80 Percent of Burglars Use Twitter and Facebook to Select Victims

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Social media has revolutionized the ways we communicate in the 21st century, but some of those LOLs and OMGs may be putting your home at risk. According to one survey, a staggering 78% of burglars use social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook to choose their victims. The report was issued by the home security experts at Friedland, and has shed some interesting and unsettling light on how criminals are using high-tech means to scope out potential victims.

Real Burglars Weigh In

In the interest of full disclosure, it’s important to note that the survey utilized a small sample size and was in no way scientific. It does, however, offer some major perspective on how social media is opening sinister new doors for thieves. The survey looked at 50 burglars in the UK, all of whom had been recently incarcerated for burglary. Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed claimed to use social networks as a means of locating potential targets.

Are You Inviting Criminals?

The burglars offered some fascinating insight into the mistakes made by everyday people who fail to realize the potential impact of their own tweets and status updates. “We’re living in the age of the digital criminal and people are taking advantage of social media to access information about would-be victims,” said Richard Taylor, one of the convicted burglars interviewed in the survey. “We’ll tell them even when we’re going away on holidays. We will let them know that we’re not in. We’re inviting them round to our house.”

Less is More

The data doesn’t end there, however.  Seventy-four percent of those surveyed said that Google Street View played a role in theft, and 54 percent noted the foolishness of placing one’s whereabouts on social media. In other words, when it comes to social media, less is more, and the best approach is to remain mum on your location at all times. You never know who’s watching, and in today’s digital world, criminals don’t need a van to case homes.

visonicappIf you Check In, Watch out

At Home Security Store, we have often proclaimed that you should never announce your vacation plans on social media. That should go without saying, because there is nothing criminals love more than to learn that a home will be completely vacant for days at a time. But if there’s anything else we can take away from this survey, it’s that all location data can be used against you. So next time you have a family day at Disneyland or the beach, wait until the festivities have ended before you start publishing all of the exciting photos. It takes only about 2 minutes to break into a home, and approximately 10 minutes to complete a robbery, so even your seemingly harmless trip to Jamba Juice may be used against you if publicized.

A Surprising Revelation

Finally, there is one other intriguing detail that we should all take away from the UK survey. Almost 80 percent of the burglar participants said that an alarm system would have prevented them from breaking in to their target homes. Think about that for a moment. Even when the burglar knows that the homeowners are away, he’ll almost always think twice before attempting to enter an armed home. We can’t stress enough how important it is to have a quality home security system, and this survey only reinforces that point.

Just Be Sensible

So just to recap, try not to use your social media profiles as real-time travelogues. While you’re living it up in Daytona Beach, the bad guys might be living it up in your living room. And nothing will ruin a vacation quite like coming home to find that your big screen TV has taken a trip of its own (good luck finding that on Twitter).

Do I Really Need a Home Security System? – The Homeowner’s Fallacy

Burglar Breaks GlassUnsecured homes are up to 300% more likely to be invaded than homes with a security system, and yet only about 16 percent of U.S. homes have any sort of security mechanism in place. A burglary occurs every 15 seconds in the U.S., so are you prepared? If you’re living with the assumption that it won’t happen to you, it’s time for a wakeup call. This isn’t about inciting fear or paranoia; it’s about emphasizing the extreme importance of having a security plan, and thereby reducing your risk of becoming a victim.

It Won’t Happen to Me

Ah, those famous last words. If you have never been the victim of a break-in, it’s so easy to become complacent and underestimate your own burglary risk. In the gambling world, there is a term known as the gambler’s fallacy. It is the false assumption—often made at the craps table or roulette wheel—that one can predict future outcomes based on past results. Quite similarly, the homeowner’s fallacy might be reasoned along the lines of, “This is a safe neighborhood; nothing bad ever happens here,” or “I’ve lived in this house for over 10 years and have never had a problem.” But just like the craps player who mistakenly thinks he’s “due for a 7,” you’re drawing a false conclusion based on an unscientific premise. With over 2,000,000 homes burglarized every year in this country, none of us can afford to take chances.

