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35 Things Burglars Don’t Want You to Know

Protect your house by knowing what burglars are looking at

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cleaner cleaning dirty carpetAndrey_Popov/Shutterstock

I’ll Look Familiar

Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator. (Check out these 13 inexpensive ways to theft-proof your home)

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Viio

Don’t Let Me Use Your Bathroom

Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier. Check out clever bathroom storage tips to free up some room.

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white house with front porch exterior landscapingV J Matthew/Shutterstock

Your Yard Gives Us a Lot of Clues

Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste … and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have. By the way, this is the most common time for burglaries–and it’s not at night.

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mailboxMemoryMan/Shutterstock

We Know When You’re Away for a Long Time

Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it. Check out these 12 unusual things postal carriers see every day.

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shutterstock_571822381 winter snow boots in entrywaymacondo/Shutterstock

Create Tracks in the Snow

If it snows while you’re out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway. Here’s another way to install a reliable security system in just one day. DIY home security systems will help to protect your home and your family.

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security alarmsGrzegorz_P/Shutterstock

Glass Doors are Our Best Friends

If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don’t let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it’s set. That makes it too easy. Glass doors will rob you in energy costs, too. See how to save money by better insulating a patio door.

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white room large glass windowsAntoha713/Shutterstock

We Target Certain Windows

A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom and your jewelry. It’s not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there, too. While you’re at it, you should memorize these tricks to outsmart criminals, too.

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rain umbrellaPinkomelet/Shutterstock

We Aren’t Scared of a Little Rain

It’s raining, you’re fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door—understandable. But understand this: I don’t take a day off because of bad weather.

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door to door salesman knock home improvement scamPhotographee.eu/Shutterstock

We Try to Come Off as Polite

I always knock first. If you answer, I’ll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don’t take me up on it.)

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dresser drawerJtairat/Shutterstock

We Know You Hide Things in Your Drawers

Do you really think I won’t look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet. Word of advice: Find better hiding places for your valuables.

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kids toy roomAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

We Don’t Want to Deal with All of Your Kids Toys

Here’s a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids’ rooms. You might not want to go in there either if toys are strewn about. Take care of a messy kids’ room with these awesome storage ideas for toys.

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safe lockFreedom-Studio/Shutterstock

Bolt Down Your Safe

You’re right: I won’t have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it’s not bolted down, I’ll take it with me. You might think your hiding spot is safe, but burglars know your tricks. Learn the 10 hiding spots burglars always look first.

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smart tvEarly Spring/Shutterstock

We Don’t Like TVs

A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you’re reluctant to leave your TV on while you’re out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television. (Find it at faketv.com.) Criminals aren’t just in your home, though–they’re also online and on the phone.

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door to door salesman boss clipboardMicolas/Shutterstock

I Won’t Look Like a Burglar

Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.

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FH10JUN_509_56_M01 french bulldog in doggy doorPhoto: Courtesy of PetSafe

It Pays to Have a Dog

The two things I hate most: Loud dogs and nosy neighbors. (By the way, if you’re ever out at a restaurant or bar, here’s how to practically theft-proof your home.)

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Exterior house windowsKaramysh/Shutterstock

I’m not Afraid to Break a Window

I’ll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he’ll stop what he’s doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn’t hear it again, he’ll just go back to what he was doing. It’s human nature. See how magnets can provide home security.

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Security alamBen-Bryant/Shutterstock

Always Set Your Alarm

Your alarm only works if it’s on. I’m not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it? (Your phone is an easy gateway for criminals to access your personal information, too. Here’s how to keep your phone and private information safe.)

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Vertical BlindsSomsak Sarabua/Shutterstock

Close Your Blinds

I love looking in your windows. I’m looking for signs that you’re home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I’d like. I’ll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets. Hopefully you have a friendly neighbor but beware of the things they aren’t telling you.

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shutterstock_391462930 phone textingKite_rin/Shutterstock

Don’t Give Updates on Social Media

Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It’s easier than you think to look up your address.

