Tips for Keeping Your Home Safe This Summer When You are Away

We all love our summer vacations, but while you are at the beach or the amusement park, burglars are planning an assault on your home. The fact is this: burglaries rise in the summer months because people are home less often than they are at other times of the year. Here are some tips to keep your home safe while you are enjoying the warmth and sunshine:

Put Thought into Your Home Security

Make sure you are being thoughtful about your home. Go outside, lock the door, and pretend that you are trying to break in. What do you see? Do you see any tools or items like ladders that would make it easy to get to the second floor? Could you use anything to pry open a window or door? If you see anything like this, put it away.

Take a look at your yard, too. Is there anywhere a burglar could hide, such as behind an overgrown shrub? Are there any trees that a burglar could climb to gain access to second floor windows? If ‘yes,’ make sure you trim these down.

Burglar-Proof Your Home

You also want to make sure that your home is as burglar-proof as you can get it. Think smart. For instance, on a warm spring or summer day, you might leave a window open to bring in some fresh air, and then go out for a bit. This is just an open invitation to a burglar to come right in. So, make it a habit to check all windows and doors before you leave.

Burglar-Proof Your Doors

Also, make sure that your doors are burglar-proof. The best doors are solid, not hollow. Hollow doors are easy to kick in. Then walk up to your front door and with all your might try to kick it in. I’M KIDDING! Seriously, do not kick in your door! But, I’ll bet you could if you tried. Know why? Because the door frame and molding is made of one half inch thin pine wood. Check out this video on how easy it is to kick in a door. The actual “kicking” starts right at the 10:00 minute mark where it shows the Door Devil door reinforcement kit doing its job then at 12:00 minutes without the kit and with a swift “donkey” kick, the door smashes right in.

Also, make sure you have a good lock on the doors…and always use them.

Don’t Let Burglars Know You are Away

Burglars can usually tell which homes have people in them and which don’t. Some of the signs that the owners are gone include empty driveways, mail or newspapers piling up, or grass that is in need of mowing. So, before going on vacation, put a hold on your mail and newspaper and talk to a neighbor, friend, or family member about mowing your lawn while you are gone.

Finally, try to resist posting about your vacation on social media until you get home. You don’t want to publically announce to everyone that you are gone and that your home is sitting empty. Save your photos and posts until you get home.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Take the Extra Step: 12 Ways to Protect Your Home from Burglars

Though you cannot totally protect your home from getting burgled, you would probably be surprised to know that there are no burglars that are as sophisticated as someone like Ethan Hunt from the Mission Impossible movies. However, when you have the right plan in place, you can almost make your home burglar-proof.

When most people think about their home’s security, they only think of a couple of things, such as fake cameras. Though these are nice to have, they don’t fully protect you. A fake camera isn’t going to stop a burglar from kicking in the door. Speaking of the door, the only thing that is separating you and your belongings from a thief is ½ inch piece of pine molding. This isn’t enough. A 12-year-old boy could kick that in, in fact. Instead, it’s best to reinforce your door:

  • Install deadbolt/door knob wraps – these devices strengthen the area around the location of the lock
  • Door bar jammer – this device is put under the doorknob to stop it from moving
  • Door brace – this device makes it difficult to use brute force to kick it down
  • Door frame reinforcement – this is installed on the door and is made of steel

You also might consider something like a Door Devil. This is a kit that features a device molded from steel It is placed over the jamb of the door, and then screwed into the frame. It’s very easy to install, and adds another level of protection for your house. When you combine a device like the Door Devil with other types of security, such as a security system, detection lights, or cameras, it is difficult for a burglar to get in.

Here are 12 more tips to keep the burglars out:

