If Home Alone is on your Top 10 Christmas Movies list, you're not alone. The beloved Christmas comedy chronicles the adventures of a kid forced to protect his house from two burglars after being left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation. While the storyline is meant for laughs and highly unlikely to happen in real life, it also gets you thinking on a more serious note ... How can I prevent my home from being burglarized during the most joyous time of year, Kevin McCallister-style? Lucky for you, we've come up with some tips we think Kevin would approve of (minus the blowtorch), to help keep your humble abode a little safer from potential Wet Bandit wannabes this holiday season. Take a look, ya filthy animal.
Don't Share Your Travel Plans Online
As tempting as it is to share when and where you're spending the holidays with all of your followers online, consider keeping that information to yourself. Thieves are like hawks on social media, ready to swoop in and burglarize your home the second they see you're leaving for an extended period of time. The holidays give them even more motivation to do so because they'll be able to see when you're leaving to do your Christmas shopping, what you've bought/received, and where you'll be traveling. It's best to leave your location undisclosed in your posts and save any vacation pictures for upload until after you've returned home. And remember to avoid showcasing your Christmas purchases on social media, that way you're not feeding thieves the bait they need to take advantage of you.
Instead, Share Your Plans With Trusted Neighbors
While we don't recommend blasting your holiday plans on social media, we most certainly do recommend sharing them with your neighbors. If you are planning to go out of town during the holiday season, notify neighbors you trust. They can help keep an eye on your home and report any out-of-the-ordinary activity. Meet up before your trip and go over who will be in charge of keeping your walks cleared of snow and who will grab your mail and newspapers while you are away. Any measures you can take to make your house appear occupied while you're gone will likely deter burglars from your property.
Keep Pricey Packages Out Of Sight
If you were one of those brave Black Friday shoppers, kudos to you - it's certainly not for the weak. But when you arrive home with all your awesome finds, keep the packaging (especially electronics boxes) out of sight. Store opened boxes in your basement or garage until trash day. Leaving those boxes out on the curb makes your home an easy target for prowling eyes.
If you're more of an online shopper (Amazon Prime is life), you're probably aware of the growing number of "porch pirates," notorious for stealing packages from people's front steps moments after they're delivered. To avoid this frustrating scenario, consider taking these preventative measures, suggested by CNET.
- Sign up for Amazon Key - Amazon Key, which costs around $250 to install and is only available for Amazon Prime members in eligible zip codes, combines a smart lock and security camera to allow delivery people to place packages just inside your front door.
- Find an Amazon Locker Near You - Amazon has created their own lockers, commonly found at various department stores or Whole Foods, where you can go pick up your package. After your package has been delivered, you'll receive the combination needed to retrieve it from the locker.
- Install a BoxLock - The BoxLock (as seen on Shark Tank), which isn't limited to just Amazon orders, is a smart padlock that will open after successfully scanning a package. This allows the delivery driver to place your package inside your storage container, re-lock it, and head back out on their route. The BoxLock system starts at $129 and comes in various sizes.
- Have Packages Delivered to Your Workplace - While husbands everywhere cringe at this suggestion, it's a reasonable alternative to having packages delivered to your porch where they're more likely to get swiped. [Full disclosure, CFM Insurance does not condone hiding packages from your spouse in an attempt to successfully fuel an online shopping addiction.]
- Sign Up For Delivery Alerts - The more you know, the better, especially when it comes to your home deliveries. Not only does Amazon offer in-depth delivery alert systems, but the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, and other major carriers do too. When you sign up for these alerts, you'll know exactly what time your package was dropped off and where it was left (front door, back porch, etc.). If you have a retired neighbor, for example, who is home during the day, give them a call when you're notified of a delivered package and see if they'll be kind enough to place it inside your door or hold it for you until you get home from work.
Strategically Place Your Lights On Timers
A quirk that burglars are known for is predicting the perfect time to break into a home. They do this by "casing" your house and waiting for signs of inactivity or absence of occupants. The most obvious sign that signals no one is home is when the lights are off, inside and outside. That’s why you should put your Christmas lights, as well as some lights on the interior and exterior of your home, on a timer. But don't just put them on a routine timer. Switch things up, time-wise, especially with the interior lights, to make your whereabouts (or lack thereof) less predictable to burglars. When given even the littlest bit of doubt that your house is really empty, thieves will typically avoid the whole venture altogether.
Invest In Motion Sensors
Even better than automatic lights? Motion sensors! Because motion sensors trip when they detect movement around a certain perimeter, they can immediately activate lights or sound an alarm. Perhaps the most beneficial and inexpensive weapon in your home security arsenal, motion sensors are sure to deter burglars from approaching your front door. Take a look at some of the top-rated motion sensors to fit your specific needs and budget.
Be Wary Of Door-To-Door Visitors
Remember when Harry, the ringleader of the Wet Bandits, disguised himself as a local police officer to gain the McCallister family's trust and successfully get all the information he needed about their holiday trip to Paris? Unfortunately, there are tons of scammers just like Harry, who are likely to pop up at your door all holiday season long.
Not only will criminals-in-disguise try to get some money out of you by claiming to work for a charity, but they may also say they're there to conduct some form of a survey from which they can determine when the best time to break into your home would be. If these strangers arrive at your door, be cautious in giving out personal information before verifying that the organization they represent is legitimate. You might also consider installing a smart doorbell like the Nest Hello Video Doorbell. That way, 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.
Check Your Home For Security Flaws
Think about it, if a burglar sees that you have cameras and an alarm system on your property, in addition to those motion sensors, 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. It's never a bad idea to check that all your windows are properly latched and locked in place too. It's easy to forget to do so after having them open in the previous warm-weather months.
Now that you and your home are armed and ready for any shenanigans that may arise this holiday season, you can get back to the important stuff: "eating junk and watching rubbish". Here's to a very Merry (and safe) Christmas!