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bedroom open windowPhotographee.eu/Shutterstock

Close Your Windows When You’re Not Home

Lock your windows. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it’s an invitation. Close your blinds while you’re at it because you’ll save a bundle on cooling costs.

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Open door to gardenDmitri-Ma/Shutterstock

Remember to Lock Your Door

If you don’t answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in. (Speaking of crime and disaster, you won’t believe how unlucky these homeowners were.)

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Money Under the mattress burglar hiding spotMtsyri/Shutterstock

They Check Under the Mattress

Burglars will make a beeline to the room with the most valuables. “The good stop is always going to be in the master bedroom,” says Chris McGoey, CPP, CSP, CAM, president of McGoey Security Consulting. “That’s where you have your clothes, your jewelry, your extra cash, your weapons, your prescriptions—anything of value.” Hiding things under the mattress is one of the oldest tricks in the book, so a thief will likely check there for hidden treasures, he says. Don’t miss these 20 secret hiding places that burglars won’t think to look.

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closetB.Forenius/Shutterstock

They Make a Beeline to the Bedroom Closet

A thief might rummage through your entire closet—pockets and all—looking for cash or other valuables. If you do decide to store valuables in your closet, leave them in a box purposely mislabeled with a boring name (think: “college textbooks 1980” or “baby clothes”) to keep sticky fingers out, suggests McGoey. Don’t miss these 12 awesome closet storage hacks.

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medicine cabinet pillsDavid Smart/Shutterstock

They Raid the Medicine Cabinet

Crooks want to make quick cash off your belongings, so they’ll be sure to browse your medicine cabinet for prescription pills they can sell. The pills might not be a concern because you can get a refill easily, but be careful what you store nearby. “You want to avoid putting anything of significant value around medication of any kind,” says Robert Siciliano, CSP, security analyst with Hotspot Shield. For instance, using an old pill container as a hiding spot for jewels could actually make them a target. See a medicine cabinet with hidden compartments that will throw burglars off.

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freezer frozen foodYulia Mazurkevych/Shutterstock

Forget the Freezer

If you’ve thought of the freezer as a sneaky hiding spot, chances are a robber has, too. A burglar won’t rummage through your entire stack of frozen peas and fish sticks, but if you leave your treasures in something out-of-place, such as a sock, the thief will be onto you. “If you’re going to put something in the freezer, you want to put it in with something that looks legit, like wrapping it in a bag that used to have blueberries in it,” says Siciliano. Use the same rule of thumb if hiding anything in a pantry. Just give a loved one a heads up so that if anything happens, your valuables won’t be trashed with the rest of your food. Just make sure your freezer isn’t leaking.

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office desk drawers pencilsSteve Cukrov/Shutterstock

They Rummage Through Office Drawers

Think twice before stashing important papers like birth certificates or passports in your office drawers. “People want to be convenient. They have a file labeled,” says McGoey. Unfortunately, that also means you’re leading burglars straight to everything they need to steal your identity. Use a locked drawer to keep sensitive data safe, recommends Siciliano. Use these tips to stop thieves in their tracks.

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flower vaseMarina Tatarenko/Shutterstock

No Vase Goes Unsearched

An empty vase could act as a hiding place for valuables, but swindlers are onto your tricks. They’ll likely tip the vase over or even break it, hoping to find goods inside. “Have something additional in it, like flowers, that would obscure somebody looking in it,” he says. They’ll also be less likely to empty your vase if it means dropping flowers all over the floor. Learn more about how to avoid being an easy target for criminals.

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Liquor alcohol cabinetMarcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock

They’ll Swipe the Liquor Cabinet

A liquor cabinet might not seem like an obvious spot for thieves to hunt for valuables, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe. “It’s a target for kids looking for [alcohol],” says Siciliano. You might not be devastated if your whiskey goes missing, but you don’t want to lose an heirloom along with it. Don’t miss these other 13 security tips that could protect your home from a break-in.