I Don’t Have Anything That Burglars Would Want

It’s important to understand that burglars target modest as well as affluent homes, trailers as well as mansions. Granted, some are after the big payoffs, but others are just looking for easy targets. The typical burglar is under age 25, and just skilled enough to force his way into an average home. Never assume that your home is undesirable merely due to a lack of opulence or an absence of high-value goods. Even if a burglar spends several days casing your home, he (or she) won’t really know what’s inside until he breaks in, and at that point, he’ll take whatever he can get.

I Have Good Burglary Deterrents

Perhaps you haven’t invested in a full-fledged home security system, but you have taken steps to make your home less desirable to burglars. Maybe you have a home security lawn sign, a Beware of Dog sign, a few motion-activated lights or even a fake security camera. These are excellent tools to have at your disposal, and they will certainly reduce your likelihood of being targeted for burglary, but there’s just one problem. Not all criminals are deterred by smoke and mirrors, and in the event that a crook does enter your home, you have no defenses on the inside. The majority of burglaries occur between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., and if an invasion happens while you’re away, you don’t want to be left with a defenseless home. It might as well be an all-you-can-eat burglary buffet.

iStock_000007366103XSmallI Can’t Afford a Home Security System

This is the #1 complaint among people who lack home security. Granted, if you contact an installer to arm your home, you may pay through the nose for parts, installation and possibly even a mandatory monitoring contract. That’s why many homeowners are now opting for the DIY option. Today’s wireless home security systems are remarkably easy to install, and more affordable than ever before. For one low cost (often less than $200), you can install your system in very little time and experience the immediate benefits. No high-pressure sales, no restrictive contracts, no overpriced components. For the homeowner on a budget, DIY is the way to go.

My Security System is Already Pretty Good

If you already have a home security system in place already, congratulations. You’re well ahead of 84% of Americans. At this point, your ideal strategy would be to enhance your system with some new accessories or burglary deterrents. If your system has expansion capabilities, you can always take things to the next level with additional motion sensors, glass break detectors, door/window contacts, or even a few surveillance cameras. Home security is always a work in progress, because it’s all about remaining one step ahead of the bad guys. So do whatever it takes to give yourself the total advantage today.

 

What to Do During a Power Outage

power-outage-tipsAt one time or another, we have all experienced the sudden and unexpected emergence of darkness and silence stemming from a power outage. Maybe it was a rolling blackout, or maybe it was an electrical malfunction, but whether it lasts for a few minutes or a few hours, it can really ruin your day if you don’t take the proper precautions. Before the lights go out again, here are a few important considerations.

Determining the Cause

Check the circuit breakers to see if you have blown a circuit. If you can’t determine the cause of the outage, contact your local utility company for more information. The problem may be widespread in your neighborhood, or—failing that—it may signify a more serious electrical problem in your home.

Staying Hydrated

Keep a supply of filtered water on hand. A power outage can interfere with filtration systems and compromise the quality of your water supply. It’s best to keep plenty of bottles of filtered water in your emergency supply kit, but more on that later.

Securing Your Data

Keep an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) on hand.  A UPS device enables you to temporarily maintain power for certain electronic devices when the power fails. It’s useful for office equipment, laptops, alarm systems, medical devices and other equipment the failure of which may contribute to data loss or compromised safety. You’ll also want to invest in some surge protection to prevent your important electronics from suffering permanent damage.

Protecting Your Electronics

Unplug major appliances until the power returns. Connected appliances can create a power surge when electricity returns. A surge protector can minimize this risk, but it’s still a good idea to disconnect your major electronics.

emergency-kit-flashlight

Every emergency kit should include flashlights.

Maintaining Your Safety

Make sure your alarm system has a backup power supply of its own.  Since we’re on the subject of uninterruptible power, it’s important to address the importance of maintaining your home security system during an outage. If your system is entirely hardwired and contains no backup battery, burglars may cut off your power supply just to disable your alarm. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that your system is equipped to compensate for power outages.

