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Having your home burglarized can be a terrifying experience. Even if you aren’t there when it happens, it can shatter your sense of security and make you feel violated. And if you are there when it happens, your very life could be at risk.
According to the FBI, there were 1,928,465 burglaries in the United States in 2013. That’s one every 16 seconds. And a third of these burglaries happened to homes where a door or window was left unlocked, which brings me to the point of this article.
Many burglaries could be prevented if people didn’t make so many home security mistakes. If a burglar is absolutely determined to get into your home in particular, he will probably find a way. But as long as you avoid making mistakes (like leaving a window unlocked), most burglars will skip your home in search of an easier target.
Here are some common home security mistakes. How many of these mistakes have you made?
1. Hiding a Key Under a Doormat. Even first-time burglars know to check under the doormat. After all, it’s the oldest trick in the book. I doubt any of my readers have done this, but I have to mention it just in case.
2. Hiding a Key Anywhere Outside. You might think you’re ahead of the curve by hiding a key under a rock (or in a lawn ornament, a birdhouse, etc.), but experienced burglars will know to check these places. Instead, just be careful with your keys and give one to a trusted neighbor. If for some reason you have to leave a key outside, put it in a plastic bag and bury it (just make sure it’s a spot you can find again).
3. Leaving a Ladder in Your Backyard. If you have a two-story house, make sure your upstairs windows are locked and your ladder is in the garage or a storage shed. Failing to do these things is almost as bad as leaving a key outside.
4. Using Cheap Door and Window Locks. Consider upgrading to more heavy-duty door and window locks. Many burglars already know how to get through standard locks, so make it as difficult for them as you can. That way they either won’t be able to get them open, or it will take them so long that they won’t bother trying.
5. Forgetting To Lock Your Garage Door. The garage door is one of the easiest ways to break into a house. Burglars can use the hooked end of a wire coat hanger to reach the emergency release lever so they can open the door manually, and it only takes a few seconds. To prevent this, get out of your car and use the key lock on your garage door (if it has one) or install a Gaplock.
6. Relying On A Barking Dog. Don’t get me wrong, a loud dog can be a great deterrent. But you should still lock your doors and have an alarm system. As intimidating as dogs sound, they don’t usually attack intruders. Unless the burglar is afraid of dogs, yours probably won’t do much good and could even get hurt.
7. Using Fake Security Equipment. In the past I advocated buying dummy cameras, but since then I realized that experienced burglars can probably tell the different between real and fake equipment. Nowadays you can buy security cameras that can be accessed from your smart phone. It’s a significant investment, but burglars will think twice if they look up and see a real camera pointed at them.
8. Providing Hiding Places in Your Yard. Large bushes, untrimmed trees, and big trash cans are things burglars could hide behind until you get home. As soon as you open the garage or front door, they could ambush you. To make sure this doesn’t happen, trim all the bushes and trees and get rid of any large objects. You want to have a clear view of every part of your yard.
9. Not Having Enough Outdoor Lights. Dark areas also make great hiding places. A burglar dressed in black can blend into the shadows and hide right in front of you. To stop this from happening, put motion sensor lights on every corner of your house.
10. Leaving Boxes From Expensive Items Outside. Have you ever noticed how the day after Christmas you see big empty boxes from TV’s and computers on the side of the road? I always cringe when people do this. They’re just giving burglars a reason to break into their homes. Instead, either keep those boxes inside until you can take them to a dumpster, or fold them up and put them in trash bags.
11. Putting Your Valuables Near a Window. When I was a child, my parents has a glass gun cabinet right next to the living room window. Can you guess what happened? Yup, someone broke in and stole the guns. If a burglar looked in your living room window right now, what would he see? Be sure to move any valuable items away from windows. And if you can’t (for example, a big-screen TV), then at least close the curtains.
12. Putting Your Alarm System Near a Window. Signs and stickers that warn of a home security system can be a good deterrent. But if your alarm system is too close to the window, an experienced burglar could peek inside, see whether it’s armed, and find out exactly what he’s dealing with. Make sure you can only see your alarm system if you’re already inside.
13. Forgetting to Maintain Your Security System. Be sure to check your security system periodically to make sure it’s in working order. You should also have it checked by a professional every year. If it’s not working right, then it’s just a huge waste of money.
14. Announcing Where You Are / Will Be On Social Media. It drives me crazy when people announce their location or vacation plans on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. They forget that they’re also telling the world, “I’m not home right now!” or “I won’t be home next week!” At least wait until you after you get home before you share your recent whereabouts.
15. Leaving No Lights (Or Just One Light) On While You’re Away. Most people leave at least one light on when they go on vacation, but that trick is too obvious. If a burglar watches your house all evening and doesn’t see any lights turn on or off, he’ll realize no one is home. Instead, connect your lights to digital timers so it seems like someone is there.
16. Forgetting to Stop the Mail or Newspaper. To find out who is on vacation, all a burglar has to do is walk through a neighborhood and check mailboxes and front porches. If your mailbox is overflowing and there are several newspapers on your porch, it’s a dead giveaway. Ask someone to get your mail, and temporarily cancel the newspaper.
17. Letting Your Guard Down. People who have never been robbed tend to be way too complacent. I’m not saying you should feel tense and paranoid all the time, but at least make a habit of checking your surroundings. Scan your front yard before you park your car, look out your window before you go to bed, and keep an eye out for suspicious vehicles or people watching your home. It never hurts to be cautious.