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13 Sneaky Ways FBI Agents Protect Their Homes

Who better to get advice on home protection than FBI agents who have studied and observed the minds of criminals? Even better? These home security tips are totally doable!

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Know your neighborhood

"Oftentimes, crime can be discouraged by the mere presence of an alert neighbor," says Douglas Kane, president of Risk Control Strategies and a 27-year veteran of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and expert in criminal investigations, strategic planning, crisis management, and tactical leadership. When you're familiar with your neighborhood, you're more likely to notice strangers or unfamiliar vehicles. "If something appears suspicious call the police. If a vehicle is repeatedly seen in the neighborhood, copy down the license plate and alert authorities," advises Kane. Outsmart burglars with these safe home security tips.

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Zip it

We know you're psyched about your trip to Italy, but zip it when it comes to sharing the details of your vacation with social media, shopkeepers, or tradesmen. "There is no reason to needlessly alert others when the house will be unoccupied," says Kane. "While your favorite barista may not rob you blind while you're away, it doesn't mean a person standing in line behind you won't pick up on the details without your realizing it, or your barista could talk about the trip to other people, unknowingly giving the scoop to a thief who will seize the opportunity of an empty house." This applies to sharing work schedules or even a weekend getaway. Don't forget to do these things before you leave for vacation.

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How well do you know your dog walker?

"It is important you research anyone that will have access to your home when you are away for any period of time," says Kane. "Be sure you have conducted a background check on anyone who has access to your property." This could include vendors, a house sitter, nanny, dog walker, or a housekeeper. "There have been many situations where homeowners have been robbed or vandalized by individuals they trusted and later realized they didn't even know their complete name or where they lived," says Kane.

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Smart alarms

Security systems are more affordable and simpler to use these days. Kane recommends an alarm system with glass break and motion detection technology. Smartphone apps make it even easier to monitor, arm, and disarm devices remotely. "With the ease of use, individuals tend to utilize the device more and benefit from the additional layer of security which is a proven deterrent," says Kane. Monitoring systems for housing components like lights, thermostats, and even sump pumps all make it easier to keep your eyes on things while you are away. Find out the 21 secrets burglars won't tell you.

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Smile, you're on camera

Kane also suggests installing a perimeter camera system to cover all access points of your home. Luckily, you don't have to shell out thousands to get quality facial recognition. "Currently, you can buy a high definition two-megapixel bullet camera, with infrared for night viewing for several hundred dollars. These entry-level cameras will give you better facial recognition than older cameras that originally were in excess of $1,500 apiece," says Kane. These are the best reviewed home security cameras.

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A shinning deterrent

And you thought only cockroaches scattered when the lights come on. "You cannot underestimate the deterrent effect of motion-activated lighting," says Kane. Kane says exterior and perimeter motion-activated lighting is a low-cost and efficient security measure that will alert the homeowner and scare off an intruder. That being said, you're more likely to be robbed at this time of the day, and night lights may not help you then.

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Fortify your doors

Solid wood, metal, and fiberglass doors at the front and rear entries of your home are good, but if they are in bad shape, they won't help much. "The easiest way for a predator to enter your home is through a weak door or unsecured window," says Steve Kardian a 30-year law enforcement officer and FBI defense tactics instructor and author of The New Super Power for Women. Layer on security with bump-proof/pick proof locks and use 3-inch screws on the strike plate that burrows deep into the door frame, using a deep box strike plate," says Kardian. You'll especially want to do this if you notice any of the 13 sneaky signs your house is being watched.

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Strengthen your windows

For windows, the most secure ones are acrylic or poly carbonate, says Kardian. He also suggests adding more security by installing 12 mil security film over the windows and sliding glass doors. The security films give windows added resistance from breakage. Place a wood or metal dowel that fits snugly on the sliding glass door track to keep the door from sliding open even if the door is unlocked.

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Don't forget about the garage

Smart security measures should be taken into consideration whether you have a detached or attached garage. "The two most important tips for securing the attached garage door is the two-point vulnerability: the windows and doors of the garage. They need to be secured just like your exterior doors and windows, and alarms can be installed on the garage door and windows," says Kardian. An electronic garage door opener allows you to stay safe in your car while you drive into the garage. Be sure to immediately close the door before exiting the vehicle. "Never leave your garage door open when you leave home, it's a sure sign no one is home and always lock the garage entry door," says Kardian. You should also never leave these items in your car.

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Get the right safe for your valuables

You may think a small household safe is a secure way to store your cherished valuables, but it's actually a convenient way for a thief to carry out all the valuables in one step. "A safe has to be either installed in concrete, hidden from sight in an undetectable location, or be of the size and weight that it can't be removed without great difficulty," says Kane.

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Safe room

"Designate a room as a safe room that the family can go to in the event of an emergency like a home invasion or burglary," recommends Kardian. "The safe room can be an elaborate, reinforced walk-in closet or a bathroom with a solid door and good lock. A door security bar can be purchased for $25. A prepaid cell phone that stays in the safe room allows you to call for help if you leave your cell phone behind. Another device to keep in the safe room is the Tigerlight D.A.D. (Defense Alert Device). "The reason I like the D.A.D. is that you can silently send an emergency GPS alert to your contact list including your family. It has a crowd alert that will notify anyone within one mile of your location that you are in danger. It also has a built-in flashlight, police/military-grade pepper spray, superior technology, and it's legal in all 50 states," says Kardian. You can also keep some of your valuables there, to avoid leaving them in the 10 hiding spots burglars always look first.

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Defensive landscaping

A landscaped yard can have a dual-purpose: one for beauty and one for creating a defensive barrier. "Prickly or spiny plants, such as various types of rose bushes and evergreens, can be used to create a hedge that can become an impenetrable barrier. They can also be trained to climb along an existing wall or fence to deter an intruder from climbing," notes Kane. Placing these types of plants near doors and windows will prevent intruders from hiding close to your home.

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Anybody home?

Would-be intruders will think you're home with inexpensive technology and common sense. Light switches are effective, but Kane suggests making the lights similar to how daily and evening lighting may look like by programming them so they turn on and off multiple times during the day and night. A radio, programmed to talk radio, is another deterrent that gives the impression someone is home as well. Finally, don't stop services or deliveries. Let your friends or neighbors handle these matters while you are away because the fewer people that know you are away, the safer your house will be. You need to make sure you're being smart when you're away from home too. These tricks to outsmart criminals will keep you safe from theft wherever you go.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest