows Unlocked
We've all been guilty of making this mistake before: leaving a door or window unlocked. Unfortunately, this literally opens the doors to burglars, as statistics show that nearly one-third of all residential burglaries involve entry through an unlocked door or window.
Whether you are leaving for a seven-day summer vacation or simply running errands in town, keep your home locked. Some burglars will walk away from a locked home, preferring targets that are easier to access.
4. Hiding a Key in Obvious Areas
You're bound to forget your house key at some point, which is why many homeowners place a spare key outside. While there's nothing wrong with stashing a spare key for instances such as this, you should avoid storing it in obvious locations where burglars might look.
Do not store your spare house key under the front doormat or a fake rock, as burglars will check these places first. Instead, consider storing it in a keypad-controlled lockbox. If you're a dog owner, you can even place the lockbox inside your dog house, which is particularly effective since burglars typically keep their distance from dogs.
5. Using Fake Security Equipment
Don't assume that fake security equipment will deter burglars. Some homeowners use dummy cameras that look like actual video cameras but have no real functionality. Sure, it may fool some burglars, but savvy ones have become accustomed to seeing fake security equipment and disregard it altogether.
Steer clear of dummy cameras and choose a professionally installed home security system instead. Hopefully it never happens, but if your home is burglarized, you can rest assured that a real security system will sound the alarm and notify the local police department—a critical feature lacking in fake security systems.
6. Announcing Travel Plans on Social Media
Social media networks, like Facebook and Twitter, have revolutionized the way we communicate and share information. According to StatisticsBrain, roughly three-fourths of the US adult population use a social networking platform. But there's a dark side to social media that often goes unnoticed: burglars use it to target unoccupied homes.
It's not uncommon for homeowners to post updates about their travel plans on social media, revealing when they are leaving and for how long they'll be gone. A homeowner, for instance, may post a message on Facebook about an upcoming family vacation. Depending on his or her privacy settings, these posts may be seen by burglars who use this information to determine an appropriate date and time to strike.
When using Facebook only accept friend requests from people you know and trust. You can also edit your privacy settings by accessing Settings > Privacy > "Who can see my stuff."
7. Overgrown Landscape
Overgrown bushes and grass can make your home more appealing to burglars. Burglars typically scout homes before attempting to break in. If your home has overgrown bushes around the perimeter, it provides an area that burglars can hide in while scouting.
To discourage burglary, home security experts recommend trimming all bushes, shrubs, and hedges to three feet. If they are taller, burglars and other nefarious individuals may use them for concealment.
8. Disabling the Security System During the Day
Some homeowners disable their security system during the day, believing burglars won't attempt to break in while the sun is still out. According to the FBI, however, most home burglaries occur during the day. The only exception is a nonresidence, such as a store or office, which has a higher rate of burglary at night.
If your home is equipped with a security system, use it. Whether it's day or night, activating your security system provides peace of mind knowing that your property is secure.
9. Poor Lighting
Burglars also target homes that are dim and poorly lit. While most home burglaries occur during the day, some still occur during the night. If your home lacks adequate lighting, burglars may exploit this weakness by hiding in the shadows.
You can maintain a well-lit property around your home while still being conscious of energy use by installing motion-sensing floodlights. When the light detects movement, it activates and illuminates the surrounding area.
10. Keeping Tools Nearby
Whether it's a rake, shovel, hammer, or screwdriver, you should keep these and other tools in a secure location that's inaccessible to burglars. Not every burglar brings his or her own tools to break into a home. Some look for tools around the target home's property. Any hard tool can easily break a glass window, creating a point of entry for burglars.
If you have tools lying around your property, consider moving them into your garage or a locked storage shed.
These are just a few common security mistakes that can make your home a target for burglars. By taking a proactive approach toward your home's security, you can discourage burglars from targeting your property.