  1. Keep all of your doors locked, even if you are home, and even if it is light out.
  2. Keep your curtains and blinds shut. This ensures that no one can peek inside of your house to check out your valuables.
  3. Use door reinforcements on each and every door and use top-flight locks.
  4. Place security films on the windows. This helps to strengthen the panes and prevents any object from coming in, including baseball bats and crow bars.
  5. Bring in all newspapers and mail in as soon as they get there.
  6. Give your home a look that it is lived in, even if you aren’t home. Set up automated lights to be on at night.
  7. PennyMac says Put a pair of scuffed and worn men’s work boots at the doors of your house.
  8. If you park your car in the driveway, place a pair of men’s gloves on the dashboard. When burglars see this, they often think twice about breaking in because they believe a large, burly man lives in the house.
  9. Put a large dog bowl outdoors by the door, and make it look real. Add a leash or chewed up dog toys, too.
  10. Trim up any shrubs that hide points of entrance into your home.
  11. Go online to the Google News site. Type in your city and state, and then the phrase “door kicked in.” Take a look at those results. You will likely be shocked by what you read.
  12. Consider buying a new home security system. The best systems out there not only give you a full alarm package, but also offer cameras, police monitoring, and a video feed, that allows you to view what’s happening in your home when you are not there. This way, you can easily watch the cameras from your mobile phone or tablet.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

15 Tips to Keep Your Home Safe During the Holidays

You and your family aren’t the only ones who love the holidays; burglars love them, too. Not only do they know that it gets dark earlier after the time change in November, they also know that you have a lot of newly purchased gifts in your home. It is the perfect storm.

Most homeowners take extra steps around the holiday season to protect their homes. For instance, they often take precautions with Christmas lights or candles as to not start a fire. However, most don’t take any extra security measures to prevent a home robbery. Yes, fire protection is very important, but your home is much more likely to be robbed than to go up in flames. So, here are 15 tips that you can use during this upcoming holiday season:

  1. Always keep your doors locked. This is true even in the daylight and even when you are home.
  2. Always keep your windows locked, even those that are on the second floor. Burglars can and do climb.
  3. Use high quality locks and door reinforcements.
  4. Keep all of your blinds and curtains closed. This keeps your valuables away from prying eyes.
  5. Install security film on all of your windows. These help to strengthen them and help them to hold up to things like crow bars, rocks and baseball bats.
  6. Try to make your home look “lived-in” even if you aren’t home. One way to do this is with home automation technology. These systems do things like turn on/off lights automatically, so that it looks like someone is there.
  7. Bring in your mail and newspaper as soon as they are delivered.
  8. Put a large dog bowl outside near your door. Try to make it look as realistic as possible with water inside it. Also, place a thick leash and chewed up dog toys around.
  9. Take a pair of worn men’s work boots and place them by the door. This makes it less likely that a burglar will enter because they don’t want to confront a man they can’t overpower.
  10. Clear out shrubbery around entry points. These are good hiding places for burglars.
  11. Do a Google news search with the name of your city, state, and the phrase “door kicked in.” What do you see? Likely several cases of the door getting kicked into people in your area. Use door reinforcement products.
  12. If you have a garage, use it to pack and unpack gifts into your car. If you do it outdoors, a burglar might be watching.
  13. Don’t advertise your gift purchases on your social media pages. Thieves are notorious for using social media to find victims.
  14. Invest in a security system for your home. Choose one that offers a view of what is happening in your home. You can access this via computer, tablet, or smart phone.
  15. If you park your car outside, place a pair of large men’s gloves in it. Most burglars won’t go into a house if they believe a large man lives there.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Home Door Kick-in Prevention

Burglars love doors, because that’s their No. 1 way of gaining entry to a house. When thinking of ways to make your home safer, you should really home in on your doors.

  • Solid wood door without a window (ideally with solid wood core)
  • Top flight deadbolt (ideally two)
  • Reinforced frame and doorjamb

1BThe above elements would make it almost impossible for an MMA fighter to kick the door in. Yes, you should be thinking in terms of kick-proofing your door. By the time we’re 18, we’ve probably witnessed hundreds of door kick-ins on TV shows and in movies. No matter how many unrealistic things we’ve seen on film, one thing stands out as being very true to life: the ease of kicking in a door.

If the door has a window, we have a problem. A crook could smash through it and unlock the door. Here is where a second deadbolt, near floor level, comes in handy. If this can’t be done, then have decorative steel bars placed over the window.

A metal door is also doable for good security, as long as its interior is reinforced and it has a lockblock.

Keep in mind that even a steel door (the most secure type) can be kicked in if the lock’s screws are too short. You get what you pay for; do not cut corners when it comes to purchasing a deadbolt. They are not all the same. A good one extends deep into the doorframe.

I also recommend a one-sided keyless deadbolt for use when you’re home. As its name implies, it can’t be manipulated from the outside (which makes it impossible for an intruder to circumvent).

