When you leave your home for the holidays, you’re also leaving your home vulnerable to thieves. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to mitigate the risk of some low-life robbers wanting to clean you out.
Whether you rent or own, here are a few things to do — and not do — to help ensure your home doesn’t become an easy target for burglars. No place is completely secure, but there are things you can do to keep your stuff safe and make it unattractive to burglars.
Do not broadcast the fact that you’re traveling or out of town on any social media.
Burglars have used Facebook status updates to pinpoint when targets are out of town, or even just the time of day they are usually out of the house. Publicly tweeting, checking in, and Instagramming (these mobile-only uploads are visible to anyone with Instagram’s new web profiles, unless your profile is private), are easy ways to let tech-savvy robbers know when your place could become a good target.
Move valuables out of plain sight.
If you’ve got windows or breaks in your curtains that offer a pretty clear view of what’s inside your home, take a few minutes to move laptops, tablets, jewelry, and any other valuables off desk, shelves or table. Heck, even if your windows don’t offer a peek inside your house, get those things out of sight. It’s a simple move that can be easy to forget when you’re in a rush to get out of the house and make a flight. Think of closets as your new best friends.
Even better, keep all precious items in a heavy-duty safe.
At 90 pounds, the SentrySafe SFW123GTC Big Bolts Fire-Safe is heavy enough to be a challenge for thieves, but small enough (17.8 x 16.3 x 19.3 inches) that you can hide it someplace inconspicuous (not in the master bedroom — that’s often the first place targeted). It’ll cost you around $200. More options available.
Put a hold on your mail deliveries if you’ll be gone for more than just a day or two.
This is a super easy way to ensure that the endless holiday coupon catalogs don’t pile up in your mailbox or at your doorstep. The form to hold your USPS mail is available at your post office or online.
Keep an eye on your place with Dropcam HD.
Dropcam is a Wi-Fi-enabled camera that can capture full-color video and night-vision shots that you can view instantly on an iPhone, iPad, or Android device using one of its free apps. There’s also a subscription service available in case you want to record and store the camera’s video stream. Dropcam is only $150, but the piece of mind you’ll get from being able to instantly check in on your place is priceless.
Got a webcam already? Do video monitoring on the cheap.
Using the iCam mobile and desktop apps, you can keep tabs on your place using any old webcam (or multiple cameras). Lifehacker has a detailed how-to for how to set this up.
Make it look like you’re wandering about your house with a random light timer.
Go one step further and make it look like the family is watching TV using FakeTV.
It sounds a bit like an As Seen On TV product, but FakeTV is a coffee-cup-size gadget that shines light from 12 LEDs to simulate the effect of a 27-inch LCD television in a room. It’s $35 — but I bet those of you with DIY experience could make an Arduino-based version yourself fairly easily.
Install a security system with remote monitoring.
Some security system companies like ADT and Alarm.com now offer mobile apps so you can receive text message and e-mail alerts about potential intrusions or unusual events, or view a live video stream of your home. Depending on the system, you can also control and monitor thermostats and lights from the app too.
Obviously, there are all sorts of other things you can do to protect your home from the threat of intruders, like asking your trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your house, or even pay the teenager down the block to come once a day and pick up stuff from your lawn in exchange for a couple of dollars a day.
I’m a personal fan of the kid’s style in the film Home Alone.