Your home is your castle -- the place where you feel secure and protected. That's why a break-in is costly, not only on a financial level, but on a personal level as well. It is, in short, a violation of your personal space. And it's not just people who live in "bad neighborhoods" that are at risk -- a false sense of security can leave anyone vulnerable. Criminals look for easy targets. Here are 10 tips to make sure you're not one of them.
Lock Your Box
Even if your house is secure, your mailbox can be an easy target, especially if it's right on the road. Identity theft is a growing problem, and your mail is an easy place to get all your personal info -- phone numbers, account numbers and even your social security number. If you don't already have a locking mailbox, consider investing in one. There's a small slot where the postman can insert your mail, but you hold the key.
It's always a good idea to have a spare key available in case of emergencies, but hiding that key on your property is risky. Thieves know all of the usual hiding spots -- fake rocks, flower pots, under doormats and above doorframes. It's best to give your additional keys to a trusted neighbor or friend who lives nearby. If that's not an option, be sure to conceal the keys in an unusual spot that's not at the front of your house. Preferably, where no one can see you getting the keys.
Watch Your Neighbors
An alert and active neighborhood can be very effective in minimizing criminal activity. See if your community has a neighborhood watch group and get involved. It's a great way to do your part and get to know your neighbors in the process. If such a group doesn't exist, consider heading up the effort.
Your vacation is the perfect time for a thief to go to work. Pets are boarded and there's no threat of running into you. That's why you need to make sure your house looks lived in. Stop all regular deliveries and use automatic timers for your lights and a radio or television. Keep your blinds at their normal position and leave a car in the driveway if you can.
Lock it Up
The Cleavers may have left their front doors unlocked without fear of repercussions, but times have changed. Doors and windows should be locked, even when you're home. Invest in pry-proof locks for your windows and deadbolts for all exterior doors. And don't forget second story windows -- they're potential targets too, especially in the back of the house.
Trim Your Shrubs
A tall row of hedges around the perimeter of your front yard may give you a feeling of privacy, but it gives potential burglars a safe place to work. Shrubs and bushes that obscure the view of your house should be trimmed back. Make sure windows and doors are visible from the street.
Mind Your Trash
Your trash, like your mail, contains information burglars can use to get to know you. So make their job next to impossible. Cut up old credit cards before throwing them away, shred all account statements and personal papers, and if you make a major purchase, like a TV or computer, don't leave the box at your curb. That's like announcing to a crook that your house should be their next stop. It's better to break the boxes down and take them to a nearby recycling facility.
Cause for Alarm
It's a good idea to have an alarm system installed if your house didn't come with one. Usually, just the fact that it looks like you have an alarm is a good deterrent. But if a brazen thief chooses to ignore the alarm and let himself in, you will know quickly you have an intruder and the ear blasting siren will likely ensure a short visit.
Light the Way
Nighttime is the right time for burglars to slink through your yard unnoticed, so a well-lit exterior is a wise move. All entrances should be properly lit, but especially in the back of your home. And motion detectors are good for areas you want to keep an eye on without a constant spotlight. A bonus -- they can easily be turned off during planned activities.
Don't Let the Door...
Burglars can make their way into your home through windows, but it's a lot easier to get in through the door. So make sure all of your doors are solid core rather than hollow. Just give a piece of hardwood a good kick and you'll appreciate the difference. For an added layer of protection, install a metal screen door or a hurricane door, which offers break-proof glass, in front of your entry door.
Pressure washing can be done by the amateur homeowner or the experienced professional. HowStuffWorks looks at the ins and outs or power washing.
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