The doorjamb and frame should be as strong as possible. Don’t just rely on a good deadbolt. The strike plate’s screws should be three inches. Install door reinforcement technology. This beefs up the door jamb to prevent kick-ins. See Door Devil.

What about sliding doors?

  • The glass should be reinforced or replaced with polycarbonate.
  • The track should have a bar to prevent the door from being forced open.
  • Track stoppers also come in the form of small devices that screw onto the track and block the door.
  • The door should be equipped with a motion and vibration sensor that triggers an alarm.

Keep a covering over the windows as much as possible. I understand that you want your home to be bright and cheery, but find a happy medium by realizing that a burglar can get a really good look inside your house through uncovered sliding doors. For sure, keep the curtains drawn or the shades down when it’s dark out.

Robert Siciliano is a home and personal security expert to DoorDevil.com discussing Anti-Kick door reinforcement on YouTube. Disclosures.

Preplan for a Safe Vacation

Traveling is fun, exciting, tiring and depending on your destination, generally safe. But bad things can happen. The best thing you can do before you go, is prepare.

5HSafety Tips

  • Blend in on your vacation. Before you leave for your trip, plan out your arrival. Dress like the locals. Preparing to blend into the ambience before you leave ensures you won’t be accosted the second you get off the plane. Don’t stick out like a sore thumb dressed in Western attire while you roam around a city where most women are wearing robes or the men are wearing turbans. If wearing a kimono means reducing your odds of being mugged (tourists are known for carrying a lot of cash) or abducted, then do just that.
  • Try not to “play it by ear.” Have a plan in action for every day—and develop it either the night before or early in the morning.
  • Plan. figure out where you’re going to have breakfast; figure out how much time you need in the morning to do anything related to the day’s events (e.g., get tickets, arrange transportation, bring enough diapers for the toddler).
  • Have your young kids wear those sneakers that light up with each step; this will help you know where they are.
  • Before you departed for the trip, you created something to put on your children’s person that contains vital information about them, in case they got lost, right? There are numerous GPS devices that can help you locate them is something happens.
  • And your kids already know how to swim, right? An infant can learn to swim.
  • And you’ve already taught your kids about stranger danger, right? Don’t wait till you’re on vacation to do this.
  • And speaking of young kids…forbid them from dashing ahead of you, especially in crowded areas, especially in a foreign land. You just never know what could happen (e.g., someone swiping your child; your child accidentally ramming into someone and getting injured or inadvertently knocking over a frail elder). Really, I’ve seen kids bolting ahead of their parents like a freight train, including when the parents are not paying attention.
  • Every morning, review instructions for emergencies. This includes instructing your kids to yell, “This man’s not my dad!” if they’re being abducted, rather than just wildly screaming.
  • Before you left for the trip, you packed/uploaded/took headshots of every family member, right? In case someone goes missing?
  • Every morning, make sure everyone has a headshot of everyone on their person. This way, if your young child approaches a woman (because they were taught to approach only a woman if lost), they can show that woman a photo of you and say, “I need your help. I can’t find my patrents.”
  • You’re outside, eager to sightsee. But not before you get key landmarks squared away with everyone in your party.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Set up Family’s Controls on Home Computers

The computers in your household should have controls on them for security—even if you don’t have children living with you.

3HChrome OS

  • On the Chrome browser in the upper right are three horizontal lines; click this symbol.
  • Click “Add supervised user.”
  • Enter the name and password for the new account.
  • This allows the other family member to access their account using the Chrome OS. Just set the controls for that person via the www.google.com/settings/chrome/manage.
  • You will be able to see the sites that the family member visits, and needless to say, you can block the ones you don’t want that individual accessing. The caveat is that it does not permit bulk blocking; so if you want to block five sites, you must set the block up one at a time for each site.
  • The plus side is that this system allows a user access to your Chromebook.

Windows 10

  • Go to account.microsoft.com/family and sign in.
  • Enter the e-mail address of other family members.
  • Or, set up a new one for them.
  • Click the “invite” link.
  • The family member(s) will appear on the family list. You now can set controls.
  • Controls can apply to apps, games, visiting particular websites and even the time of computer use.
  • This feature includes additional controls like seeing the online activity of the other family member(s).

