Here are some important safeguards and tricks one can employ to avoid attention to your vacant home.
- First of all, you and your neighbors need to watch each other’s backs during times when people travel most. Email five friends to the left and right and also several families across the street and find out who is around when you are away. Ask them to keep an eye on your home and promise to return the favor when they are gone. Exchange email and cell phone numbers and make sure 1 or 2 people have a spare key incase of an emergency. (You never know when a pipe might burst or a tree branch may fall.)
- In most towns the Police Departments will cooperate with you. Go to the Police Department, fill out a form and let them know that you will be away. They will drive by your house more frequently and make sure everything is OK.
- If you have a spare key near an inside door, in the lock or in a highly visible place like a hook that someone can see from a window, put it away. If you hide a key under a rock or somewhere obvious inside or outside, move it while you are away.
- If your car keys are in hanging in their usual spot in the kitchen, or in the bowl by the front door and car is in the garage, lock the car doors and hide the keys.
- When was the last time you tested your alarm or changed the battery? It should be done annually but if not, do it a few weeks before you go away. Make sure your alarm is actually working.
- Make sure the ‘Protected by Alarm’ sign is in front and back of property and clearly visible from the street… not hidden by overgrown bushes.
- Even with a burglar alarm, the wires can be cut and experienced thieves know how to get in and out fast. Take really important valuables to your safety deposit box.
- Consider installing a nanny cam, so if you do have a break-in, you have a chance of catching the criminal.
- Leave some lights on a timer on all levels and put a television on a timer. The flickering lights of TV are more convincing that someone is home. These should go on and off at different times. Make sure that outdoor lights, especially in the back, are on timers too. Be sure out door bulbs are working.
- If you mow your own grass and are going to be away for more than 10 days… perhaps this would be the time you hire someone to fill in. Nothing says ‘not home’ more than an over-grown lawn and newspapers lying in the driveway.
- Hide all credit cards, copies of bills, check books, or important papers in a very unlikely hiding place, where thieves don’t usually go, like in the toy cabinet in the basement.
- Consider asking a neighbor to throw a bag of recycling in front of your driveway and garbage in your trash can. Who knows if the sanitation guys take note when cans are empty for 2 weeks.
- You have stopped your mail, but what about the flyers and newsletters that get dropped on your driveway by advertising companies. Pay $$ to a neighbor’s kid to pick them up for you.
- DO NOT post pictures on your Facebook page of you currently ON vacation. Wait till you return home. Let the kids know that they should not to say/post comments that indicate the family is away. DO NOT ‘check-in’ on sites such as airports, to inform others where you are. It is an advertisement that ‘you are not home’.
- Make sure your luggage tags have your work address. Don’t advertise to every baggage handler that you are away and that your house is empty. Don’t tell the driver of the car where you are going or for how long, they always ask. Watch your conversation on the way to the airport — it might be good to mention that you are glad “Aunt Sally” is staying to watch the dogs. (hint, hint)
- You are putting your dogs away in a kennel for two weeks? Don’t tell them you are going away (unless you can’t be reached). Tell them you have company and they are allergic or scared of your animals.
- Put all your tools and ladders away. Many thieves want to hit the Master Bedroom which is on the top level… where security and alarm is not always the most efficient (most homes connect the lower level to alarm systems).
- Close shades where crooks can easily look into your windows.
- When you leave that OUT OF OFFICE auto reply on your email and voicemail, don’t say how long you are gone. If you cannot answer email or messages, let them know you are out of the office but do not give a return date. That screams that your house could be empty.
One last suggestion — and this is not going to secure your house against burglary. Just as a safety measure, unplug appliances, like hair dryers, irons, toasters and coffee makers. Adjust temp on all thermostats, water heater and refrigerator. No need to keep those going at full speed and if you do leave televisions plugged in and on timers, add a surge protector to safeguard against electrical storms.
The less people know you are away and for how long, the better.
Be safe and HAVE A GREAT VACATION.