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suitcase storage clothes rolled upSvetlana Cherruty/Shutterstock

Switch the Suitcase

Your luggage might seem like a waste of valuable storage space when you’re not traveling, but don’t keep anything irreplaceable inside. “Suitcases are common things people use as a safe even though it’s not a safe,” says McGoey. Criminals will open a suitcase up if they find one in your closet, he says. Here is the ultimate guide for secret hiding places in your home.

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wirelssorhardwire_393432901_01 home security systemplantic/Shutterstock

Alarm System Aren’t the Most Reliable

That said, alarm systems are actually not very good at catching crooks. One study found that police were more likely to catch burglars in the act at locations that don’t have alarms — because when there’s no alarm, officers are usually responding to the report of an eyewitness, which is far more reliable. Why’s that? Because 80 to 95 percent of all alarms nationwide are false alarms. Many large police departments won’t even respond to your alarm unless it’s verified by sound, video, a private security guard, or an eyewitness. Your city may also fine you for repeat false alarms. Check out these 13 inexpensive ways to theft-proof your home.

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police cop car the lawSchmidt Alex/Shutterstock

The Police Don’t Respond Right Away

Police response times are slow, and burglars know it. In many large cities, it can take police 30 minutes to an hour to respond to an alarm call, according to the New York Times. Even in small towns, it typically takes 7 to 8 minutes for authorities to arrive. By then, a snatch-and-go burglar will be long gone. (A siren will limit how long a burglar stays in your home, however.)

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shutterstock_520117405 paint white picket fence curb appeal homeArtazum/Shutterstock

Fences Can Do More Harm Than Good

Your 5-foot privacy fence may shield your backyard from your neighbors, but it also offers cover to a burglar breaking in. A U.S. Dept. of Justice study noted that burglars are more likely to target homes that have high fences and walls to shield them. Get a maintenance-free fence that doesn’t provide much cover for burglars.

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Your Garage is a Favorite Entry Point

A flimsy old wooden garage entry door has weak center panels that can easily be kicked in, making it a favorite target for thieves. Adding a dead bolt won’t solve that problem. A down-and-dirty way to beef up the door is to add a 1/2-in. plywood reinforcement panel and then bar it with 2x4s placed in bar-holder brackets.

Cut the plywood to fit over the door’s center section (make sure it covers the windows but doesn’t cover the door handle). Fasten it to the door with drywall screws.

Test-fit a bracket and 2×4 against the door. Measure how far the bracket is from the wall, then cut filler strips that distance and install them. Fasten the brackets in place by drilling 1/4-in. pilot holes and inserting 3/8 x 3-in. lag screws. Place the 2x4s in the brackets.

Check out more garage security tips here.

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Family Handyman

Protect Your Mail

Mail theft is a growing problem, since unsecured mailboxes are easy targets. One sure way to keep thieves from stealing your mail—checks, credit card offers, personal information—is to use a security mailbox. Once the mail is dropped in, you need a key to open the box. Locking Wall Mailbox is one manufacturer. Just screw it to the wall or post as you would a standard mailbox.

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Family Handyman

Put Motion Detector Lighting Anywhere

Put motion detector lighting anywhere. Motion detector lights are a proven crime deterrent, and standard hard-wired models cost as little as $15. If running a power supply would be difficult, buy ones that run on solar power. The downside is the cost. A Heath Zenith model shown here (the SL-7001) costs $80 (heath-zenith.com).

Sources: Convicted burglars in North Carolina, Oregon, California, and Kentucky; security consultant Chris McGoey, who runs crimedoctor.comand Richard T. Wright, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who interviewed 105 burglars for his book Burglars on the Job. An anonymous home security system installer in Louisville, Kentucky.; David DeMille, a security expert with ASecureLife.com, a home security website; Chad Laurans, CEO of SimpliSafe; Sgt. Tim Downes, a sergeant who specializes in burglaries in Clearwater Florida.; and Joseph Kuhns, PH.d. professor of criminal justice at UNC Charlotte who has surveyed convicted burglars