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Making it Look like You're at Home

Even first-time burglars-in-training know it's better to hit an empty house than to break in and possibly contend with a gun-toting, professional wrestler-sized, teamster-tough, angered homeowner.

Even greenhorn thieves know to look for tell-tale signs that the owners are away. They know the difference between your spending an evening at Jane's versus having left the country for a three-week African safari. What do they look for? First and foremost is a home that is dark, quiet, and appears to be unoccupied at the moment. In criminal jargon, it's known as "casing the joint."

The best way to fool them? Make it look like you're home. Use the following tips to scare off potential invaders:

  • Use timers in different rooms to turn lights on and off.
  • Have others turn the TV or radio on and off at normal hours as well.
  • Leave a car parked in the driveway. It says: Somebody's home.
  • Have a friend or neighbor pick up mail and newspapers until you return. As an alternative, stop all mail and newspaper deliveries until you return.
  • Never, ever change the message on your answering machine to proudly announce something like "The Wilson's are off to Hawaii. See ya'll in three weeks! Aloha!" You may as well be there to help crooks load their truck with your belongings.
  • Arrange to have the lawn mowed. In winter, keep snow on front porches, sidewalks, and driveways shoveled.

In addition, consider the following before leaving on an extended trip:

  • Hide all valuables in unlikely places, like the freezer or empty boxes and cans in kitchen cabinets.
  • Make sure a neighbor has your itinerary and phone numbers to contact you in the event of an emergency.