We'd like to extend a special thanks to KTVB-TV for conducting a recent study asking real, convicted burglars how they broke into homes. Many of those suggestions were taken into consideration when constructing the tips in this blog. For detailed responses from the study's participants, click here.
It's everyone's worst nightmare - coming home to a place that's been left in shambles. All your most prized possessions have been taken. All of the items you've worked so hard for - gone. You've been robbed.
Unfortunately, many fall victim to robbery by getting stuck in the "that would never happen to me" mindset. But the reality is it most certainly could happen to you, especially if you're currently doing nothing, or very little, to protect your property. Take a look at the list below to see if you fall under any of these categories and use the simple suggestions to better protect your home, starting today.
1. You're not friendly enough.
You're probably wondering why we're judging your social status right off the bat, but we promise it's not what you think. If you're the one neighbor nobody on the block really knows, that's a problem. Here's why: When you go on vacation or leave for any kind of extended trip, it helps when your neighbors know so they can look out for your property and be the first to report any unusual visitors.
It's in your best interest to make friends with your neighbors and exchange contact information so they can easily call or message you if they suspect any out-of-the-ordinary activity. Plus, it helps to have someone who can water your plants, feed your pet, and grab your mail when you're gone. So, head over to Susan's and tell her you'd love to visit and have some of her famous home-made fruit pie she's tried to entice you with for months. You'll be thankful you did.
2. Your landscaping is overgrown.
We get it - you work long hours during the day and sometimes weekends, which doesn't warrant a lot of time to maintain your landscaping. But burglars find this very appealing because it tells them one of two things:
- There's no one living at the house on a regular basis.
- Your tall shrubs and bushes are the perfect hiding place.
Maintain your landscaping - If you just don't have enough time in your busy schedule to keep up with your landscaping, consider hiring a professional to do it for you. There are plenty of lawn and garden care experts in your area who can take care of your yard for you on a regular basis, which makes things easier for you and less attractive to thieves.
Trim your shrubs - When you have a lot of tall shrubs or bushes surrounding the perimeter of your home, it makes it easier for burglars to conveniently hide. Have them trimmed regularly so thieves will be more visible if they attempt to get up close to your windows or doors. The more you and your neighbors can see, the better.
3. Your outdoor lights operate on timers.
Plenty of homes have programmable exterior lighting systems that operate on timers, which is great if you're trying to save money on your electric bill or add curb appeal to your property. However, when burglars scope out your house, they'll easily be able to determine a perfect window of time to break in, according to when your lights shut off.
The easiest way to combat this problem is to opt for a motion-detector lighting system in addition to your regular outdoor lighting. This type of lighting will help minimize dark spots even better and let you and your neighbors notice any movement, any time.
4. Your schedule is predictable.
Burglars may spend weeks, even months, surveying your every movement to get a feel for what times you're sure to be away from your house. This is called "casing." If you work a 9-5 out of town Monday through Friday, they'll know it. If you attend a spin class at the gym every Wednesday at 6 pm, they'll know it. If your kids have soccer games every Tuesday and Thursday evening, they'll know it. And contrary to popular belief, burglars prefer to rob a home during the day when no one is home, despite how movies depict them breaking in during the night when everyone is sound asleep in their beds.
There are a few things you can do to throw thieves off:
- Put your TV on a timer for a few hours while you're at work and keep the volume up.
- Program your indoor lights to work on a timer, so that a few rooms have lights on for the majority of the day. But be sure to make the timers random so thieves don't figure your out your scheme.
- If you have an extra vehicle that's not used daily, leave it in the driveway to make it appear that someone is home.
5. Your home has no alarm system.
Think about it, if a burglar sees that you have cameras and an alarm system on your property, they're probably going to run away as fast as they can. Nothing is scarier to a thief than getting caught. So make sure you install some kind of security system on your property to keep the bad guys away and be sure to flaunt it with signs in the yard or on the doors/windows.
Also, consider installing a smart doorbell like the Nest Hello Video Doorbell. Many burglars knock before entering a home to make sure no one is truly there, so if you are home when an unwanted visitor approaches, you'll be able to see them and even talk them off your doorstep without ever opening the door.
Did you know: CFM Insurance offers a discount to policyholders who have taken measures to better protect their property through installing a home security system? Contact your agent to see if you qualify for that discount on your policy.
6. Your mailbox is constantly overflowing.
If your mailbox is piled high with unopened mail, it tells thieves you haven't been home in a while. That gives them all the more motivation to break in because they know for certain nobody is home. To combat this assumption, remember to regularly grab your mail from the box or if you're going on a trip, have a trusted neighbor collect your mail for you until you return. You could even leave a note for your mail carrier to set it in a safe, isolated place for you, so it wouldn't be visible to passersby.