Preparing for Anything

Create an emergency plan. The CDC recommends keeping an emergency supply kit with water, dried and canned food, flashlights, first aid, batteries, medications and a digital thermometer. You should have enough supplies for at least three days.

Illuminating Your Path

Install some battery-powered lights. As kids, we all remember our parents breaking out the candles and lighting them during a power outage. Some of us still keep a drawer full of these waxy wonders for just such an occasion, but nowadays you can head down to your local store and purchase light bulbs that run on AA batteries. Keep a few battery-powered lights on hand and you can illuminate your home without exposing yourself to the fire risk posed by candles.

Getting Informed

Keep a battery-powered radio. In the event of a widespread outage or other disaster, you’ll want to keep up with the latest developments, and you may not be able to rely on your cell phone, so keep a quality handheld radio on hand…and make sure to keep an ample supply of batteries.

Preserving Your Health

If the power outage lasts longer than 4 hours, throw out the food in your refrigerator. If it lasts longer than 24 hours, throw out the food in your freezer. It’s no fun having to throw out a week’s worth of groceries, but it’s even less fun to spend your entire night vomiting bacteria-ridden food.

Exercising Good Judgment

Keep all generators, charcoal grills and gas heating mechanisms outdoors, away from all doors and windows. For many frostbitten homeowners, it can be tempting to generate heat by any means necessary, but the carbon monoxide exposure can be deadly.

Preventing the Worst

Install carbon monoxide alarms on every floor of your home.  Even if you take steps to avoid carbon monoxide exposure, you must still be diligent about monitoring your indoor quality, especially when an outage occurs. Move outdoors or near an open window if the carbon monoxide alarm sounds.

And Finally…

Spend some time on non-tech hobbies. Read a book, play games with the family, get back in touch with a world free of pixels, texts and other technological distractions.

Restaurant Owners Chase Down Burglary Suspect Caught on Surveillance Video

burglar-or-copA Colorado burglary suspect has been arrested after being recognized and chased down by a restaurant owner whose business he had allegedly robbed. Karim Moulkelleh and Said Ouag, two brothers-in-law from the Denver area, arrived at their newly opened restaurant last Wednesday to discover that it had been broken into. The crook had made off with cash and a laptop, and the whole ordeal was caught on surveillance video, according to a report from ABC Denver.

Caught on Tape

“I watched it at least 10 times in one hour,” Moulkelleh told reporters. “I watched it and re-watched it.” One day after the burglary, Moulkelleh saw the man again – this time in the flesh. “When I saw his eyes, I recognized him from his face,” he said. “And he was wearing the same clothes, too.” Moulkelleh then called out to Ouag, who called 911.

Fortunately, an officer drove by as Moulkelleh and Ouag were confronting the man. The suspect tried to flee the scene, but Moulkelleh chased him and tackled him. “I was so lucky,” Moulkelleh said with a laugh. “The police car was next to us in 15 seconds. He was there.”

Busted

The suspect was discovered to be in possession of a pry bar and was taken into custody by police. According to police records, 50-year-old James Harvey was charged with second-degree burglary and possession of burglary tools. The brothers’ cash and laptop have not been returned, but Moulkelleh told reporters that they aren’t concerned about the stolen items. Said Moulkelleh,”We care that those kind of guys should not be on the street because it’s a threat for everybody.”

Surveillance cameraSurveillance…Not Just a Good Idea

Stories like this serve to remind us about the tremendous value of business surveillance. If it weren’t for the brothers’24-hour security system, Moulkelleh would never have identified the suspect, and James Harvey would still be on the loose, possibly burglarizing other homes and businesses (all suspects are innocent until proven guilty…but Mr. Harvey is going to have a heck of a time explaining the pry bar in his possession).

Every day we read about cases in which burglaries are solved by video surveillance footage. In fact, you may recall a story that we covered only a couple of weeks ago, involving a burglary suspect in Florida who unknowingly left his ID at the scene of the crime. The ID itself was a pretty powerful piece of evidence, but the surveillance footage allowed investigators to make a positive identification and definitively place the suspect at the scene of the crime.

