The holidays are here and personal safety may not be the first thing on anyone's mind - it's easy to turn attention to making sure gifts arrive on time, reuniting with loved ones, and traveling safely. Yet, the holidays offer prime opportunities for thieves, from “package pirates” that may take gifts from porches to burglars waiting for residents to head out of town to break in to an empty home.
Based on figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), more than 400,000 burglaries take place annually during the holiday season alone. To protect your family and your property, start with the following tips.
1. Be Mindful of Gifts
Criminals generally look for three signs to steal the gifts you’re intending to give during the holiday season:
- In a classic sense, they can look through your window to see what has been placed under the decorated tree.
- With packages arriving daily, some individuals may pass through a neighborhood to steal what they can from front or side porches after delivery trucks make their rounds.
- They could look through garbage and recycling for boxes and packaging, which can indicate what you recently bought. From here, they’ll attempt a break-in to steal that large-screen TV or high-dollar electronic you purchased.
In considering these scenarios, make sure your gifts aren’t visible from your home’s exterior:
- Don’t leave gifts, wrapped or unwrapped, underneath a tree near front-facing windows. Instead, try to keep them in a storage spot, like a closet, that no one can see from outside your home.
- Consider installing a door alarm or doorbell camera to monitor activity from your porch, both when you’re inside and away from the house.
- When placing your order, try to inform delivery drivers where to leave packages on your property - you could even have them sent to a PO box or package locker during the holiday season. Try not to ever leave written instructions on the door.
2. Be Selective About Social Media Content
Ask yourself this — outside of your friends, family and social circle, is anyone else reading your social media posts? To protect yourself from breaks-ins and identity theft, it’s a good idea to try and be selective about what you post on your feed:
- Don't post images or comments about gifts (or prices of those gifts) you recently bought.
- Avoid talking about your vacation plans, including where you’re going and when you’re leaving and returning.
- Wait until you return home to post vacation photos while you’re at a destination
- If you do go away, try to make sure only select individuals know, and consider making plans with a neighbor for snow removal and collecting mail. Similarly, you can time your lights to make it appear like you’re inside the home.
3. Watch Your Lighting
Lighting, both in terms of decorating and signaling your presence at home, can act as a deterrent — or it can provide burglars with easy access:
- Watch where you string your lights, avoiding running them through a window or door to the outside. Doing this prevents you from closing the window securely and creates a direct pathway for intruders.
- Make sure your home’s exterior is well-lit, even when you aren’t home. No or poor lighting decreases visibility and helps a burglar remain hidden. Consider a motion-activated detector that automatically turns on your lights when someone approaches your property.
- Use a timer if you’re not going to be home. If your lights are consistently dark, an intruder takes this as a clear signal that no one’s inside. Similarly, do the same for any lit decorations outdoors.