- Signs that your home is unoccupied and what you can do to avoid them
- Survey finds homes with right combination of locks and lights can be almost 50 times better protected
- "Get to know your neighbours," advises Joe Connell, chairman of the UK's Association of Security Consultants and founder of Praemunitus Ltd
There's no substitute for strong doors and windows, good locks, effective lighting and a working alarm system. But even with all that in place, it’s not good practice to advertise the fact that your home is empty, as this makes it more likely to become a target.
So what will a burglar be looking out for, and what can you do to stop them? The key points from our sharable infographic in detail below:
1. No lights on
If you’re going to be away in the evening or overnight, it’s sensible to use automatic timer switches inside your property. Security lighting outside can also be used to make an offender feel vulnerable and observed.
A recent study found that indoor lights on a timer, external motion sensor lights, window locks and double door locks – if all used together – could mean your home is almost 50 times more protected than a property without any proper security in place.
2. Deliveries mounting up
If you're going away for a few days or more, cancel any newspaper or milk deliveries. For your post, you could use the Royal Mail's 'Keepsafe' service, which enables you to store letters and parcels for up to 66 days.
"Newspapers and post visibly mounting up is a sure sign that you're not at home," says Joe Connell, chairman of the UK's Association of Security Consultants who previously spent 32 years in the Metropolitan Police. "Not only that, but the contents of your mail box may reveal key details that could lead to identity theft and make you vulnerable to fraud."
3. Empty driveway
An empty drive is also a green light to burglars, so perhaps ask a neighbour to park their car there while you are away.
“An empty driveway – and perhaps an unusually full driveway in a busy household – could arouse a burglar's interest. Think about the signs you may be giving away to anybody familiar with your property," says Connell.
4. Closed curtains in the day
Burglars will be looking for anything unusual to suggest that a home is unoccupied, so avoid leaving curtains shut during the daytime.
"Again, neighbours, family members or friends can help you by popping in every now and again to open and close your curtains depending on the time of day," says Connell.
If your curtains are open, make sure your valuables aren’t easily visible from the street.
5. Deathly quiet
The absence of noise is another sign that no one is home, so consider leaving a radio or television on while you're away.
"Using time switches for these is a good idea," advises Connell.
You might even want to go one step further by purchasing or recording a CD of household sounds such as conversations and dog barks, and playing this whenever you go out.
6. Seasonal changes
If you’re going away in autumn or winter, leaves piling up outside your home or snowfall that has lain undisrupted for several days can indicate that you are away. The same is true for an unkempt garden during summer.
To combat this, Connell advises: “Ask a neighbour to water the garden during dry spells. Shovelling snow might be a lot to ask of a neighbour, so try laying down salt in advance of a cold spell if you intend on being away.”
7. No bin on collection day
Don’t get caught out by leaving your wheelie bin behind on a day when your neighbours have placed theirs in the street for collection.
"Again, your neighbours can help you here by taking your bin out for you, and perhaps even filling it up to suggest that someone is at home," says Connell.
8. Giveaway messages
If they have your phone number, a burglar might call first to see if anyone is home. If you change your answer phone message before going away, don’t give any indication that you are on holiday.
“This also applies to your mobile phone and email addresses," says Connell. "'Away on holiday' messages may sound friendly but can leave you vulnerable."
9. Social media posts
Avoid advertising your holiday plans on social networking sites such as Facebook. Burglars can use any information you post in public to their advantage.
“We all crave privacy and yet have an overwhelming urge to tell everybody where we are and what we are doing, especially if we are having fun," says Connell. "Before posting, just think for a minute who may see that information and want to use it to spoil your fun."
The last thing you want to be thinking about when you’re on holiday is being burgled. By following the above advice, you’ll have peace of mind that you are doing all you can to stop your home from becoming a target. However, make sure that your contents are covered so that you don’t lose out if something does go wrong.
In addition to his position as Chairman of the UK Association of Security Consultants, Joe Connell is founder of Praemunitus Ltd intelligence and risk consultants. He is also an overseas senior police adviser, an ambassador of the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry and a member of its Defence & Security Committee.