35 Common Home Security Mistakes

Updated: May 25, 2024

These not-so-obvious indicators will make your home a target for thieves.

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Couple taking a selfie holding keys to their new house
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Posting Pictures of Your Keys Online

It’s a common photo-op for new homeowners. Post a picture of you with your new set of keys in front of your new home. This practice is also popular among thieves. There are apps and computer programs that can zero in on a picture of a key and easily replicate it. This puts your home security at risk. What’s more, all a would-be thief needs to do is upload that information to a key-cutting service and they can order a duplicate key to your home’s door lock.

No one ever expects to get robbed, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Your home is full of secret hiding spots for valuables that thieves will never look at.

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Hispanic man rolling garbage can
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Leaving Trash Visible in Garbage Cans

Setting out the box from your new 60-inch HDTV or high-end gaming console on the curb is basically advertising the fact that those items are in your home. As electronics are the second thing burglars go for (cash is number one), this makes your home an attractive target, according to an article by A Secure Life. So one tip to keep homes safe from burglars would be to buy a cheap box cutter and invest the 30 seconds it takes to break down large boxes and bundle them together so their labels can’t be seen. Plus, your garbage man will thank you!

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A residential street
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Sometimes Just Living on Your Street

Homes in high-visibility places, like on corner lots, are far less likely to be broken into. There are simply too many potential ways to be seen. But townhomes, houses in the middle of the block, or houses in a cul-de-sac are much better targets. This is especially true if your property backs up to a forest, open lot, or other unguarded area. The trick, according to Secure Life, is to make your house as difficult as possible to access. This means installing high fences and lots of lighting. But if you’re planning a trip and will be going away for a while, then try these ways to prevent garage break-ins or fool proof methods to trick burglars into thinking you’re at home.

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smiling family on vacation take a group selfie
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Posting Vacation Pics

Forty percent of people admit posting pics while out of town, according to Nationwide. And while putting your vacation pictures online might get you a lot of likes, it also notifies your friends and acquaintances that you’re now far from home, making your house a prime target for anyone with ill intentions or just an opportunistic streak. Instead, make sure your social media profiles aren’t public, and wait to post your beautiful beach selfies until you get home.

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white mailbox open and overflowing with mail
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It takes two minutes online or on the phone to put a hold on your mail while you’re gone and subvert the number one signal burglars look for: an overflowing porch or mailbox.

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white house with front porch exterior landscaping
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Your Yard Gives a Lot of Clues

Love those flowers. That says 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.

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newspapers piling up on the front steps of a home
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Letting Newspapers and Flyers Build Up

Yes, burglars really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And they might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.

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door knob on the exterior of a home
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Not Locking the Door

According to SafeGuardTheWorld, a professional preventative security company, around 30 percent of burglaries involve a burglar entering through an unlocked door. It seems silly to have to say it but people forget to lock the door sometimes and it becomes ripe for the picking.

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open window on a brick house
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Leaving a Window Cracked

You might want to keep the house cool and save some money by not running the air conditioning but you’re setting your home up as a target even if the window is left open a crack.

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two adirondack chairs positioned in the backyard; lush green lawn on a sunny day
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Having a Wide Open Backyard

A backyard without a fence or one that opens up to a wooded area is prime for burglars to target. It’s relatively easy to move in and out of, plus the woods will make an escape easier.

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Keeping a Window A/C Unit

Window units are great at cooling smaller spaces but they’re also great for thieves to knock out of the way and grab any loot inside a home.

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modern home from the front lawn; able to see into front room through the windows
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Leaving Expensive Stuff in Sight

It should go without saying but anything of value shouldn’t be left in view from the outside. Burglars will often case a house before breaking in and if your home has valuable items out, the likelihood of it getting stolen just went up. Here’s what you should do if someone breaks into your home.

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Carriage house garage doors that are not fully closed
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Forgetting to Lock the Garage Door

Be sure to lock each garage door, including the one that leads to the backyard because thieves will use any entry point to gain access.

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hands retrieving a hidden key from under a mat

Leave Spare Keys in Obvious Places

You might to consult this list of obvious hiding places before deciding where to keep a spare key because burglars are definitely going to check the cliche spots. Instead try these secret hiding places for spare keys and other valuables.

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hand adjusting the blinds on a window
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Forgetting to Keep Up With Appearances

If you normally leave your blinds or drapes open during the day and close them the day you leave for vacation, that could be a calling card for burglars that no one is home. “I recommend a mix of open, partially open, and close,” says Emily Long, safety expert at SafeWise. “Open blinds that provide full views of TVs, computers, and other valuables can tempt burglars, while partially open blinds provide privacy and security as well as let interior light out, giving the illusion that you are home.”

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Dog popping head out of doggie door; German pointer looking outside, through doggie door in red door.
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Leaving an Opening Through the Dog Door

When burglars can’t get in through human entrances to your house, they may try to get in through the animal entrances. Robert Sollars, security expert and creator of robertdsollars.com, knows this all too well. “There are innumerable instances of doors being secured but the burglar coming in through the kitty door,” he advises. “Not all burglars are 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. They can slither through those openings as well as a snake.” One of the burglaries Nancy Gretzinger experienced was committed in this way. “They came in a medium-small doggie door,” she said. So, pet owners, keep your pet doors secure as well.

