Are you inviting a burglar into your home?

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No one wants to come home and find their house burglarized, or even worse, have it happen while at home. Finding out a stranger was in your home going through your possessions is a traumatic experience and leaves you feeling exposed and vulnerable. And while you would never do anything to intentionally invite someone to break into your home, there are some very common mistakes that may be telling potential burglars you are an easy target. Here are 5 tips to make sure your home is not a Las Vegas style giant neon sign with flashing lights saying, “BREAK IN HERE!”

Don’t leave the garage door open

This may seem like common sense to you, and it should. Because it is. Yet take a drive down most residential neighborhoods and see how many garage doors are open. Sure, people may be at home so the likelihood of a burglar entering your home through the garage doors is small, but think of it is as window shopping. With your garage open, a potential burglar can see what kind of car you drive, how many bicycles, skis and snowboards, sets of golf clubs, and power tools you have available. Nice stuff in the garage could translate to even nicer stuff inside the home. Ever leave to run a quick errand and forget to shut the garage door? It happens to all of us.

What can you do about it?

One thing you can do about it is to install a smart garage door. Yes, you read that right, I said a smart garage door. With a garage door opener that connects to your Wi-Fi network you can open and close the garage door from your smartphone. This will come in handy on those busy days when you have no idea whether or not you closed it as you raced away.

Predictable repeating patterns

Do you leave every morning to go to the gym at exactly 5:30am? Or consistently leave to go fishing or golfing every Sunday with your friends? What about the kid’s school schedule? Are they always leaving for school at the same time as you leave for work? These habits may help your life run smoother, but to a burglar, this predictable agenda is like setting an appointment to rob your house. If there is someone interested in your home or neighborhood, they will likely spend some time observing routines: who is home when, who never leaves, and who is gone at the same time every day.

What can you do about it?

This is a difficult one to fix because likely your habits are borne of necessity. You need to leave each by a certain time and you only get home each day around the same time. School schedules aren’t flexible either. And how often should you vary your schedule? You can’t spend your whole life looking over your shoulder, wondering if someone is casing your house. That isn’t life. One way to create the appearance of occupancy is a doorbell camera with intercom. When someone rings the bell (and many times they will just to see if anyone answers) you will get an alert on your phone with streaming video from the camera. With an intercom you can speak to the visitor on your porch as if you were inside the house. Tell the visitor you can’t come to the door or just got out of the shower.

Announcing vacation plans to the wrong people

You’re going on a cruise?! You’ll be gone for two weeks and your kids are staying with their grandparents?! Certainly, you’re excited to take such an amazing vacation and what to let family and friends know about your plans via social media, but who else may be reading your posts? If your posts are private than anyone can see your vacation plans and will know when you will be gone and for how long. What about the plumber or electrician coming over to do some last minute work before you fly out? How much about your plans do they know? It is sad to say, but you can’t be too careful and while you may just be making small talk, you could actually be setting yourself up for disaster.

What can you do about it?

Make sure all your social media posts are private and don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. This may sound like an after school special, but a potential burglar could easily create an account and try to learn about people in a neighborhood via social media. Also, keep your vacation plans secret from those who absolutely don’t need to know. Let your close neighbors know that you will be gone and to keep an eye on your house, but otherwise don’t advertise that there is a vacancy in your residence. Another great tip is to set up automated lighting so different rooms light up at different times giving an impression of occupancy.

Bring in your mail and newspapers

Again, another common sensical tip, but it is important to make sure that if you are gone for more than a day or two you have someone bring in your mail. An overstuffed mailbox is problems for a couple reasons: first, it makes it easy for someone to steal your mail. This can quickly lead to identity theft. Second, your mailbox indicates that you aren’t home. It is like a Bat signal spotlight in the sky for criminals. Another thing, no longer reading your daily newspaper? Instead of leaving them on the doorstep, cancel your subscription and throw away old newspapers. Leaving them lying around tells burglars that no one is home and that makes your house a prime target for break-ins.

What can you do about it?

Pretty easy fix. Get a neighbor or friend to pick up your mail if you are going away. Don’t leave newspapers on your porch.

Your landscaping sends a message

You get busy. You forget to mow the lawn this week. Next week you are gone camping or at soccer games and it goes another week. Pretty soon weeds are growing in your driveway and your grass is a foot tall (slight exaggeration). While it may drive you crazy, it is inviting to burglars. Tall weeds and a dry, unkempt lawn and flower beds tell would be criminals that either your house is vacant or maybe you’re never home. Either way, you want your yard to look maintained and cared for to keep criminals guessing.

What can you do about it?

Mow. Water your grass if you can (due to droughts many states have imposed water restrictions). If you travel frequently, make sure to have someone take care of your lawn while you are gone to give an impression that you are home.

Don’t set your home as a target. Criminals look for any possible weakness to exploit and the more you can do to prevent a break in the better off you’ll be.