Protect Your Business

If your business doesn’t already have a surveillance system in place, the time to act is yesterday. Not only will a quality surveillance system enable you to prevent the loss of valuables and stop burglars in their tracks, but it can even improve workplace productivity and help you to identify areas for improvement in your business. You can find surveillance systems for every business size, and suited for every budget. Regardless of where you purchase your system and what type of system you choose, the important thing is that you do it, because you never know when a 50-year-old man with a pry bar is going to force his way into your establishment.

The Top 5 Uses for 2-Way Video Intercoms

intercom-usesI recently happened upon an old I Love Lucy rerun, in which the lovable crank Fred Mertz had set up an intercom system linking his guest house to the Ricardos’ main house. The episode originally aired in April of 1957, and it serves as a fascinating reminder of how the most practical technologies never fall out of fashion. In fact, Americans have been using intercommunicating telephone systems since the 1890s, and today, the technology is leaps and bounds beyond anything imagined by previous generations. With long-distance range, high-resolution video capability and even LED illumination, the modern video intercom is an innovative reinvention of one of our most classic communication technologies. Just consider some of the major uses.

Doorbell Replacement

A two-way video intercom system makes for an excellent 21st century doorbell. Communicate with visitors from anywhere in your home, and spare yourself the potential danger of stepping outside to greet total strangers. The home security applications are enormous, and these devices are especially useful for homes with children. If your mobility is limited, you’ll also benefit tremendously from the ability to answer the door without leaving the comfort of your chair.

Baby Monitoring

Homes have been using intercoms as baby monitors for decades, but video monitoring really takes it to the next level. You can easily keep your eye on your little ones from anywhere in the home as you go about your daily tasks, watch television or eat lunch. And since we’re talking about seamless two-way communication, your soothing voice and smiling face are always within reach. When we were children ourselves, we would see this kind of technology on The Jetsons. Now all we’re missing are the flying cars.

Office Communication

When you work in an office environment, it’s important to stay connected. Two-way intercoms provide an invaluable link between colleagues who require constant communication but can’t always be in the same room. They provide a useful visual element that you just don’t get from telephone and conference calls, and unlike Skype, they provide crystal clear audio and video without exhausting your company’s bandwidth. And best of all, if your boss starts to annoy you, you can just turn him off (okay, maybe that’s not such a great idea).

iStock_000011119404SmallCaring for the Sick and Elderly

If you care for the sick or elderly, it can be extremely difficult to keep a close watch at all times, and to meet all of the person’s needs. In fact, it’s easy to turn into a total a basket case when you have to constantly check in and ensure that everything is okay. A two-way monitor can be a real breath of fresh air, as it gives you the freedom to go about your day while still observing and caring for those who depend on you.

Watching Pets

Do you have a mischievous cat who loves to attack the Christmas tree? A stubborn puppy that you’re trying in vain to housetrain? A St. Bernard who constantly digs holes right beneath your favorite azaleas? When you can keep an eye on those trouble areas, you can train your pets with much greater ease and effectiveness. Pets have no understanding of technology; they will just assume that you’re some sort of omnipresent godlike presence who probably shouldn’t be messed with. Or maybe Fido will just forget about the whole thing and go back to licking himself.

Additional Uses

Two-way video intercoms are also great for opening up convenient lines of communication between specific rooms (like the kitchen and garage), and for monitoring your business entrance from inside your office. Can you think of other ways in which you’ve found two-way video intercoms to be useful? If so, please let us know in the comments section. These versatile devices have myriad uses, and they’re extremely popular because they essentially enable you to be in two places at once. Home Security Store offers a variety of expandable two-way video intercom systems to satisfy every conceivable need, and the possibilities are virtually limitless.

