Home security tips for holidaymakers

Summer holidays are fast approaching, but unoccupied homes are a target for burglars. Here’s how to secure your home and keep it safe when you’re away.

Credit: Peter Sayer/IDG News Service

You don’t need the results of a survey to know that burglars target empty properties. What you might not realise is that they use social media these days. Your photos of a margarita by the pool make it even easier for a thief to see you’ll be away for a while.

Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to ensure that they can’t see that information, to make it look like you’re actually at home, and to deter burglars from breaking in.

Limit social media

Avoid posting photos on public social sites which suggest you’re travelling. Unlike Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow anyone to see what you’ve shared – they just have to search. And don’t tag posts (or photos) with words that make those photos even easier to find.

We’d also advise against using the check-in function in those apps that could alert people that you’re at the airport or a hotel.

Even Facebook, if your privacy options are set too loosely, will let just about anyone see your photos and posts. If possible, wait until you’re back before sharing your holiday snaps.

Similarly, don’t post about any security weaknesses such as your home’s alarm system not working.

Check privacy settings

Go to the settings of your social profiles so you know exactly who you’re sharing information with. Lock it down as much as you can so that only trusted friends can see what you share.

Also, go through your friend list on Facebook and remove those who you don’t know. It’s too easy to accept requests from people, and over time your circle can grow a lot larger than you might have realised.

Close and lock your windows and gates

It sounds obvious, but the simple act of shutting and locking all windows and garden gates can be enough to make a burglar decide to try another property. Time is their main enemy, and it takes longer to climb over a fence than walk through an unlocked gate.

Look around your garden or outside areas and remove anything that could be used to smash a window or gain access: bricks, brooms and ladders, for example.

Hide valuables

Either shut the blinds (not ideal) or move valuable items out of sight from ground-floor windows. If there’s nothing obvious to steal, such as the iPad on a coffee table or car keys on a hook in the hall, your home is less of a target.

Get a security camera

Cameras won’t prevent a break-in, but their presence along with a few conspicuous CCTV signs will act as yet another deterrent.

Plus, security cameras can alert you of movement or – in some cases – unusual noises and give you video evidence which could be useful to the police or your insurance company is something does happen.

Get smart lights

As with smart heating systems, smart lights or even switches, allow you to turn lights on and off remotely. A cheaper option is a simple timer switch, but smart lights are useful when you’re at home as well as away, so they’re not simply a security measure.

Ideally place them in the living room as a lit-up lounge in the evenings makes it seem like you’re home, whereas a hallway light doesn’t.

Buy a connected smoke alarm

A smoke alarm is useful if someone’s at home, but when you’re away you can get an early heads-up of a fire if your smoke alarm can send you a notification on your phone. The choice is still relatively small, but there’s the £109.99/US$125 Nest Protect in the UK, and a couple of other options including Halo in the US.

Use Royal Mail’s Keepsafe service

Piles of unopened mail are a sign no-one’s home, but you can use Keepsafe to stop that post arriving when you’re away. It costs around £1 per day, with a minimum of 10 days.

Alternatively, ask a neighbour to keep an eye on the place, move post out of sight and even park their car on your drive.

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