14 Things Home Security Experts Never Do in Their Own Homes
An alarm system isn't enough. If you're making any of these security mistakes, experts say that your home is at risk for a break-in.
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Taking the Right Safety Precautions
Keeping your home secure is more than a matter of simply installing a home security system. While having an alarm and camera can help to deter burglars, nothing is foolproof and you still need to be vigilant. The thing is, many people don’t realize that they’re putting their safety at risk every day by making some very common mistakes. Here’s what top security experts never do in their own homes—and you shouldn’t either.
They Never Leave the Back Door Open
It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security, especially when you live in a “safe” neighborhood. But no matter where you live, never leave the back door open—ever. Nope, not even for house cleaners or other service people like dog walkers who you know are coming by shortly. “You might never have a breach, but if anyone ever wandered into your yard, you don’t want to hand them entrance to your home,” says Mitchell Klein, executive director of the Z-Wave Alliance.
They Never Hide a Key Outside
While hiding a key somewhere outside sounds like a good idea for workers who need to get in or for those times when you get locked out, it isn’t. Why? Burglars will be looking for your not-so-secret hiding spot—like under the mat and in an obviously fake rock in your flower beds, says Klein, as well as in these other common spots. Instead, use technology to your advantage. Gabe Tuner of Security.org suggests using a smart lock that has temporary passcode capability as an alternative.
They Never Share Security System Passcodes
It’s best to keep mum on your security-system passcodes, even if you trust the person you’re giving it to, says Klein. The one exception to this rule is if your system allows you to set up a temporary code that automatically expires. “Smart home security apps make this easier to do nowadays,” he says. If that isn’t possible, he suggests changing the code after the person has used it.
They Never Share Vacation Photos on Social Media While They’re Away
It might be tempting to share all of those special moments as they happen, but it isn’t the smartest idea if you want to keep your home as safe as possible. Why? You’re literally announcing that you’re away and that you’ve left your home unattended. “Wait until you are home to share pictures and memories from your adventure,” recommends Klein.
They Never Let Mail or Newspapers Pile Up
Packages and piles of papers are a clear indication to burglars that you aren’t home. “If you don’t have anyone who can go by to pick them up, put a hold on them at the post office,” advises Klein. “This is an easy solution that saves a lot of hassle and can protect your home from potential intruders looking for clues of a vacant home.”
They Never Forget to Enable the Alarm
Louis Wood of Defend It Yourself says he’s seen dozens of people fall victim to this easy mistake. “Do not leave your house without turning on your alarm, even for a quick trip to the grocery store,” he says. “We have had many customers get robbed [because] they simply hadn’t armed their system. Make sure you get in the habit of arming your alarm system every time you leave the home for any reason.”
They Never Leave Doors or Windows Unlocked
According to Turner, most burglars break in through unlocked doors or windows. That’s right: They don’t even have to go through the trouble of breaking anything during the break-in because you’ve essentially invited them in. Regardless of the other safety precautions, you take in your home, don’t miss this simple one. “Even though I have entry, motion, and glass-break sensors to alert me of activity, I still don’t want to make it easier for burglars to enter my home,” says Turner. Doing a quick check every time you leave a room, or before you go out, can solve this problem.
They Never Leave the Lights On or Off All the Time
No one leaves lights on or off all of the time, yet many people think that getting in the habit of doing these things makes their home more secure. Instead, says Turner, this can make you appear as if you aren’t home, as well as waste electricity and run up your bill.
A better idea? Using a smart light system. Rupert Pople, founder of Your Smart Home Guide, recommends a multi-user geofencing formula that tracks the user’s locations and mimics the presence of someone being home. “If you go away, especially for an extended period of time, it can be easy to notice that someone isn’t there, so a formula is essential,” Pople explains. “Going one step further, Philips Hue has a TV mimicking formula, which uses a smart light that produces randomized light flickering that seems just like a TV is on. This works best when the curtains are closed.”
They Never Have an Address Sign That Is Difficult to Spot
If you have a break-in or other emergency, you want responders to find you as fast as possible. “If there’s an emergency and I need an ambulance, the police, or the fire department, I want them to be able to find my home easily,” says Turner. “That’s why I have a reflective, prominent address sign for visibility throughout the day and night.”
They Never Install a Security Sign That Matches Their System
Turner suggests a great way to thwart criminals: Trick them at their own game. “While I want to communicate to burglars that I have a security system, I don’t want to give away exactly what they’re up against,” he says. “That’s why I always have a yard sign and window decals of a security system that’s not my own—to throw burglars off their track.”
They Never Have Front Doors Made of Glass
Stephany Smith of Fantastic Handyman suggests thinking before you renovate. “If you want to stay away from the burglars’ eyes, don’t opt for decorative windows on doors,” she says. “Even if they can boost your home’s curb appeal, that glass can be easily shattered.” Instead, Smith recommends installing heavy steel or metal front and garage doors. “If you still have the means to fit a front door with glass, secure it with reinforced glass,” she advises. “It’s harder to break.”
They Never Put Security Alarms Near the Front Door
While installing a control pad in a noticeable location seems logical and convenient, Smith says it’s a bad idea. “Don’t be tempted to mount it on or next to your front door. Instead, the best spot for the control pad is in a hidden area—master bedroom, hallway, back, or side door,” she explains. “Another great idea is to install a few keypads at different places with a PIN code that’s hard to crack.”
They Never Keep Valuables In the Open
You don’t want to tempt anyone who’s thinking of robbing you, says Laura Schmitz, a Frontpoint Home Security specialist. “If you own quality televisions, computers, bikes, or other large valuables, keep them out of eyesight from the window,” she advises. “Store smaller valuables in a password-protected safe.” Is a burglar casing your house right now? It’s possible.
They Never Make it Obvious They Live Alone
You’re an easier target when you live alone, so it’s best not to advertise it. How? Schmitz suggests always keeping a few lights on in multiple areas of your home. And if someone comes to your door, she recommends pretending that someone else is with you. “Call out, ‘I’ll get it!’ when answering the door to give the appearance that someone is with you,” she says.