Preventing Unlawful Entry – What You Need to Know

preventing-unlawful-entryMovies and television dramas bombard us with depictions of ruthless criminals smashing their way into the homes of unsuspecting victims, whether to commit burglary or acts of violence. It may surprise you, however, to learn that the majority of home invasions occur without the use of force. This is known as unlawful entry, and it’s every burglar’s preferred means of access. It requires no loud noises, it leaves behind very little evidence, and it ensures the greatest chance of undetected escape. Before you start thinking about alarms, surveillance kits and fancy high-tech deterrents, you should begin by focusing on how to prevent this easily avoidable household vulnerability.

Lock Your Doors

It’s absolutely critical that you keep all of your doors locked at all times, and not just when you’re out and about. Nearly two-thirds of burglars enter through the front door, and the majority of them are able to just walk right in. For instance, we recently wrote about a string of dorm room burglaries at the University of Pennsylvania, all of which occurred in rooms that were left unlocked. Many criminals will go from door to door in search of easy targets. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable.

Secure Your Windows

When locked doors prove inconvenient, many intruders will opt for window entry. Far too many of us are complacent about our windows, securing them with a simple latch or failing to secure them at all. Furthermore, an open window is like a bullseye to a burglar. Make sure never to leave your windows open more than 6 inches, and secure them in place with a lock or burglar bar. And most important at all, never leave your windows unlocked.

Set up Cameras and Signs

With a couple of strategically placed surveillance cameras and home security signs, you can easily turn your residence into a criminal’s kryptonite. Even a fake camera—if highly visible—will stop potential burglars in their tracks, and an illuminated yard sign announces that your home is armed and secured (even if it isn’t). Just make sure that these deterrents are placed in highly visible locations, both in the front yard and backyard. Many criminals will attempt to enter through the back, and we certainly don’t want them to miss the message.

home invasion robberyInstall a Lock Bump Protector

Okay, so this one requires a bit of an explanation. Lock bumping technically constitutes forced entry, because a criminal must use tools to manipulate the lock on your front door. If you’re curious about how the process works, you can learn more about it here. Nevertheless, we’re including it in this list because the process is relatively quick and leaves no evidence behind. In fact, a criminal can rob a home with a bump key and exit without leaving the slightest trace that he was ever in your home. That’s why it’s so important to install a lock bump protector on your front door.

Educate Your Kids

No matter how diligent we are about securing our homes from unlawful entry, our efforts are all for naught if we fail to instill this necessary wisdom in our children. So make sure to teach your kids about the critical importance of always locking doors and windows, and make family safety a top priority. Finally, if you’re looking to take your home security the next level with an affordable and sophisticated alarm system, check out the selection at Home Security Store. We offer the best value on the most advanced equipment around, and we can help you fulfill all of your home security needs.

Only 13 Percent of Burglaries are Solved – How to Beat the Odds

recovering stolen propertyIt’s true. Only 13 percent of burglaries are ever solved, and only 15 percent of stolen property is ever recovered. When you consider that a burglary occurs every 15 seconds in the U.S., it’s not difficult to see why law enforcement can scarcely keep up with the demand, but that doesn’t mean you have to become a statistic. There are ways in which you can maximize your odds of recovering your treasured goods in the event of a robbery, but it’s going to require a bit of planning. And sure, it may be no fun to plan for a burglary, but you’re only tempting fate if you fail to take preemptive action.

Keep a Detailed Inventory

First and foremost, your valuables should all be meticulously catalogued.  Keep a log of names and serial numbers, along with photographs and even receipts if possible. The more details you have, the better. In the event of a burglary, you want your stolen goods to be easily identifiable, thereby ensuring the maximum chance of recovery. Certain items can even be registered for additional protection. For instance, if you keep bicycles in the garage, register them with the National Bike Registry.

File a Police Report Immediately

When a burglary occurs, time is most definitely of the essence. The longer you hesitate, the less likely your property will be recovered. The first week is especially critical. So get in touch with police right away, and provide them with all pertinent information. If the authorities fail to follow up with you, then take the initiative yourself (more on that later).

