One of the easiest ways to prevent theft (aside from locking the doors, which is something too many people neglect but is effective) is to keep what you buy and what you own private. If other people know what you own, you’re more of a target than if a crook has to gamble and guess that you have valuables in your home.
A neighbor was robbed once because he told a friend that he’d bought a new, top of the line gaming computer. What he thought was a conversation amongst friends turned out to be trouble because the friend mentioned it to some other people who were thieves. Those were the people who robbed my neighbors house. A relative was robbed once because he left the boxes for a new TV and game console on the curb on trash day right after Christmas. In both cases, the robbery was the result of failing to keep their acquisitions private. So how can you keep something like this from happening to you? Here are some tips.
Don’t leave packaging by the curb
When you buy things like TV’s, computers, tablets, or gaming consoles, don’t leave the boxes by the curb for your regular trash pickup. Take them to the dump yourself. If you can’t do that, at least break them down and cut them up so that you can place them in garbage bags so they aren’t readily visible to the casual passerby.
Unload purchases in the garage
When you return home, unload your purchases in the garage, or pull as close to the door as possible. Unloading your purchases in the garage means that no one else can see what you’ve bought. If you don’t have a garage, try to get as close to your front door as possible, pull around the back of your house, or use a service entrance if your building has one. The fewer people that can see you lugging your stuff across the parking lot or down the driveway, the better.
Shut your blinds at night
It’s also good to shut them when you’re not home. Remember that when you have your lights on and the blinds open at night, anyone passing by can clearly see into your house and you won’t even know they’re looking. Also, while it’s nice to let the sun shine in while you’re at work, people walking by can see inside your windows with very little effort, particularly if you live in a community building where people regularly walk by your windows. Shutting the blinds keeps out prying eyes.
Conceal your valuables
Conceal valuables when company or contractors come over. If anyone that you don’t know well visits your house, conceal your valuables as much as possible. It may not be possible to hide everything, but you can put things like jewelry and small electronics away, and close the doors to unused rooms.
Don’t post pictures of your belongings
Don’t post pictures on Facebook or other public websites that show your valuables, particularly if you post other identifying information about yourself such as full name, hometown, etc. It doesn’t take much for a crook to piece together your whereabouts based on your postings. Keep things like jewelry and electronics out of the pictures.
Don’t talk about what you own
It’s nice to tell people about your new computer or TV, or that great necklace your husband got you for Christmas. But you never know who is listening to the conversation you’re having in the restaurant, or with whom the people you’re telling might share the information. It’s best not to discuss what you own with other people. “Loose lips sink ships,” is an old saying form WWII, but it’s appropriate in this case
Don’t flaunt your belongings
Don’t wear your best jewelry out every day. Yes, it’s nice to use that iPad or swanky netbook on your commute, but it also makes you a target for theft. Even if you think you’re being smart by keeping that iPod in your pocket, thieves can tell you have one because of the distinctive earbuds. You have to weigh the convenience of using your devices out in public against the fact that doing so might make you a target for thieves.
Don’t Tweet about your acquisitions
Similar to not posting pictures on social media, you also don’t want to Tweet about your stuff. It might be fun to say, “On the way home with my new MacBook pro or next gen XBox,” but if you’ve posted other identifying information about yourself in the past, you can be marked. Just keep it to yourself.
Be careful with Craigslist or Freecycle
I’ve written about the security risks of these sites before. Yes, it’s a great way to get rid of stuff you no longer want, but the very fact that you’re posting about your stuff can get you into trouble. If you do list items for sale, never post or mention your address and never invite potential buyers to your home. Always meet people in a public place. That way, they don’t know where you live and cannot come to rob you.
Be careful with cash
Don’t talk about your cash hoard, or mention your favorite hiding place. If you take a lot of cash out of an ATM or withdraw from a teller, be aware of anyone following you when you leave. Don’t flash wads of cash in public. Cash is harder for a thief to spot than a big TV, but not impossible. If they think you have a lot stashed in your home based on your public behavior, it’s not out of the question for one to try to follow you home and figure out where you live.
Most burglars don’t want to go on “fishing expeditions.” They don’t want to take the risk of breaking into a house that has nothing of value. If they’re going to risk jail time, they’re going to do it going after a known quantity. If they don’t know what valuables you have, your house is less of a target than the guy down the block that they know for certain has a big TV, jewelry, and a cash hoard.
Now, this isn’t to say that you’ll never be robbed. Sometimes, as in the case of my neighbor, you think you’re talking to a good friend but it turns out that the friends of the friends (whom you don’t even know) are the problem. You can’t prevent everything. However, if you make some effort to keep what you own private, you can at least reduce your risk.
(photo courtesy of mastermaq)