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How to keep your home safe from burglars this Christmas

This is a version of the article ‘How to keep your home safe from burglars at Christmas‘ that originally appeared on the Guardian website on 6 December 2021.

How to protect your home from burglars this Christmas

Burglars love Christmas. It’s a time of plenty. Plenty of goods to get their hands on and plenty of unwary people from whom they can steal.

For years, forgetting to cancel the milk was the giveaway sign to burglars that a home was unoccupied. Nowadays, thieves are much more sophisticated.

However, there are still some basic steps that you can take to protect your property.

Christmas stocking to decorate a reverse advent calendar for the foodbank

Prepare your home, garden and possessions

People can hide behind big pots and hedges in your garden. Keep hedges and plants low if you can.

Put lights on timers. Leave the radio on. Check you have shut and locked windows and doors! Don’t leave keys in locks. They can be “jiggled” from outside.

Leave an ironing board up with pile of clothes! “It will look like you’ve just popped out (but don’t leave the iron turned on!)” advises Forensic Minds’ Diane Ivory, former Scotland Yard Fingerprint Expert and Crime Scene Examiner.

Something trivial that you may not think about is your family calendar. She says “Be careful if the dates you’re away are on display and can be seen through the window.”

Naomi Willis, from SkintDad money expert suggests enabling a free guard dog “skill” on Alexa if you have one! “It allows you to set off a barking and growling dog noise by remotely activating it.”

The Crime Prevention website explains that amongst alternatives to UV pens is the use of visible etching which could prevent burglars taking items in the first place.

Get neighbours/friends to help your home look occupied

Ask a friend/neighbour to put your bins out and back on the normal bin day. When all the bins are out on a street except yours or yours are the only ones out, that can be a giveaway no one is at home.

If you have a driveway and your car’s normally on it, ask a friend/neighbour to use your driveway. If your car is keyless, block the signal by putting the fob in a Faraday bag or microwave.

old fashioned car with boxes on it

Using her 22 years crime prevention advice in the UK Police, Toni Frost, who now runs Esquiress Ceremonies advises moving high value items to another property if away for long periods. She also suggests checking the weather! If loads of leaves or snow fall at your doorstep and aren’t cleared, this can be a sign that no-one has been going in and out of the door! “Ask a friend to clear the snow, so that the house looks occupied.”

Post piling up can be a give-away that no-one is home. “The Royal Mail ‘Keep Safe’ service holds your mail whilst you are away” says Frost. Ivory adds that if you have a friend coming in for your post, to put it somewhere out of sight!

Don’t post what you are doing on social media

When away, it may be tempting to put up photos of you on holiday. But this can also tell burglars you are not at home. Likewise, telling people you are going or posting that you are away both tell criminals that your home is empty. Of course we like to think our friends wouldn’t rob us!

If someone tags you when you are away, remove the tag. That tag is telling people you are there. Facebook notifies you when you are tagged, so select “remove tag” on the post.

Don’t share on social media a photo of presents under the tree or talk about how you’re looking forward to popping out for Christmas dinner, you don’t know who may see.

James Bores from Bores Security Consultancy explains how criminals get information from social media:

“It’s fairly easy for someone with the right knowledge of searching and a picture to identify someone, find their address, work out where the picture was taken, friends, relatives, workmates, where and when they go on holiday, and almost anything else that’s ever been made public…  So much personal data has leaked over the years that it’s almost guaranteed your address and phone number is recorded against your name somewhere, and anyone who knows where to go can pay a few quid for access to these details.”

facebook, Twitter Pinterest logos

Social media and crime statistics

And if you’re still not convinced that social media has a huge part to play in crime, take a look at Swinton Insurance’s map, which correlates reported crimes and risky social media posts. The research carried out in 2016-2017 (there are now more users of social media!) showed “… over 76,000 Twitter users publicly posted about their upcoming holidays, with some even specifying exactly when they’d be leaving… This could be anything from ‘checking in’ at the airport before a flight, to a shot of an elaborate tropical cocktail – whatever you choose to share, you’re basically advertising the fact that your home is unoccupied to budding burglars.”

NimbleFins Insurance analysed crime and burglary statistics from the annual Crime Survey for England and Wales and found that burglars frequently know their victims. “One in four burglary incidents are perpetrated by someone the victim knows well; in one in five cases they are known by sight or to speak to. The burglars are complete strangers in just over half of incidents (57%)”.

Be aware that your belongings aren’t safe from everyone you know  

Away from the Internet, we also connect with business acquaintances such as window cleaners, milk delivery and the newspaper boy/girl. How well do you really know everyone with whom you are connected?

Take good care to secure the property and belongings

The latest data from the Telephone Crime Survey for England and Wales (TCSEW), shows domestic burglary decreased by 24% in the year ending June 2021 compared to year ending June 2020. In the period October to December 2020 covering the Christmas period there was a 26% decrease compared to 2019. However, with lockdown, fewer shops were open, there was less to do and more people staying at home. We can expect this figure to rise for 2021.

Travel Safety company Maiden Voyage‘s CEO, Carolyn Pearson, warns of leaving identification in your vehicle. Anything with your home address could put temptation in criminals’ hands.” That includes your address in the sat nav “home” option.

It is important to note too that you may also invalidate your insurance if you do not take reasonable care to secure your home and possessions. An insurance company may well research your social media and decide that you have not taken reasonable steps to protect your home and belongings and refuse to pay out.

Keep your presents safe

Don’t leave presents in cars in full view while you leave the car unattended. Opportunist thieves will smash the glass and run. And cars can get stolen too.

Break up the packaging and don’t put your branded boxes next to the bin, advertising what’s inside your house.

Hide presents. Leaving them all round the tree in view is again advertising to potential burglars!

Insurance

Check with your insurance company if alarms/cameras must be activated every time you leave the property unoccupied.

Photograph possessions and keep them safe (and certainly not put on social media!) Keep your insurance details easily accessible.

Check your policy to see if it will automatically increase the contents sum insured by a fixed percentage over Christmas time to reflect any increase in value of contents.

If using a shed/garage or somewhere similar, check they are covered before hiding presents there.

If you are away for more than 30 days, check with your insurance that you will be covered or pay for a clause extension.

After Christmas, assess the value of presents such as jewellery received and increase policy limits accordingly.

Other useful Christmas related posts

How to save money when shopping for Christmas and in the sales. These are various posts about shopping ethically, your rights when it comes to shopping on line and in store, returns, gift cards and what to do with unwanted gifts.

 

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By Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow

Consultant | Author | Speaker | Blogger | Presenter | Journalist
Helping to make, prevent and deal with complaints

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