Set Up Surveillance

Anonymity is a burglar’s secret weapon. These crooks go to great lengths to remain undetected, because once their faces are seen, the jig is up. The mere presence of security cameras can act as a powerful burglary deterrent, but even if the bad guys do infiltrate your perimeter, you can help bring them to justice by recording the footage to an external DVR. There are a wealth of affordable security camera kits available, and if you can afford it, more is always better. Place at least one camera outside, and install cameras throughout the home in areas where valuables are kept.

surveillance-camera-benefits-2Go High-Tech

Recently we commented on a story in Arizona that involved a burglar, a stolen laptop and a GPS device. Basically, the thief made off with the laptop and other valuables, completely unaware of the discreet GPS device concealed inside the laptop case. Police located the thief at his home a few hours later, where they promptly arrested him. Small GPS devices are revolutionizing home security by creating a trail of digital breadcrumbs right to the perpetrator’s front door. Certain computers, phones and tablets can even be optimized with GPS software.

Start Looking

A few days after the burglary occurs, start perusing your local pawn shops in search of your stolen property. You may have to visit a few neighboring cities. If you find something that belongs to you, quietly exit the shop and contact the police. Check the local Craigslist classifieds as well, and visit websites like Stolen911, which document recently stolen property.

Follow Up

In cases like these, you have to be persistent. Sadly, police deal with burglary situations every day, and it just doesn’t have the same emotional effect on them that is has it on you. For them, it’s just another day on the job, so don’t expect the police to report to you with frequent updates. Be proactive, and make sure to keep up with the local news. If a major burglary ring is suddenly foiled in your neighborhood, you may be able to find out if your situation is related, and if your valuables have been recovered.

How to Minimize the Loss from a Burglary

burglary-preventionSo you’ve assembled the home security system of your dreams, complete with state-of-the-art motion detectors, window contacts, glass-break sensors and surveillance cameras. Nevertheless, a crafty thief has infiltrated your ostensibly impenetrable fortress and made off with your valuables. Unfortunately, there are two kinds of burglars who will sweep right past a home security system: the smartest ones, and the dumbest ones. The really smart ones can bypass sophisticated alarms, and the really dumb ones will simply set off the alarm and take whatever they can get in a smash-and-grab fashion. But whether your home is invaded by a criminal mastermind or a brainless bumpkin, there are ways in which you can minimize the loss of valuable property.

Which Household Items are Most Likely to Be Stolen?

Before you can effectively devise a strategy for securing your valuables, you first need to understand which household items are most likely to be taken. According to Property Room, a popular online police auction service, the following valuables have some of the highest reported theft rates in the nation.

  1. Bicycles
  2. Power Tools
  3. Gold Jewelry
  4. Laptops
  5. Cell Phones
  6. Hunting Equipment
  7. Small Electronics (especially Apple products)
  8. Decorative Weapons
  9. Lawn Mowers
  10. Small Boats

Invest in a Sturdy Safe

A large safe can be a costly investment, but it may save you thousands of dollars in loss. Use it to secure jewelry, electronics, cash, sensitive files and more. You can also purchase specialized safes for weapons and power tools. Choose a safe of at least 1.2 cubits, preferably with a bolt-down kit. A safe like this will weigh about 100 pounds empty, and most conventional thieves won’t even bother with it.

Hide Your Valuables Like a Pro

For small valuables, concealment can work wonders. The trick is to be clever about it. For instance, don’t hide your spare key inside of a fake rock on the porch. Everyone knows that trick. Great hiding places include hollowed-out books and coffee cans. Home Security Store even sells a diversion safe that looks like—and functions as—a wall clock. These small spaces are perfect for hiding your fine jewelry, cash, spare keys and small electronics.

preventing-burglariesUse Your Kitchen to Your Advantage

While we’re on the subject of concealment, the kitchen is one of the best places to hide valuables. In burglary situations, thieves will typically avoid this room altogether, because it’s inconveniently located and seldom contains desirable goods. As a result, the kitchen is the ideal place to hide those hollowed-out books, coffee cans and diversion safes. Your cabinets and cupboards are useful for more than just storing your Cap’n Crunch (by the way, Cap’n Crunch boxes also make great hiding places for small valuables…just saying).

