Exciting news: You’re going away for the holidays. You pack your suitcase, and after a quick look around, make sure your lights are off. You tweet to your friends about your upcoming get-away as you head out the door for your weekend or even week-long adventure.
What is wrong with this picture?
Quite a few things, actually, if you plan on keeping your valuables. The above scenario sends out a few potential signs for thieves that your apartment is open for their nefarious business. Make sure your belongings are right where you left them with these simple precautions
Keep quiet on social media
Although many of us love to post our vacation pics —and show our best frenemies how much fun we’re having— we need to curb that urge to share. Thieves stalk social media sites for clues that your home is home alone. Even celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Hilary Duff have had their hotel rooms/houses robbed after posting their statuses on social media sites.
Not only that, if you post your away-from-home status, you could be leaving yourself open to one other problem: According to UK newspaper, The Telegraph, tweeting may affect your insurance:
“Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their information gathering, even using Google Earth and Streetview to plan their burglaries with military precision. Insurance providers are starting to take this into account when they are assessing claims and we may in future see insurers declining claims if they believe the customer was negligent,” said Darren Black, the head of home insurance at confused.com.
The exception to keep your vacation on the down-low? Tell a trusted neighbor you’re going. It never hurts to have someone on hand, to let you know if someone is trying to access your front door.
Don’t leave your home alone
Why leave your apartment empty at all when you can have a reliable friend stay? It’s a simple remedy to the problem of leaving your home unattended for days at a time.
When asking your buddy, offer some sort of incentive, like a present from your destination. Just make sure to create a comfy space for your friend’s next staycation…and that they have someone to crash at THEIR pad.
Sadly, not all of your friends can leave their homes, their easy commutes, their pets. But you can pay someone to spend time in your home, to make sure potential housebreakers are deterred. Ask them to play music, flush toilets, switch on lights on different parts of your apartment, and leave the television on low, to make it seem as if your home is as busy as…it isn’t.
Although this is less of a problem for urbanites, remember that an unshoveled driveway after a snowstorm is a bright flashing sign that reads, “Free house.” Hire a shoveler in advance of your vacation and of the next storm.
Home automation can help you pretend to be at home, and it can also trigger alarms or contact you on your phone so you can review security camera footage, or receive a package when you’re not physically present.
If you haven’t arranged for some to come to your home, you can pretend your house is occupied by switching lights on and off; use smart lights that are networked to apps, like the Phillips Hue, which you can control from your cell phone. Some systems have timers so you can have them turn on and off automatically, to simulate people at home, leaving you to focus on what’s really important: getting another round in before last call.
Jeweler Donna Dube said, “We have motion sensor cameras… that record to the cloud so we can check them from remote locations. We checked in on the cameras every day when we were in London.” (Click here for a list of cameras.)
Accountant John Wainwright recommends the security system Ring, a doorbell/alarm system that alerts your phone when someone approaches your home. “It also records who passes your door,” he said. “We used it to talk to the postman [at our apartment] from Sicily.”
Don’t forget deliveries
A bulging mailbox is a sure sign of an empty apartment. Contact the post office and have your mail held back, to be delivered when you’re back and watching your tan line fade. You can have your mail held as early as the next scheduled delivery date or as far in advance as 30 days prior with just a few clicks on the USPS website.
Need your mail held for more than 30 days at a time? Want your mail sooner rather than later? You can always have the post office forward it to you.
Don’t forget your newspaper, too. Daily newspapers arrive, well, daily. These can stack up quite noticeably in front of your apartment door. Newspapers like the New York Times make it easy for you to pause delivery online or by telephone (1800-NYTIMES). In some cases, you can even donate your unread newspaper to a local school or library in advance.
Your meal-delivery service? Don’t forget that either.
Secure your valuables
Let’s face it. Not all of us wear diamond tiaras while eating with silver spoons. But most of us have a few items of value. If you have a computer, a pricey camera, or even a good piece of jewelry, either take it with you (WITH you, not with your check-in luggage) or if that’s not practical, leave them with a friend —or a safe-deposit box.
Can’t fit another item into your luggage? Hide your valuables in plain sight. Amazon offers a safe…that happens to resemble a vegetarian cookbook. Stash your computer or jewelry on your bookshelf, and hope your thief is Paleo.
Just in case your thief eschews meat, protect your computer in one other important way: Make sure you back-up your computer to the cloud. That way, even if your computer is gone, your data is still safe.
As frequent traveler Tom Henderson said, “Take pictures/videos of the entire place, drawers, too, for insurance inventorying. Send these pics/vids offsite or into the cloud.”
You DO have apartment insurance, don’t you? If you don’t, you may want to make that change sooner than later as apartment insurance protects your belongings in the event that these savvy precautions fail. Take a look at other home security options to keep your apartment and valuables safe year round.