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snow boots in the entryway of home

Leaving Fresh 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.

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Steps Descending to Living Room
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Glass Doors are Thieves’ Best Friends

If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don’t let your alarm company install the control pad where a burglar can see if it’s set. That makes it too easy. Glass doors will rob you in energy costs, too.

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Vertical Blinds
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Close Your Blinds

Burglars love looking in your windows. They’re looking for signs that you’re home or gaming systems they’d like. Burglars will drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick their targets.

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Domestic locked door
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Forgetting to Secure Patio Doors

Patio door locks are easy to pick. Placing a heavy-duty stick in the door track will bar the door closed, but it looks crude and it’s inconvenient to remove every time you want to open the door. Fortunately, there’s a better way to get the security you need.

Andersen Corp.’s auxiliary foot lock fastens along the bottom of the door and has a bolt that fits into a grommet to hold the door secure. A similar lock, the Door Guardian attaches at the top of the door. Both locks allow the door to open 3 in. without compromising security. Installation takes about 10 minutes. Screw the bracket containing the pin to the door, then drill holes and insert grommets in the track for the pin to slide into.

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Garage Door Opener
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Keeping the Clicker in the Car

A thief who breaks into your car can grab the remote for easy access to your garage. This isn’t just a problem when your car is parked in the driveway; the registration card in your glove box gives a crook your address.

So get rid of the remote on your visor and buy a keychain remote. You can easily take it with you every time you leave the car. Home centers stock only a small selection of remotes, but you’ll find more online. Start your search by typing in the brand of your opener, followed by “remote.”

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Wilting purple daisies in mason jar
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Flowers Start to Wilt

While your friends and neighbors can pick up the mail, grab the paper, create tracks in the snow, etc. Your flowers might get overlooked. A thief in the area will wise up to what’s going on when they spot a few wilted flowers.

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overgrown lawn

Lawn Hasn’t Been Mowed For a While

If you have someone routinely mow your lawn you don’t have to worry about it overgrowing while your on vacation but if you think you can get away with it for a long time, think again. Thieves will notice just as quickly as your neighbors what an eyesore your lawn has become. The neighbors might talk about it with each other but a thief is going to use it as an excuse to check in on the rest of your house.

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lamp through a window at night
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Leaving the House Dim

Some people want to leave a dim light on while they’re away on vacation as a deterrent to break-ins. The debate rages on whether it’s better to leave lights on or off but one thing’s for sure, those dim lights at night are going to be dim during the day and any smart burglar will notice that.

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Overgrown bushes near the house
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Bushes Are Overgrown

Overgrown bushes leave a lot of hiding spots for burglars who are planning a heist. It might be a pain to trim them back but it’ll make your yard look better and improve security.

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shutterstock_634308593 amazon boxes packages
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Home Business

If you have a home business there are additional precautions to take since there will be an additional accumulation of assets, cash might be on hand, there might not be a safe or thousands of dollars of product might be sitting in a garage. A thief will spot a home business that does or doesn’t have signage.

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Four empty bar stool chairs with wooden seats and metal foot near a white concrete bar counter
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Leaving Stools in the Backyard

Outdoor stools make reaching windows a lot easier for would-be thieves.

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Table Top Radio
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Leaving Radio On

Just like with leaving the lights dimmed, leaving a radio on or even on a timer isn’t going to deter a thief. It might even attract them if the radio plays non-stop. Many thieves still knock on the door to make sure no one is home before they enter a house.

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keychain on a hook
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Don’t Keep Keys on a Hook Next to the Door

Keys in that close of proximity to a window is a terrible idea because that will give a burglar access to all sorts of goodies in addition to what’s in the house.

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Group Of Friends Cooking On BBQ In Courtyard
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Having Neighbors Over and Neighbors’ Friends

Word can get out quickly who’s got what in a house. It might not be whoever was in the house is a burglar but word could get down to a person looking for some quick cash. If you like to have people over to watch big games, here are some great tips on how to fit everyone in so it’s not claustrophobic.

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Tall ladder leaning on house
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Put Tools Away

Don’t leave ladders next to the shed or next to the garage, don’t make the burglars job easier. Always bring them back into the garage or shed at the end of the night.

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four newspapers piled up
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Obituaries in the Paper

A poster on Reddit mentioned that their deceased grandfather’s home got burglarized the day of the grandfather’s funeral. It might be helpful to have someone keep an eye on the house.

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house on the corner of the street
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Corner House

It might not seem obvious to most homeowners, but a house with one neighbor is a lot more attractive to a burglar than a house with two.

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Chambermaid opening curtains of window in hotel room
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Hired Help

A housecleaner or tradesman could be giving out information about your place.

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Thief with a bar of iron in the hand to open a door
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Not Doing Anything After a Burglary in the Area

Burglars often return to the same area after the initial burglary. Stay aware of what activity is happening in your neighborhood.