Home security tips when you go away for the holidays

We all enjoy bit of a break from work and the everyday routine. A trip away is something most look forward to each year and can mean saving for some time to pay for. Going away and coming back to find someone has broken into your abode while you were taking a holiday is a terrible feeling- something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Unfortunately, there are people out there who intentionally look for houses that are empty over holiday periods.

There are lots of tricks and hints to keep your home secure while you take a break. Most of them don’t require a lot of effort or money. There’s always the usual alarm systems and CCTV cameras, but they do cost a lot of money and are only ever as good as the people operating them. What about some little tricks that give your house the appearance of being occupied?

I recently took a much-needed break and these are some of the things I did to make my home look like its owners are still at home and to protect the contents. It even fooled my mum.

For starters, don’t leave your spare car keys near doors or windows – car theft through burglary is on the rise and a visible set of keys through a window is a bit like waving a red flag at a bull. I took my spare car keys with me over the holidays. I left my spare house keys with a trusted relative.

Protect your identity at the same time by hiding or locking away passports and official documents. Identity fraud is on the rise and made easier with originals of passports, birth certificates and bank details.

Quality lighting and fencing is another sure way to be secure. When it comes to outdoor lighting, solar lights have come a long way and are easy to install. Sensor lighting also makes sure that you don’t disturb neighbours but you still perturb criminals lurking around. Criminals will do their own risk assessment of a location, just like you and I do a risk assessment before a task at work. For a criminal, being caught in the act or identified afterwards are big risks. Good security lighting and solid fences that allow visibility are two tips to increase the risk to a thief of being caught in the act, or identified later by a witness.

Don’t advertise your home to burglars on social media. The social media savvy among us tend to publish their whereabouts during the holiday season, including any vacation locations. This potentially lets burglars know when your house is going to be empty and when exactly that will occur. Uploaded photos of pricey Christmas gifts can also encourage the wrong people to notice you.

Before going away, be sure to cancel any newspaper subscriptions, or have someone collect them with your mail. Arranging a neighbour to park on the driveway creates the impression someone is home. My own mother rang me during my holidays to see if I was home already when she saw a car in the driveway. Having someone come by to water the plants, combined with light timers, can also create a superficial impression of a lived-in home.

Make sure that things like garden tools and ladders that could be used to force entry into your home are not accessible. Garages are often targets for burglars looking for tools, bikes and gardening equipment. Make sure the yard, garden shed and garage are secure with good quality chains and/or locks.

Finally, burglars know all the usual spots for hidden door keys so don’t hide spare keys under rocks, in flowerpots, or above door ledges. Instead give the spare key to family or a trusted neighbour.

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