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11 Home Security Mistakes That Put You at Risk

No matter where you live, home security is an issue that you'll have to address sooner or later. The only question is whether you'll do so before or after a criminal forces the issue.

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fence James R. Martin/Shutterstock

The Perils of Privacy

Privacy gates and fences might make you feel more secure, but they often provide hiding spots and cover for burglars. Too much privacy can allow an intruder to enter your home unseen.

The layout of every home and property is unique. But if possible, plan your privacy fencing so that at least the main entryway can be seen from the street. Doors are by far the most common entry point criminals, and a highly visible door makes their job more difficult. Even better is a reinforced door, and a door upgrade is a very rewarding DIY project.

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keyCollin Quinn Lomax/Shutterstock

Hiding Keys Outside

Many people hide a house key somewhere in the yard. That’s great if someone is taking care of your home or if you accidentally lock yourself out. Unfortunately, most homeowners “hide” their key in obvious spots where a burglar will look immediately. Don’t just put that key under the welcome mat!

The further from the house a key is hidden, the better. A disguised item, such as a fake rock, is only useful if hidden among similar items, like actual rocks. Don’t make it easy for a criminal! Drill down deeper into this topic and find out more about where not to hide your keys.

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feederSarah Camille/Shutterstock

Bushes Too Close to the Home

Much like a fence, your choices in landscaping can make your home more or less friendly to those with ill intentions. Bushes and trees up against the side of the home provide cover in the same way that a privacy fence might. Correct this mistake by maintaining low height or thin-growing shrubs next to the home, and keep the taller, denser plants more distant.

You don’t have to give up all your plants, just give a little more thought to where they’re placed. Taller or more dense shrubs and bushes are fine against solid walls as long as windows and doors aren’t obscured. By following this tip you’ll avoid larger plants and trees whose root systems can damage your foundations, and whose leaves can clog your gutters — often the first step in curing a wet basement.

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robberBertold Werkmann/Shutterstock

Static Lights

Many homeowners’ first response to home security is installing outdoor lighting. They turn on the lights at the end of the day, or maybe install a timer or light sensor so that the lights come on automatically at night. While those do light up your yard, it also creates dense pockets of shadows that make for great hiding spots.

A much better solution is to install motion sensors. You’ll still have the illumination, but it will surprise anyone prowling around the home, and surprises scare most intruders away. Plus, the motion sensors mean the lights will be used less often, leading to lower electrical bills and longer-lasting light bulbs. For further information, check out this article on choosing and installing a motion sensor light.

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theif sdecoret/Shutterstock

Visible Valuables

Besides visibility outside your home, give some thought to what can be seen inside your home as well. Many homeowners forget that windows are a two-way portal: Just as you can see out of them, a potential intruder can see in.

If you have especially valuable items, consider whether they can be seen from a ground-floor window, such as first-floor bedrooms where jewelry or other items might be left on dressers. Some large items like televisions are difficult to position so they won’t be visible from a window. In that case, pull the shades or blinds shut in the evening. Similarly, give a little thought to putting away valuables by either tucking them out of sight or in a dedicated secret hideaway.

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Packaging Left by the Curb

In many neighborhoods, trash and recycling is collected curbside. If you have packaging from an expensive item such as a television or laptop, don’t just set the empty box by the curb. That’s practically a yard sign announcing there’s an expensive new item in the home.

Luckily, the solution is simple. Take a utility knife, cut the packaging into smaller pieces and stack it in a way that doesn’t display what it once held. (Bonus tip: When you’ve dulled that utility blade, here’s a DIY blade dump to protect your fingers while taking out the trash!)

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alarmESB Professional/Shutterstock

Alarm System Line of Sight

Alarm systems are wonderful tools, but sometimes the installation crews don’t guide customers enough during installation. Too often, crews install the control pad where it can be seen from a first floor window. That allows potential thieves to peer in and see whether the system is activated. That alarm company yard sign won’t mean much if they know the system off, especially at night when the green or red status light is visible in a darkened home. Check out this collection of home security tips including inexpensive, easy-to-install solutions.

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phoneVasin Lee/Shutterstock

Social Media Travel Posts

Social media is a fantastic tool, great for staying in touch with friends and sharing travel experiences and photos … after your trip is over.

Remember that social media is built to be public, like talking to a crowd with a megaphone. Don’t share travel plans unless you’re comfortable with the entire social media community knowing. Because social media accounts default to a public setting, criminals simply search for keywords like trip, travel, vacation and out of town to learn the dates and times people will be away.

To avoid this, wait until after your trip to share information about your trip! If you do need to let people know you’ll be out of town, ensure that your post is marked as private on that social media platform. By limiting its audience and searchability, you can make sharing your schedule much more secure.

Check out this article for more tips on how to use social media safely.

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Mail Pileups

Few things advertise an absent homeowner like piled-up mail and newspapers. Criminals don’t even need to slow down their vehicle to spot an overflowing mailbox or newspapers scattered on a porch.

To avoid this, contact your local post office or newspaper and suspend service while you are away. Because these services sometimes miss a day or take a little bit of time to cease delivery, it’s also a good idea to ask a friend or neighbor to swing by and collect any mail or newspapers that accumulate while you’re away.

A little activity around the front of the home will make it look occupied as well. It’s also a good idea to protect your mail with a security mailbox — just one of these 35 things burglars don’t want you to know.

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Ladder Access

You may have noticed most of these tips have addressed first-floor issues. That’s because it’s much more difficult and high-risk for burglars to bring a ladder with them on a break-in. However, some homeowners make it easy on the bad guys by providing simple access to their second floor.

Don’t leave ladders lying around the yard where they can be easily seen by prowlers. Most burglars are creatures of opportunity, and will never consider a second floor entry unless you make it easy for them by leaving a ladder on hand. Instead, store your ladder safely away. Here’s some tips for ladder storage, along with 17 other clever ideas for hard-to-store stuff!

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Assuming Daytime is Safe

Most people associate break-ins with the nighttime. While it’s true that burglars appreciate the cover of darkness, what they really appreciate is an empty house. And at night, people are more likely to be at home. Burglars are far more likely to target homes when everyone is at school and work!

Since most break-ins occur during the day, take the appropriate measures. Turn on your alarm system when you’re gone, keep an eye out for suspicious activity, and make sure you close and lock all doors and windows. This applies whether you’re going to work, school or just running errands. Use factory-installed window and door locks, or use one of these simple DIY window locks to keep your home safe.