7. You vacation frequently and post about it on social media.
If you're a travel junkie, that's great. You should never fear going on memorable trips because you're afraid of potentially getting robbed while you're gone. But consider keeping your trip photos off of social media until after you've returned home. Thieves could do a simple search of your Facebook profile and see that you've just landed in Mexico, which means your home is vacant and open for unwanted visitors for an extended amount of time. Upload your pictures once you've safely returned home to avoid the whole scenario. Don't forget to tell your neighbors when you're leaving, how long you'll be gone, and any other protective measures they can help with to make sure your property is safe during your trip.
8. Your trashed electronics boxes are on full display.
If your new 70-inch TV box is laying at the curb by your trashcan, you might as well be yelling "please rob me!" to burglars. Expensive electronics boxes tell thieves you have money to spend and plenty more valuables in your house where that came from. Instead of putting those types of boxes in your regular trash, break the boxes down and store them somewhere until the morning of the trash pick-up. Having them broken down and safely placed in the recycling trash bin will help ensure they aren't visible to just anyone.
9. You don't lock all your doors.
Many homes have multiple points of entry and it's important that you keep each door locked at all times. Thieves will be able to tell which door you leave from every day and whether or not you lock it when you go. Do these three things to make sure your doors are protected from a break in:
Upgrade your locks to include a Grade 1 deadbolt - This type of deadbolt is the strongest, as the bolt reaches further into the frame for better strength against impact.
Properly install a strike plate - A strike plate should be installed with three-inch screws into your door's frame for better support against impact. If your door frame is wood, install a wrap-around metal plate to strengthen the door against someone attempting to force entry with a screwdriver or crowbar.
Don't leave a spare key laying around - Don't place a spare key in the typical hiding spots that thieves easily suspect (under the doormat/potted plant). Instead, keep a spare key in a magnetized lock box under your car or in the hands of a trusted neighbor.
10. Your windows are old, and your doors are made of cheap material.
Does your home have old windows or doors? Or perhaps they're made of cheap material? If yes, it may be time for some upgrades. Older or low-grade building materials are easier to strike for thieves because they don't withstand impact well. If a burglar gives your old front door one solid kick, it's likely to fall in giving them a quick, easy entrance to your home. Many old windows are the same way, as they may not latch properly anymore or have broken panels here and there. Make sure any old windows or doors close and latch properly and be sure to repair any sections of glass that may be broken. Upgrade cheap building materials around your house to steel, for example, to give burglars less of a chance at getting into your home.
11. Your car is a poster on wheels.
What does your car say about you? If it sports a bumper sticker or two of different organizations you support, like the NRA (National Rifle Association) for example, that's attractive to thieves. Why? Along with electronics and jewelry, firearms are of top value to thieves. If they see a car marked with stickers that suggest you have valuables in your possession, they're all the more motivated to rob you. So it may be in your best interest to remove those bumper stickers from your car immediately.
Also, if you have recently invested in a nice vehicle, make sure you keep it locked in the garage every time you get home because thieves see nice vehicles as a sign you have lots of high-end valuables in your home. Make sure your car is armed and ready in the event that a thief does try to break in to it. Here's a list of the best car alarms for 2018.
12. You have no dog.
If you don't currently have a furry family member, you may want to get one because dogs are one of the top deterrents for burglars. Finding the right dog to be both your companion and protector isn't hard. Here some preferred dog breeds for homeowners:
- Belgian Malinois
- Cane Corso
- German Shepherd
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
Before you select a dog, make sure to check with your insurance agent about liability guidelines in your homeowner's policy, as certain breeds are prohibited under your coverage. It's also a good idea to check with your city ordinances to see what dogs you're allowed to own on your property.
13. You don't have a privacy fence.
Privacy fences are not only great for protecting your personal privacy, but for keeping burglars at bay as well. However, if a privacy fence isn't high enough, it can provide thieves with better cover to hide. The key is to install a privacy fence that is at least eight feet tall or more. And if you're thinking barbed wire is your only option, you're wrong. Attach a trellis to the top of your fence to make it harder for intruders to climb over. Because a trellis is flimsy and difficult to grip, it will prove difficult for someone to effectively pull themselves up and over it without causing it to break and fall, creating a noticeable commotion. For added security, place thorny plants like rose bushes, barberry shrubs, and smilax vines along the fence walls.
While there's no way to guarantee your home won't fall victim to a robbery, you can lower your chances of being an easy target by using these tips. And don't forget to always keep an up-to-date inventory of all your personal property so that in the event you do get robbed, you'll be able to aid your insurance company in getting those belongings replaced easier and quicker.