Keep Records

Even if a cadre of clever crooks does make off with your prized possessions and disappear into the night, you may not have to count it as a total loss. Keep a detailed inventory of all your valuables, including serial numbers, photographs, dates of purchase and original value. Keep this inventory in a safe place away from your home, and add to it as needed. If you provide your insurance with this information in your time of need, you may be able to replace much of your stolen property at little to no out-of-pocket cost.

Set Up Surveillance

A quality surveillance system may not prevent burglars from invading your home, but it may enable you to identify the perpetrators. It’s important to have a combination of indoor and outdoor surveillance, so that you can have the best chance of identifying faces, vehicles, license plates and—most importantly—evidence. This will make it far easier for law enforcement to catch the criminals and possibly recover your stolen items. Home Security Store offers a wealth of affordable, high-quality home surveillance systems that can give you the added protection necessary to deter would-be thieves and place crooks behind bars. Secure your home today.

When a Stranger Knocks – Home Security Tips for Women Living Alone

safety tips for womenLet’s face it, there are some really bad people out there, and tragically, independent women are often the targets of opportunistic criminals like burglars, rapists, and scam artists. A woman who lives alone is often perceived to be an easy target, but with a bit of preparation, you can prove the bad guys wrong. This isn’t about living in fear; it’s about personal empowerment. With a few simple precautions, you can truly take back the night, and greatly minimize your chances of ever becoming a victim.

Lock Your Doors

In today’s world, this is sensible advice for anyone, but independent women should be especially mindful of their door locks. Criminals enter through the front door in nearly two-thirds of home invasion cases, and all too often, the homeowners leave themselves vulnerable by failing to lock their doors. But don’t stop there. Make sure to secure your windows as well. A simple latch isn’t sufficient to ward off intruders. Consider installing additional window locks and burglar bars.

Don’t Open Your Door for Strangers

They may come dressed as insurance salesmen, home security representatives or delivery men, but don’t necessarily assume that they are who they claim to be. Criminals will don a wealth of clever disguises to gain personal information and access to your home, so if strange solicitors come knocking, just tell them to keep walking. If you don’t already have one, consider installing a security screen door. This will allow you to communicate with visitors without actually making yourself vulnerable to them. For a more cost-effective solution, consider installing a two-way video intercom at your front entrance.

Install a Home Security System

If you think you can’t afford a home security system, think again. There are systems available for homes of all sizes, and for people of all economic backgrounds. The truth is that you can’t afford to be without one. Homes without a security system are three times more likely to be invaded, and if a break-in does occur, you don’t want to be without that extra layer of protection. The mere presence of a home security yard sign is enough to deter a majority of burglars, so even if you can’t invest in a full-fledged system at this time, you may still benefit immensely from a simple sign, decal or dummy camera.

Install Motion-Activated Lights

motion detection lights

Motion-activated lights make powerful burglary deterrents.

While we’re on the subject of burglary deterrents, it’s worth noting that motion sensor lights are extremely useful for warding off potential home invaders. The vibrant light robs them of the darkness that they rely upon and exposes their clandestine activity to the world. You can even find affordable, eco-friendly solar lights that have zero impact on your electric bill.

Don’t Go to Sleep

Okay, so obviously we don’t mean this literally. After all, we all need our 8 hours (well, we try anyway), but you don’t need to make your sleeping habits apparent to the criminal element. There are simple and innovative ways in which you can give the appearance of activity at all hours of the day and night. For instance, with a fake TV light, you can project images that perfectly resemble the glow of a television, but without using any more electricity than a standard nightlight. While you’re at it, consider keeping a couple of pairs of dirty men’s shoes on your porch. This will give the impression that you’re not alone.

