Don’t tip off thieves you are away on vacation

An empty house, even nicely locked up, is a tempting target for criminals

Better Business Bureau (BBB)

In the digital age it seems that the majority of scams facing the general public are online. Many are, of course, but that doesn’t mean thieves and crooks aren’t out on the street looking for a home to loot while its residents are away on a summer holiday. An empty house, even nicely locked up, is a tempting target for criminals. The last thing anyone wants is to come home relaxed from a summer getaway to find their world has been turned upside down at home.

BBB offers these tips to make your house less of a target:

• Social Media. Speaking of the digital age…don’t post on social media that you are away. While it’s fun to tell others what you are up to and sharing photos and experiences is today’s form of entertainment, it’s important to remember that the web isn’t as anonymous as we would like to believe. Don’t broadcast when you will be away or for how long. It’s an invitation to criminals to do some digging to find out where you live.

• Friends. Have a trusted friend help out while you are away. If you have pets, a close friend may even help out by house-sitting for you. At the very least your friend can help make it appear someone is home by bringing the mail inside, turning random lights on and off, moving a parked car to a different spot. Remember to inform your neighbours that this person will be around your home while you are gone. That friend just might go the extra mile and mow your lawn…you may have to ask really nicely.

• Lights. The practice of leaving lights on may be okay if you are going for a quick weekend, but isn’t all that practical if you plan to be away for a week or more. It’s costly to leave anything on and it’s not exactly the greenest of behaviours. Leaving lights on constantly is also something of a green light for crooks. Your best bet is to pick up a light switch timer that can be programmed to make it appear that someone is home.

• Spare key. If you’re one of those people who like to leave a spare key hidden around your property, a lengthy holiday is a good time to remove it. If a crook has time to look without alerting anyone then they have a better chance of finding it.

• Doors and windows. This, of course if obvious. Double check before leaving that ALL of your doors and windows are locked. An extra measure for sliding doors is a piece of wood or metal in the track that would prevent anyone from opening it should they get past the lock.

• Valuables. Leaving all the blinds and curtains closed is an indication to a crook that you aren’t home. If you are leaving some of them open, make sure any valuables are not visible from the outside. Lock up any jewellry or precious heirlooms.

• Home security. If you have a home security system, let them know when you will be gone and for how long.

• Unplug. It’s a good idea to unplug any appliances or electronic devices should there be a power surge in your neighbourhood. Conversely you could purchase a good surge protector and connect your electronics that way.