Here are 10 things you might be doing (or not doing) that make your home a more attractive target for burglars…
1. Providing them with cover of darkness
Without any security lights focused on the entry points to your home, intruders can use the cover of darkness to break in without being spotted.
You should install security lights to cover as many points of entry to your home as possible, using either Passive Infrared Detector lights, which turn on when they detect body heat, or dusk-to-dawn lights, which stay on all night, adjusting as the sun begins to rise.
2. Giving them a boost up
Ladders, bins, storage boxes and even large plant pots can be used by burglars to climb your fences or property – so make sure they’re kept out of sight and out of reach.
3. Handing over your keys
If a thief can see your keys through your letterbox, there’s a good chance they can use a wire and hook to ‘fish’ them out. Car and house keys should be kept completely out of sight of all exterior doors and windows.
4. Leaving your digital front door open
Burglars don’t always need to enter your home or property to steal from you. If you use a wireless router for your internet connection, but don’t secure the connection with at least WPA encryption, then anyone can potentially see what you’re doing online. This could include online banking or card payment details, as well as log-in details for your email and for websites.
5. Advertising a window of opportunity
According to Sainsbury’s Bank’s research, a third of us have inadvertently highlighted that our homes are or will be empty, using social media.
Apart from on completely private social media accounts, you should always avoid advertising online the fact that you’re not at home – this includes Facebook check-ins at the airport and photographs on a night out, for example.
6. Inviting them in
It sounds painfully obvious, but you should make sure that all doors and windows are locked whenever you can’t see them. Research from the AA last year found that locks were only forced in a quarter of burglaries – in the other three quarters, burglars entered through unlocked doors.
External doors should be at least 44mm thick and fitted with a five-lever mortice deadlock. You should also make sure your door frames are strong enough to support the door, its hinges and the lock. Frames can be reinforced with a Birmingham Bar.
You can complement locks on doors and windows with an alarm.
Check your insurance policy for additional specifications regarding the types of locks and alarm systems that can be deployed – you might get a 5% discount on your premium by installing approved security measures. But remember that, once agreed with your insurer and fitted to you property, the locks and alarms must be used every time.
If you fail to lock your doors and windows and set your alarm, you risk invalidating your cover by not exercising ‘reasonable care’.
7. Telling them you’re out, or asleep
When the lights in and around your home are all off, burglars may see it as an opportunity to strike. You can use timers on your lights to give the impression that you’re home. You can even install lighting systems you can control remotely, using your smartphone or computer. Read more about the gadgets here.
8. Making your valuables untraceable
It will be easier to reclaim any goods that are stolen from your home if you’ve marked them with something like a ultra violet marker pen, which will be invisible to the thief but visible under UV lights, and will help you prove it belongs to you.
It’s also worth registering your valuables at http://www.immobilise.com/, which is the UK’s national property register.
9. Giving them somewhere to hide
Unless you keep any hedgerows, bushes and large plants trimmed back, you may be giving burglars places to hide in your garden.
10. Putting on a window display
Make sure that any valuables that aren’t fastened down can’t be seen through your windows, as thieves may spot them and plan to return and break in at a later date.
No matter how careful you are, you could still be the unfortunate victim of an enterprising burglar. It’s important, then, to make sure you have a decent home insurance policy in place to make sure you’re covered, should the worst happen. For a refresher on how home insurance works, read Melanie Wright’s back to basics guide.
Finally, bear in mind that the risk of burglary is no greater now than it has been for the last 10 years. According to official crime statistics, levels of burglary have remained broadly flat since 2004/05.