John J. Diak, CFP®
How to Prevent Theft and Losses Due to Burglaries
Becoming a victim of burglary is an experience that’s both unsettling and costly. Not only has someone breached your security, leaving you and your family feeling vulnerable, exposed, and defenseless, but they’ve also likely stolen valuable items, possibly even priceless family heirlooms. It can cost a significant financial and emotional toll.
According to the FBI, a burglary happens every 30 seconds in the United States. And taking both theft and property into consideration, the average hit may cost you upwards of $3,000. While it never helps to let worry get the best of you, it is worthwhile to take reasonable precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Here are some practical steps to safeguard your home from burglars.
Lock Down Entry Points
Do you know who has keys to your home? Whether you’ve recently moved in or been in place for a while, more people have access than you might think.
If you’re in a rental, you should know that landlords typically are not required to change locks between tenants. Your lease may prevent you from changing your locks without notifying the landlord, but it’s important to ensure that it’s done or at least have renter-friendly door locks in place.
If you own your home, the locks may not have been changed prior to purchasing it. Even if the former owners seemed to be upstanding people, you never know who they may have trusted with a key. And even if you’re the original owner or you’ve been in your home for some time, a copy of your key might have gotten into the wrong hands. Perhaps you’ve lost a set or given a set to a contractor, cleaning service, or pet sitter. It might be time to rekey your home.
Install deadbolts on all outside doors, secure locks on sliding doors, and always make sure your garage door (and the door to your home inside your garage), windows, sheds, and outbuildings are locked.
Think of every possible entry point to make sure locks are in place and double-check that they are locked before leaving home or going to bed. Avoid leaving spare keys under a rock or near your front door; instead, ask a nearby friend to hold onto a set for you.
Secure Your Vehicle
Most burglars are looking for an easy target, and what could be easier than breaking into an unlocked vehicle? Be sure your doors are locked, windows and sunroof are closed when you’re not in it, and activate the alarm system if you have one. Criminals typically don’t want witnesses, so park in well-lit areas near other people, and choose a lot with an attendant, if that’s an option.
You should avoid leaving valuables in your vehicle unattended, particularly handguns that could be stolen and used in another crime. Be vigilant about not leaving tempting items visible from the outside of your car. Even if you’ve locked your doors and rolled up the windows, a criminal can (and often will) easily break your car window to steal your purse, wallet, shopping packages, or even loose change left out in the open. And, if you must store valuables in your car, don’t leave them in the glove box or center console. Thieves know this is the first place to look.
Befriend Your Neighbors
When it comes to keeping your home secure, neighbors can be your best defense. Build relationships with them and look out for each other. While you don’t want to put anyone in harm’s way to defend property, you can each be on the lookout for things that are out of the ordinary. Is a door, gate, or window that’s normally closed ajar? Is there a suspicious-looking person on your property or peeking into your windows?
Get involved with your community watch group or neighborhood association to stay abreast. Join the neighborhood Facebook and Nextdoor groups, attend meetings, and familiarize yourself with the people around you.
Trusted neighbors can be on alert to give you a call or report their suspicions to the police. If you’re traveling or away from home, it can be helpful to know that someone is keeping an eye on your property. While you don’t want to broadcast your vacation in an email or online, let your trusted friends know when you’ll be away.
Be Smart on Social Media
Social media can be a fun way to connect with family and friends, but you need to be smart about using it. From checking in at your favorite restaurant to sharing your weekend getaway location, unfortunately, this kind of behavior can be seen as asking for trouble. In fact, reports have shown that up to 60% of burglary victims confess that they regularly share location information on social media.
If you’re excited about an upcoming trip, you may be tempted to post a countdown — “only 10 more days ‘til my cruise!” — which can be a neon open sign to criminals. When out having a good time, taking in a beautiful view, enjoying a tasty meal, or visiting family out of town, you may want to share the joy and post about it on Facebook or Instagram. But it’s a bad idea, even if your accounts are private; you just never know who’s watching.
Remember, you can always post about your experience and share photos after returning home.
Maintain Your Property
Will you be away for an extended period? Make sure your lawn and property will be tended to while you’re gone. Grass can grow knee-high seemingly overnight in the spring and summertime, unshoveled walkways can pile up quickly with snow in the winter, and even untouched fallen leaves covering the driveway may tip off a criminal. Your house is less likely to look vacant, and less of an easy target with the lawn mowed, trees and bushes trimmed, and walkways cleared.
While you’re at it, consider having your mail held at the post office and newspaper delivery paused, or have a neighbor retrieve them for you daily.
Even if you aren’t traveling out of town, keep shrubbery trimmed, especially near entryways and against the house, as overgrown shrubs can provide convenient hiding places for burglars.
Get a Security System
Installing a home security system is probably less expensive than you think, and DIY versions are very affordable. The peace of mind that comes with putting an alarm system in place with sensors, cameras, and 24/7 monitoring can be priceless.
A security system may not always stop an intruder, but it is likely to deter them. And a motion sensor light will likely stop them in their tracks the moment they step onto your property and cause them to move on.
Over the past decade, technological advances have made video surveillance easier than ever. With cameras installed around the exterior of your home and in key positions inside, you can keep an eye on your property from the convenience of your smartphone anywhere in the world and alert the police if necessary.
Protect Your Valuables
Even if you do your best to follow precautions to protect your home, a burglar may still gain entry. Take the extra step of investing in a safe or lockbox to secure your valuables, including pricey jewelry or watches, sentimental heirloom pieces, and important documents. You can always buy another big-screen TV, but your grandmother’s diamond brooch is irreplaceable.
To protect yourself against loss, it’s crucial that your valuables are sufficiently insured. You should photograph every room and valuable item in your home. The thief will likely make a mess of the house, not necessarily because they are in a rush, but in an attempt to cause some confusion over what’s been taken. Knowing what’s missing is important for both the insurance company and the police in case of recovery.
Creating Peace of Mind
You can’t live your life in fear, but you deserve to feel safe and secure, especially in your own home. Use common sense, such as keeping lights on, trusting your gut if something seems suspicious, and the other tips we’ve offered here.
But we caution you to avoid a false sense of security fueled by common misconceptions. For example, a dog is not a very reliable form of protection, most break-ins happen during the day, and break-ins can happen anywhere, even in the safest neighborhoods. Focus on securing your home and creating as safe a space as possible.
John J. Diak, CFP® is the Principal & Client Wealth Manager at Oatley & Diak, LLC in Parker, Colorado. He assists clients through many difficult lifestyle changes such as business downturns, retirement planning, divorce, the death of a spouse, and family estate issues among others. Oatley & Diak, LLC is a family-run registered investment advisory (RIA) firm that provides clients with investment management and financial planning services in a hands-on, intimate environment. Learn more about them at oatleydiak.com.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
This material was prepared by Crystal Marketing Solutions, LLC, and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate and is intended merely for educational purposes, not as advice.