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Surf the 'Net

The Internet is a wonderful research tool -- burglars love it.

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Part of a career in crime is staying a step ahead of those trying to catch them. Just when the authorities catch on to one new trick, criminals move on to the next. Message boards on the Internet bring together like-minded people to communicate via postings; they've become peer education groups for many professions, burglary included, where they may advance their knowledge together.

On these forums, real and would-be burglars debate the best ways to break into a house -- how to quietly break a window, why carding (using a credit card to release a lock) is still the best method and why some still prefer the kick-in-the-door approach. Even retired breaking-and-entering pros chime in with stories of their greatest successes. Inventive ways of getting people to open the door are discussed, too, leading burglars toward the more serious and dangerous crime of robbery. Posing as the host of a TV prank show or ringing a doorbell while holding a large check are likely to lure someone out of the house.

The lesson: Opening doors to strangers is generally a bad idea.

It's not possible for most homeowners to keep up with the ways burglars target and break into homes. It is possible, however, to identify a trusted security expert who is known to stay up-to-date on the latest burglary methods. The homeowner can invite the expert to inspect the property once a year to suggest where vulnerabilities may be further secured.

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