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Christmas is just around the corner! You’re probably preparing to travel over the river and through the woods to exchange gifts and spend time with loved ones.
As you get ready to celebrate, there’s one thing that should be at the top of your check-it-twice list: Figuring out how to secure your home from bah-humbug burglars who want to steal more than your holiday cheer.
Think back to glorious 1990 and the movie Home Alone. (Yep, we think the fact it came out over 20 years ago is scary too.) We’re not saying you need to tar the steps, heat the doorknobs, put cutouts of Michael Jordan in the windows, and release the tarantula—but there are some easy steps you can take to protect your home, family and memories.
1. Get to know your neighbors (especially the nosey ones).
Okay, we know some neighbors are quirky and some might be annoying—especially when they blow leaves and grass all over your driveway. But there has to be one neighbor you can ask to look out for deliveries, newspapers and the trash can. Remember Old Man Marley in Home Alone? He scared Kevin at the start, but they were friends by the end! So muster up some courage (and cookies) and ask a neighbor for a hand.
2. Find out about the neighborhood watch in your area.
Did you know Facebook hosts a national neighborhood watch page that’s a division of the National Sheriffs’ Association? Check it out to see if your area has a group (which could be really helpful while you’re away). You could also reach out to your community’s homeowners association.
3. Get packages shipped to your workplace.
Or at least track them so you can tell that friendly neighbor when to pick them up. That way they’re not piling up on your porch and announcing you’re not home to the world.
4. Shovel the snow from your driveway.
If a burglar is scoping out your neighborhood and sees your driveway hasn’t been cleared (when everyone else has done theirs), they might think you’re away. Give a neighbor’s kid the chance to earn some festive commission. And maybe give them a little extra if they build an awesome snowman. Nothing says “We’re home for the holidays!” like a fresh snowman in the front yard. Now that’s festive and effective.
5. If you live in an apartment, get to know management and maintenance staff.
Not only will you recognize them if they come knocking, but they’re also more likely to remember you (and help out!) if you need them. Why not bake some cookies to show them a little love? And if you live in a ground floor apartment, double-check that your windows and porch doors are locked and your curtains are drawn.
6. Don’t showcase expensive items.
We get it: There’s nothing like seeing that Christmas tree twinkling in the front room. But those big, boxed gifts around it? That’s like window shopping to the Wet Bandits. Move those presents out of sight from people creeping by and looking for easy pickings.
7. Make it sound like someone is home.
Timers on your indoor lights? Check. Timers on the outside lights? Check! Lights are the obvious things to remember here, but think about sound too. Try setting up a clock radio or iPad near the front door and time it to turn on during the day. If your TV can be seen from outside, link it to your smartphone to turn on while you’re away.
8. Change up your spare key hiding spots.
It’s handy to have a spare key outside in case you get locked out. But how easy is it to find? Try thinking of obvious places a burglar would look. Is it under the flower pot or on top of the door frame? Too easy. But buried under the third shrub from the right? Now that’s better. Get creative if you’re keeping a key outside.
9. Make a spare key inventory.
We’ve all gotten a little too happy with key cutter kiosks at the store every once in a while—but now everyone from Aunt Betsy to second cousin Stu has a key to your place! And Aunt Betsy might not have the best memory when it comes to where she leaves things. Take a moment to write down who has a spare key and who really needs one, and make sure they’re all accounted for.
10. Put combination locks on your shed and backyard fence.
This one’s simple: If your garden shed is home to expensive tools and equipment, you need a lock on the door. Same goes for your backyard fence.
11. Make sure your garage is locked.
Raise your hand if you don’t lock the door that leads to your garage when you leave. It’s an easy one to forget! And what about leaving the garage door opener inside your car . . . while it’s parked in the driveway for days on end? Guilty as charged. You should always make sure to bring garage door openers inside with you, otherwise you’re giving burglars an invitation to waltz right on in and shut the door behind them.
12. Trim trees and overgrown shrubs so there’s less cover for thieves.
Trees can give you private, cozy seclusion—and that’s great for you. But it’s also great for thieves who want to hide from security lights or watchful eyes of neighbors.
13. Try to rob your own home.
This sounds nuts, but hear us out! Remember when we talked about being creative with hiding your spare key? Well, spend some time trying to get into your own home. You want to find yourself saying things like, “The freakin’ fence is locked!” or “Oh, the windows are locked too,” and “I see a light and can hear a TV—someone’s home!” If you’re thinking it, then a pesky thief probably will too and give up.
14. Don’t share too much on social media.
It’s never a good idea to overshare on Facebook, but it’s a really bad idea to advertise your travel plans to everyone. If you’re just dying to post a selfie of your feet dipped in the ocean, wait until you get home! Check out more tips on prepping for travel in our Ultimate Travel Checklist.
15. Do you have a family password?
To keep your kids safe during those times they’re home alone (and older than Kevin McCallister), establish a family password. This is a word or phrase that only you and your kiddos know. It can be shared with close family and friends as needed, but it’s meant to keep strangers out.
16. Don’t hide cash under your mattress.
Or in the freezer. Or the cookie jar. Or the million other places cash-hungry crooks look when they bust into a joint. Keep it in a safe, bank or mutual fund!
17. Shred documents you don’t need.
Because it’s not just the obvious things like electronics or jewelry that a burglar will swipe. Your mail and personal details with your Social Security number, driver’s license, and date of birth are rich pickings for identity thieves.
18. Lock your safe.
If you have a safe somewhere in your house, make sure it’s locked with those important documents (like birth certificates) and family heirlooms tucked inside before you travel. Oh, and make sure you bolt that sucker down so it can’t be carried away.
19. Take pictures of all your valuables.
This is an old insurance trick. Take a quick shot of your jewelry, art, tools, electronics, furniture or anything else that might tempt a burglar. This helps you remember what was taken if someone breaks in, but it’ll also help the insurance company process your claim. To find the best home insurance coverage, check out Dave’s recommended local providers.
20. Get references for any service professionals.
Make sure the housekeeper, gardener, plumber or HVAC guy is the real deal before you call them to take care of something in your home. The only person visiting your house without a reference should be Santa! Just watch out for those creepy little elves that sit on the shelves—we hear they can get just about anywhere.
21. Be aware of what you’re throwing away.
Picture the scene: The presents have been unwrapped, the gizmos and gadgets are ready to be played with, but the living room looks like the aftermath of a Christmas war. You’re tempted to stack the boxes and packaging at the curb just to claim your living room back. Stop! You don’t want to advertise those awesome gifts to shady characters circling the block looking for their next score, do you?
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Break boxes into smaller pieces and put them in recycling or trash bags. Then wait to put those bags out on pick-up day. Or you could even take a trip to the recycling center yourself!
22. Install a home security system.
You’re probably wondering why this isn’t at the start of the list. Well, all of these tips are important to consider (and you could never go wrong putting them into action). But if you had to choose just one for your best line of defense, a home security system would be it.
That’s why we recommend securing your home with SimpliSafe. With zero annoying contracts and easy customization and installation, it’s exactly what your home needs without paying for the stuff it doesn’t need. Plus, a home security system can shave some bucks off your home insurance premium—and we’re all about saving money.
SimpliSafe, Inc. provides wireless security alarm systems, cameras and monitoring services for houses, apartment and other commercial properties.
Content sponsored by SimpliSafe