OS X

  • Click Users & Groups in System Preferences.
  • See the lock icon? With your password, unlock it.
  • Click the “plus” symbol located under the user list.
  • You’ll see Managed with Parental Controls. Take it from there to have the new account added to the Mac’s master list.

There are lots of options for customizing the kind of control you want. Take your time reviewing all of the things you can set controls on.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

How to secure your Apartment

I love that show, “Forensic Files.” Every so often there’s the case of a person who was found murdered in their apartment due to some forced entry. Which brings me to the topic of apartment security.

1HNew Apartment

  • Don’t delay in doing a walk-through of the entire premises, including the laundry room (where a crime can occur after a creep spots a vulnerable-looking woman enter the unlocked room).
  • Take note of any portals through which a burglar could make entry. This includes trees and trellises that lead to a window.
  • Take note of where the lit and dark areas are.

Doors and Windows

  • I can’t begin to tell you how many episodes of “Forensic Files” deal with an intruder getting in through an unlocked door or window—and this includes during the day when the victim was home. Keep them locked!
  • However, we all know that intruders will use force to break through a locked door or window (though if you’re home, you’ll have time to call 911 and perhaps make an escape through the back of the apartment—a plan you should already have in place since Day 1. If you’re on the second floor, have a foldable ladder always ready to make your escape.). Sounds crazy, but it’s good for fire escape too.
  • Hopefully your landlord will permit you to replace what’s probably a cheaply built door strike-plate with a strong one with two-inch screws, as this will make it very difficult to kick open. Press your landlord to allow deadbolts on all the doors, even if you must pay for them.
  • Make sure the window locks are very difficult to get past, even if you must pay for revisions. Landlords typically won’t do things like this; if the lock merely “works,” that’s usually good enough for them. This includes sliding glass doors.
  • Put Charley bars or anti-slide devices in the tracks of sliding doors.
  • No matter how mesmerizing the night crickets or ruffling leaves are, you must never go to sleep when the windows are unlocked.

Miscellaneous

  • Make sure no valuables are visible through your windows.
  • A landlord won’t pay for a security system. Hang on every doorknob a sensor (available online and fits in your palm) that, when the door is opened, emits a loud beep.
  • Install your own home security system. They are relatively inexpensive and some can be moved to another apartment.
  • Use timed lighting devices to make it appear you’re home when you’re out.
  • Every time you leave your apartment to get mail, empty rubbish or go to the laundry room, lock your door!

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Protect your Home when Traveling

When you go traveling, I’m sure you make a point to protect the various things you bring with you—including your laptop, children, even spouse. But what about something you left behind? Your home? Is that being protected too?

1BBefore Leaving

  • Don’t wait till the last minute to arrange kenneling for your pet.
  • Tidy up the exterior of your house including mowing the lawn. Overgrown grass, unmoved rubbish and dormant toys/tools make a house look unoccupied. If you plan on traveling long enough for the grass to get overgrown, arrange with a trusted adult to mow your lawn.
  • Don’t leave your car outside.
  • Put your snail mail and any paper delivery on vacation hold.
  • Give spare keys to a trusted adult. This person should also know the “safe” word for your security system should they be in contact with the monitoring center.
  • Hopefully you have a reliable neighbor who will promptly remove any flyers in your door or on the knob.
  • Here’s something you probably never thought of: A burglar casing your street on trash pickup day may notice the one house whose trash cans aren’t at the curb. Hmmm…maybe those people are away on vacation? So have a neighbor bring your trash cans out on trash day—with trash in them—and then bring them back in.
  • Get rid of food that may spoil while you’re away.
  • Make sure the locks on your windows and doors work.
  • Set up an automatic timed lighting system. Open curtains or shades enough to reveal this to anyone passing by, but not enough for someone to be able to see your valuables through your windows.
  • Put as many valuables as you can in a fireproof, waterproof safe.
  • To prevent water flooding problems, switch off the water to your dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Make sure all appliances and electronic items are unplugged to avoid fires.
  • Lower the thermostat but no less than 60’.
  • Give the garbage disposal one last run, because if there is food waste in there you may come home to a swarm of fruit flies.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors and home security system work.
  • And don’t forget to turn your alarm system on before you embark on your trip.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

How Glass Break Sensors work

Your home should have multiple layers of protection. You’ve certainly heard that before. Motion detection is a critical layer of protection, and this is comprised of the simple act of unauthorized movement sensed as the result of breaking and entry. Glass break is similar in concept. One detects movement the other detects sound. 3B

  • Motion: The sensor detects when someone is moving about inside the house.
  • Entry: The sensor detects when a door or window is opened.
  • Breaking into: The glass break sensor detects when a burglar smashes through a window with a crowbar.

