How to keep your home safe from burglars at Christmas - The Guardian

Follow these rules to keep your presents out of the wrong hands this year
Last modified on Mon 6 Dec 2021 07.10 GMT
When you go out, or to bed, check you have shut and locked all windows and doors. Don’t leave your keys in locks when you are in, as a burglar may be able to reach them through the letterbox.

Think about your family calendar, says Diane Ivory, a former Scotland Yard crime scene examiner who runs an education and entertainment company called Forensic Minds. “Be careful if the dates you’re away are on display and can be seen through the window,” she says.
Burglars can hide behind big pots and hedges, allowing them to reach your home unseen by others, so keep them low if you can.
Put lights on timers and leave the radio on to make it look and sound as if someone is at home.
Leave an ironing board up with a pile of clothes. “It will look like you’ve just popped out (but don’t leave the iron turned on),” says Ivory.
Naomi Willis, from the SkintDad blog, suggests enabling a free “guard dog skill” on Alexa. “It allows you to set off a barking and growling dog noise by remotely activating it,” she says.
When all the bins are out on a street except yours, or yours are the only ones out, that can give away the fact that no one is at home, so ask a friend or neighbour to put yours out and back, too.
If you have a drive and your car is usually on it, ask them to park there so it looks like someone is home.
Using her 22 years’ experience in the police, Toni Frost says to check the weather forecast while you are away. If leaves or snow fall at your doorstep and aren’t cleared, this can be a sign that no one has been going in and out of the door.
Post piling up can be another give away. If you have a long trip planned, the Royal Mail’s Keepsafe service holds your mail while you are away, says Frost.
It costs from £16, which covers a 10-day period. If, instead, you have a friend coming in for your post, remind them to put it somewhere out of sight.
It may be tempting to post photos online while you are on holiday – or to say that you’re off on a break or a night out – but this lets people know you are not at home.
If someone tags you when you are away, remove the tag. Facebook notifies you when this happens, so select “remove tag” on the post.
James Bores from Bores Security Consultancy says criminals get information from social media. “It’s fairly easy for someone with the right knowledge of searching to identify someone, find their address, work out where the picture was taken, friends, relatives, workmates, where and when they go on holiday, and almost anything else that’s ever been made public,” he says.
“So much personal data has leaked over the years that it’s almost guaranteed your address and phone number is recorded against your name somewhere. And anyone who knows where to go can pay a few quid for access to these details..”
NimbleFins Insurance analysed crime and burglary statistics from the annual Crime Survey for England and Wales and found that burglars frequently know their victims. “One in four burglary incidents are perpetrated by someone the victim knows well; in one in five cases they are known by sight or to speak to. The burglars are complete strangers in just over half of incidents (57%),” it says.
From the minute you get hold of them, to the minute you give them, be careful about who sees what you have bought.
Don’t leave gifts in your car in full view while it is unattended, as opportunist thieves will smash the glass and run.
Avoid leaving the boot open while you unload the car – even if you are juggling with bags, children and other demands.
Hide presents. Leaving them all round the tree in view is advertising to potential burglars, so, too, is posting a photo of them online.
Break up the packaging and don’t put your branded boxes next to the bin, advertising what’s inside your house.
Buildings and contents insurance will cover your home if there is a break-in – as long as you have met all of the policy requirements.
Check with your insurance company if any alarms and/or security cameras you have must be activated every time you leave the property unoccupied.
Photograph your possessions and keep the pictures safe, and, with Christmas presents and other new purchases, keep hold of the receipts. These will be proof of ownership if you need to claim.
If you are using a shed or garage to hide your presents, check they will be covered before you leave them there.
Check your policy to see if it will automatically increase the contents insured by a fixed percentage over Christmas time to reflect any increase in the value. After Christmas, assess the value of presents such as jewellery and increase policy limits accordingly.
You may invalidate your insurance if you do not take reasonable care to secure your home and possessions.
An insurer may well research your social media, decide that you have not taken reasonable steps to protect yourself, and refuse to pay.

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