Each year, approximately 4 million homes are robbed in the United States. Here are some signs to watch for based on various intelligence reports. Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list and the more educated home owners and tenants become, the more the criminals have to change their game. If you know of a method that should be added here, please cite your source and send us an email. We'll verify it and possibly update this post.
First, let's look at a few should-be-obvious-but-often-forgotten tips to safeguard your home and property:
(1) When the "special sales" like Black Friday or the holiday sales arrive, and then after Christmas gift-giving, people all-too-often put the boxes from their new computer, big screen TV, XBox or other gaming console out on the curb or between / alongside their trash cans. This advertises that these items are in your house which means temptation for those of questionable character. Instead, break down the boxes, and put the pieces out of sight into the actual trashcan. It's even better if you cover those broken-down pieces with more trash. Some even drizzle a bit of oil or some other slimy or "gross-looking liquid" over it because when would-be crooks look into the trashcan and see an unknown liquid, they typically walk away. People are scared of what they don't know.
(2) Cul-de-sacs and middle-of-the-block houses are robbed the most. Corner lots are the least broken into (I know, seems counter-intuitive). So here are 13 sneaky things FBI agents do to protect their homes and you can do them too.
(3) Many "unexperienced" criminals start by breaking into your car. Many people leave mail, car registrations, insurance cards, checkbooks, and receipts in their car. This often shows name, address, and even credit cards and signatures. As a Forensic Handwriting Expert, never ever leave your signatures in public and be sure your signature is as neatly written as possible. If you are ever a victim of forgery, messy signatures are much more difficult to prove (but that's another blog post). Anyway... always lock your car doors, even if it’s just parked in your driveway or locked in your garage. An electric garage door is pretty easy to open if someone has the will. If you use your glove compartment, keep it locked.
(4) In line with the above... people leave house keys, car keys, and even garage door openers lying visibly in their cars. In fact, you may think your home is safe when you are the casino or getting a massage but many valets have been busted getting your address from your insurance forms (glove compartment), and then driving to your house and getting in through the garage door opener (which is not breaking & entering). Also, garage door keypads may seem safe but, if people use it often enough, the keypads get worn and the criminals can more easily guess the pin. In fact, 40% of tenants say they have never changed their keypad passcode once it was set-up, so it's a good idea to change it monthly or quarterly at the very least. Also, with today's technology, it's best if you can find a garage door opener to pair with your smartphone or tablet. That way you can eliminate a separate opener altogether.
(5) First-floor windows and sliding glass doors are very common entry points for burglars. Even people who are extra-concerned about safety often leave their window cracked open so window alarms are great deterrents.
(6) Doorbell or other cameras (I have Blink and love it), should definitely be part of your safety plan. They hook up to your smartphone and you can watch your home "live" whether you are just down the street, or across the world enjoying a cruise. You will also get notifications when your camera picks up any form of movement.
(7) Don't put your vacation details (ie: dates) on social media. Even if it seems that things are private, they aren't. Posting details about your absence away from home tells people you will be gone.
(8) Along with the online information above... be sure your "location" is turned OFF on your phone or table when you take photos or record videos. There is almost always a "location signature" (code) that gets uploaded with it when you share it. Many stalkers, human traffickers, child predators, and other questionable characters have found their victims using this "location" method.
(9) Be sure you pick up all advertisements, newspapers, and other debris from the front of your house every day. Also be sure to bring in your mail every day. Many people will scour mailboxes to get your personal information. Also, when you leave debris in your yard or driveway, it appears that your house is empty.
(10) Join places like NextDoor to keep aware of your neighborhood. Neighbors post in the "Crime & Safety" section and it will usually tell you how far from your house it was. Be aware of who lives around you. For example, Criminal Watch Dog is a great resource. Also flood lights or motion lighting is great to have, especially in your more dark or hidden places. Even using these can be a great deterrent just be sure to hang them high enough and in a way that they can't see there are no wires. You could wrap some rope with electrical tape or black duct tape to appear like there are wires and then make it appear that they are going from the camera into the house. Another thing you can do it add these and / or these to place around your most vulnerable entry points.
Okay, now for the list of "tricks" criminals do....
Hopefully this post was helpful. If you see any of these on or around your property, make a note of it, take a photo of it (police may need it later), and find a way to warn your neighbors. Also be sure to share this post because education + awareness = prevention.