As Mayor for the City of Mountain Brook, I get calls and notices when we have the occasional home burglary. And as an owner of a financial advisory company, I see the monetary and emotional toll a home burglary has on the victim. As summer rolls in and we head into the vacation season, here are some simple tips you can do to help avoid becoming a victim of home theft.
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Keys. Many homeowners hide a spare house key just in case they misplace theirs. Before leaving for vacation, pick up the extra key (under the plant next to the door?) and hold it until you get back. An alternative could be to give it to a trusted neighbor in case you need someone to access your home while you are away. Speaking of keys, the number one crime in our city is theft of items from unlocked cars…or theft of the car itself! After a recent case of a friend whose car was stolen…I asked, “Were the keys left in the car?” Unfortunately, the answer was, “Yes.”
Lighting. Lighting is one of the best deterrents because burglars prefer dark spaces. Be sure to stop by your local hardware and buy several auto-on/off lamp gadgets so you can set the timers to give the appearance of being home. Wireless outdoor motion-detecting flood lights are another relatively inexpensive option. You’ll have to change/recharge the batteries periodically, but the new LED bulbs last a long time and can provide great coverage for the back and side yards.
Alarms. This is almost too obvious to mention. However, if you have an alarm system, turn it on when you leave for vacation! Wireless systems can be purchased relatively inexpensively. Another great alternative or supplement is an in-home camera system such as NEST or RING. They record motion and send you a text message if motion or noise is detected. I have one and it works very well.
Secure your valuables. We had a recent case where thieves broke into a home and made off with a large stash of jewelry. However, the smart homeowners had placed the ‘real’ jewelry in their safe deposit box and what the thieves got was costume jewelry. Think of what burglars would likely want and put it somewhere they can’t get to it.
Take Inventory of your belongings. With cell phone video, this is easy to do. Go room-by-room and video everything. You might even have someone help you by opening drawers as you go. In case of a break-in, or a fire, this could save you thousands of dollars with your insurance company. Another option would be to hire a professional to provide a comprehensive inventory of your home documenting and recording belongings. Companies like PICS will also assist you through the insurance claim process.
Safeguard ladders and all yard tools. Don’t make it easy for a would-be burglar to access your second story by leaving a ladder nearby. The same goes for tools. Secure everything in a locked garage.
Maintain your outward appearance. Either have a neighbor pick up your mail or have the post office suspend delivery. An overgrown yard is a dead giveaway that the owners may be out of town. Arrange for yard maintenance while you are gone.
Social Media. I know you want to post the photo of you summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro in real-time…but resist the temptation! Pictures of you, your family, and friends are like an open invitation to thieves saying, “We are not at home…go for it!” Wait until you return to share your photos.
Summer vacation is prime time for burglaries or break-ins to happen in any community. While this is an unsettling thought, it is important to take all safety precautions to protect your home, belongings, and vehicles. Following these tips can help ensure you have a safe and fun summer vacation.
Stewart H. Welch, III, CFP®, AEP, is the founder of THE WELCH GROUP, LLC, which specializes in providing fee-only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States. He is the author or co-author of six books, including 50 Rules of Success; J.K. Lasser’s New Rules for Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning- 6th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.); THINK Like a Self-Made Millionaire; and 100 Tips for Creating a Champagne Retirement on a Shoestring Budget. For more information, visit The Welch Group. Consult your financial advisor before acting on comments in this article.
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