You’ve finally made it home after a week of much-needed R&R on a sunny tropical island. You can’t wait to snuggle into your own bed for a good night’s sleep and meet up with friends tomorrow to tell them all about your getaway.
But when you arrive home, you realize something is wrong. Maybe a door is left open, or the lights aren’t on like you expected. And when you walk in, it’s immediately apparent: While you were away enjoying umbrella drinks in the shade of a palm tree, someone else was helping himself to your belongings.
Every day, approximately four homes are burgled each minute, and many of those burglaries take place while the occupants are away on vacation. Thieves specifically look for residences that appear to be unoccupied, expecting that they can slip in undetected and make off with electronics, jewelry and other items before anyone even realizes something is amiss.
You can avoid becoming a statistic: By taking a few precautions before you leave — and while you’re away — you can protect your home and belongings.
As exciting as it is that you’re headed out on a fabulous vacation to the Caribbean, keep the news to yourself, at least on social media. Sophisticated criminals have started using social media to target victims, looking for those who announce that they will be going away and exactly how long they will be gone. Resist the temptation to shout your plans from the rooftops, and don’t check in everywhere you go. If you’re going to post while you’re away, turn off the location markers on your smartphone to avoid letting the world know that you’re far from home.
While you don’t want to announce to the world that you’re headed out of town, you do want to let your neighbours know. Ask your neighbors to keep an eye on your place while you’re away; if they know you’re in Jamaica and they spot a light on or an unfamiliar vehicle in the driveway, they can alert the police. If you’ll be gone for longer than a few days, ask them to mow your lawn or take out the garbage while you’re away so it looks like you’re in town — and don’t forget to bring them a little something to say thank you.
One of the biggest tipoffs to criminals that someone is away is a build-up of mail or newspapers, so put those services on hold while you’re out of town, or ask your neighbour to collect them for you. Setting your indoor lights on timers can also deter criminals, but set the lights to turn on and off at random intervals and in multiple rooms. A single light that clicks on at 6 p.m. and off at 10 p.m. every day is not going to fool anyone.
It seems like common sense, but locking your doors and windows will deter criminals better than anything else; in fact, most people who have been robbed didn’t lock up properly. Lock all the doors and windows to your home. A criminal will try all of the doors first, and if you forget to lock the garage or basement door, you’ve given him an easy way in.
Don’t leave spare keys outside either. Criminals know all of the tricks that homeowners use to hide their house keys, so don’t rely on fake rocks, and never leave spare keys in flower pots or under your doormat. Instead of hiding a spare key, give it to a neighbour. Avoid making silly mistakes — lock your car if you park it in the driveway, and don’t leave your garage door opener in the vehicle.
Obviously, you don’t want anything to happen to your home while you’re away, but prepare for the possibility in advance. Before you head out of town, check that your homeowner’s or renter’s policy is up to date, and make any changes necessary. Take photos of valuable items and write down serial numbers so you’ll have proof of what’s been lost should something happen while you’re away. This will make filing a claim quick and easy.
Nothing can ruin a dream vacation faster than coming home to find your house has been robbed. But if you take precautions before you go, you can reduce the chances that your dream will turn into a nightmare.