Many people don’t know that the sensor for breaking into exists. This special kind of sensor detects the unique sound (in terms of frequency) of window glass being hit and then shattering. The sensor then sets off the alarm.

So in other words, the sensor doesn’t wait for the glass to shatter. The detection starts when the crowbar or baseball bat makes heavy contact with the glass. This initial detection can be thought of as phase one. And phase two, the actual breaking of the glass, occurs just milliseconds later, setting off the alarm.

In a house full of windows, one sensor per room may be sufficient, covering three or more windows and even glass doors. And fortunately, it’s not necessary to have your kid hit a baseball into a window to test out the sensor.

The device has a “test mode.” You should produce a clapping sound (preferably with your hands). At the bottom of the sensor, a small light will blink, in response to the sound of the clapping, which simulates the sound of a window being struck.

Now if you don’t see the light blinking, the sound wasn’t detected. Make sure the sensitivity setting is on “high” in the device, and also check your windows; are they blocked by heavy curtains or furniture? If your hand clapping is weak, do you have a few wooden boards to smack together?

After you make the necessary adjustments, create the clapping sound again. If the unit is correctly installed, the light should blink.

If your child thinks he could trip the alarm by banging cymbals or dropping a glass on the kitchen floor, tell him don’t even think about it. The break-into sensor system has already taken false alarms into account. So if a glass or china plate crashes to the floor, or the sound of windows breaking is coming from the TV, these noises will not trip the alarm.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

15 Tips to Keep Your Home Safe During the Holiday Season

Most people don’t like that “fall back” time change every November, but you know who does? Burglars. Burglars love to “fall back” because it gives them more time to practice their criminal activities thanks to the earlier veil of darkness. This is also a convenient time for them as the holiday season is upon us and most people have a lot of newly purchased gifts in our homes. Perfect bait for burglars.

2BIn general, most homeowners will take precautions around Christmas time to prevent fires due to Christmas lights, yet they do not take extra security measures to prevent home robbery. Though fire prevention is certainly important, your home is far more likely to attract the eyes of a burglar than to go up in flames. So, here are 15 ways that you can keep the burglars away:

  1. Keep doors locked at all times. This is true even when you are home, and even when it’s light out.
  2. Keep your windows locked, even those on the second floor. Burglars DO have climbing skills.
  3. Use door reinforcements and top-flight locks.
  4. Keep the curtains and blinds closed. This will ensure that no one can take a peek at your valuables.
  5. Install security films on the windows. These help to prevent the penetration of objects such as a baseball bat or crow bar.
  6. Give your home a “lived-in” look with a home automation technology system. Many of these can be controlled by a model device or scheduled to turn lights on or off at a specific time.
  7. Collect your newspaper and mail as soon as they arrive.
  8. Place a large pair of men’s work boots near the door, and make sure they are scuffed up to make them look worn.
  9. Put a large dog bowl near the entryways of the home, but make sure it looks realistic. Do this by adding a chewed up toy or large leash to the scene.
  10. Make sure there is no shrubbery crowding entry points of the home.
  11. Go to Google news, and type in the phrase “door kicked in” along with your city and state. You will be shocked by the results. To protect yourself, consider a device such as Door Devil, which is a high-level door reinforcement device.
  12. If you have a garage, make sure you are packing and unpacking gifts from the car inside of the garage so no one can see what you purchased.
  13. Don’t advertise your Christmas gift purchases on social media, as many thieves use social media to find potential victims.
  14. Make an investment into a home security system. The best systems provide a clear view of what is happening in the home on your mobile device when you are not there.
  15. If you have a car parked out in the drive, place a pair of men’s gloves on the dash. Most burglars will think twice if they believe there is a large man living in the home.

Robert Siciliano is a home and personal security expert to DoorDevil.com discussing Anti-Kick door reinforcement on YouTube. Disclosures.