Carry Pepper Spray

Pepper spray is a bit of a paradox. You hope you never have to use it, but you don’t want to be without it when the need arises. If you should find yourself in the midst of a dangerous confrontation, pepper spray can quite literally save your life, and now it’s easier than ever to keep it handy. For instance, a few companies are even making pepper spray iPhone cases in a full range of colors. Even if you never need to incapacitate an attacker (and hopefully you won’t), just having the weapon at your disposal will greatly enhance your peace of mind. So take control of your personal safety and security, and live with the confidence of knowing that you will not be a victim.

Dorm Theft Prevention – 7 Tips to Protect Your Stuff

dorm safetyLast week we reported on a recent series of dorm room burglaries at the University of Pennsylvania. It was the second string of burglaries to occur at the famed Quadrangle dormitory since December, and it resulted in the theft of cash, laptops and other valuables. Dorm life already has enough pitfalls of its own: cramped spaces, constant sleep deprivation, and roommates who perhaps don’t shower as often as they should. You shouldn’t also have to worry about losing your MacBook to a sticky-fingered thief. Heed the following tips to prevent becoming the unwitting victim of another dorm room bandit.

1. Lock Your Doors

Don’t roll your eyes at this one. Yeah, it might seem a bit overly simplistic or obvious, but most dorm prowlers will go from door to door in search of those easy marks. Case in point: the recent UPenn burglaries. All 5 victims had reportedly left their doors unlocked prior to the robberies. When you get caught up in the communal buzz of dorm living, it’s easy to become complacent and assume that you’re constantly among friends. But it only takes one sinister sneak to ruin your whole day. We’re not saying that you should be cynical about dorm life, but you shouldn’t be naïve about it, either.

2. Install an Alarm System  

Very few dorm dwellers actually stop to consider the merits of a reliable alarm system, because on paper it sounds like overkill. But you don’t need complicated wiring and invasive installations to secure your space. Even a compact wireless alarm system, like the iSmartAlarm, can protect your dorm room as effectively as any hardwired system, and it’s no more difficult to configure than an X-Box. It can even communicate with your smartphone, sending you instant alerts whenever your security is breached.

dorm theft

It looks like an ordinary book, but it’s actually a clever hiding spot for your valuables.

3. Get Creative

Even without an alarm system, you can still take steps to discourage thieves from pilfering your valuables. For instance, no college student can function without a laptop in today’s academic environment, so secure your workstation with a simple laptop lock. If you have cash, jewelry or other valuables lying around, you can conceal them discreetly in a clever diversion safe. And with a simple decal on your door, you can deter would-be filchers before they even step foot into you room. You have a wealth of creative options at your disposal, so don’t be afraid to use the full arsenal.

4. Claim What’s Yours

While we’re on the subject of laptops, have you engraved your name onto yours? Many universities recommend that you engrave your portable electronic devices and other valuables. A simple personalized etching can act as a powerful deterrent to potential crooks, and in the event that someone does make off with your hot new tablet, your chiseled signature will greatly increase the likelihood that your stolen property is returned to you when the thief is inevitably discovered.

5. Consider Renters Insurance

Insurance isn’t just for cars, houses and lives. Many major insurance companies offer renters insurance packages designed specifically for college students. These affordable plans offer protection not only against theft, but also against the damages that occur as a result of water, fire and vandalism. It’s a great way to secure your peace of mind and establish an invaluable safety net for this unpredictable period in your life.

6. Empty Out your Car

If you’re using your car as a storage unit (as so many college students are inclined to do), it’s time for a bit of spring cleaning. Don’t leave any valuables in your car, because opportunistic criminals can and will seize upon the opportunity. It’s also a good idea to protect the vehicle itself, using an alarm system and/or steering wheel lock. A skilled car thief can bypass any deterrent, but the vast majority of car thieves are amateurs in search of an easy target. So don’t make it easy for them.

7. Familiarize Yourself with the Dorm Rules and Security Procedures

Last (but certainly not least), take some time to study and learn the rules and procedures. Get acquainted with the RAs and other dorm representatives, express with them any concerns that you may have, and be mindful of any safety recommendations made by your dorm or university. Securing your property is actually quite simple, but it does require you to be proactive. So lock up that laptop, secure your dorm room, and make some college memories.