Are you unwittingly putting out the welcome mat for would-be burglars? If you are planning to leave home for the holidays, be sure not to make a few telltale mistakes that announce your absence to a select group of ne'er-do-wells.
1. Announcing your travel plans on social media. You are a-tweeting and a-twitting about your impending junket to spend the holidays a few states away. Your Facebook status updates are counting down the days to your flight's departure. You even go so far as to post a picture of the flight departure board at the airport. Upon arrival in the new locale, you "checked into" the new location. Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of social media now knows your itinerary and whereabouts, which do not include your deserted home.
Tip: Share details of your vacation after you return.
2. Letting no-goodniks do some window-shopping in your home. Perhaps the biggest mistake a homeowner can make is leaving the blinds up and curtains open. The police department for the City of Greenville warns that open blinds and curtains may cause would-be burglars to pay close attention to your home. If they see something inside they like, they might come back. When they notice that there is no activity in the home, you may return from your holiday travels to find the home ransacked.
Tip: If you live in a high-crime area or are uneasy about recent stranger sightings in the neighborhood, call the police department's non-emergency number and ask for extra patrols on your street. Depending on the police department and city, this is a complimentary service offered to local residents.
3. Having automatic timers (predictably) turn on and off appliances. The living room lamp goes on at 6:30 p.m. and turns off at 10 p.m. The same is true for the kitchen light. Sprinklers come on -- whether it rains or not -- at 6 a.m. There is never a car in the driveway. After a couple of days, anyone watching your home closely will know that you are out of town.
Tip: Use several timers with multiple time zones. I am a big fan of these timers. Lights go on and off for brief or long periods. This may happen in the early evening, the late night, or in the early morning hours. If you have multiple timers like this, they can create the effect that someone is moving through the house and turning on and off the lights in the process.
4. Putting out the trash way before pick-up day. Trash day is on Wednesday, but you put out the trash on Saturday. With your flight leaving Sunday, you do not want to miss trash pick-up day. After all, the box from the new microwave and the extensive wrapping from the new entertainment center take up quite a bit of space in your backyard. Potential burglars are heartened to know that a) you are probably out of town and b) there are new electronics to be had.
Tip: Ask a trusted neighbor to put out your trash bins alongside his own. If this is not possible, simply skip a trash day. "Rubbish should be placed outside no sooner than the evening before pick up, and preferably the morning of," the City of Phoenix police department advises.
5. Telling the delivery guy (and thus anyone at your door) that you are gone. You are awaiting a delivery but know you will be out of town. Therefore, you leave a notice on the door informing the delivery driver of your absence and the name of a neighbor authorized to accept the package. Of course, the delivery driver may not be the only person reading the note. The Town of Wake Forest's crime prevention team warns that leaving this type of note is a surefire tip-off for burglars that the coast is clear.
Tip: Leave a simple note that indicates, "Today I will take delivery of the package at 123 Main Street." Would-be burglars will not know that you are actually gone for the next three weeks.