With a record number of travelers – about one-third of Americans – planning to gather with family and friends this holiday season, AAA East Central is urging homeowners to protect their homes and take steps to deter break-ins before they leave. Slippery steps and falling paint cans are not enough to outwit today’s would-be bandits, but there are other affordable devices to help prevent home burglaries.
In the U.S., 1.5 million home burglaries take place annually, according to 2016 FBI crime statistics. Home burglaries spike during the weeks leading up to the holidays, when thieves are tempted by homes full of gifts. Break-ins also take place while families are out-of-town on holiday trips. Moreover, a homeowner loses an average of $2,316 in possessions and damages in a home burglary, according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
“Nothing can take the joy out of the holiday season quite as fast as a break-in and burglary,” says Mark Sisson, vice president of insurance, AAA East Central. “Making your home look occupied, making sure everything is locked, and not giving away too much information online can go a long way towards keeping your home safe.”
According to home security surveys, 64 percent of homeowners and renters don’t lock all their doors and windows before leaving home. This simple step is imperative. Devices like window locks and sliding door rods block burglary attempts, and should be considered for anyone taking a trip.
AAA tips to help keep your belongings safe and your spirits up during the holidays:
• Be wary of social media. Never announce holiday travel plans on any social media platforms, even if it’s to friends, family and colleagues. Only share details and photos of your trip after you have returned home.
• Mind your automatic responses. Never say that you are on vacation on your automated e-mail response or voice mail at work. Cyber criminals issue mass mailings in hopes of receiving these messages, and can cross check them with directories to find where you live.
• Check through the windows. Make sure holiday gifts, expensive electronics and other valuables are not visible from outside your windows.
• Lock up. Lock all doors and windows before you leave. Use deadbolts, steel rods, dowels or locking pins in sliding glass doors and windows to keep them from being pried open.
• Make sure you’re monitored. If possible, install an alarm system in your home with visible signs. Additionally, consider installing front door cameras, motion detectors, or smart doorbells that can be used through mobile apps.
• Make it look like someone is home. Use automatic timers with inside lamps and leave a radio on. Set lamps to come on at random times. Keep the exterior of your home and yard well-lit with low-wattage outdoor lighting.
• Stop deliveries. While away, stop package deliveries, mail and newspapers, or ask a neighbor or friend to pick them up. Don’t let mail, including bank statements and credit card offers, sit in the mailbox to advertise you’re away and tempt a thief to steal your identity.
• Check your insurance. Make sure your home insurance is up to date and provides adequate coverage if you own luxury goods, jewelry and electronics. Check to see if you need an additional rider or floater insurance policy for those items from AAA or other insurance representative.
Additional tips from AAA:
• Don’t store spare keys outside your home, such as under mats or in plants.
• Hide expensive jewelry or place in a bank safety deposit box.
• Keep a detailed inventory of your valuable possession in a safe place away from home, including a description of your items, date of purchase, original value, and serial numbers. Take photos and videos of your rooms and their contents.
• If you’re away from home on ‘trash day,’ ask a neighbor to put your trash and recycle bins out on the street that morning and bring them back in at the end of the day.
• Report suspicious activity in your neighborhood immediately to protect yourself and your neighbors.