My uncle, a police investigator, mentioned recently that burglars like to scope out homes before breaking into them. You never want to think about strangers looking at your home as a target for a burglary, but some are. To protect your home and neighborhood, I’ll share with you the tips I’ve learned to tell if someone is casing your house.
- 7 Signs Someone Is Casing Your Home
- What To Do To Protect Your Home
- Final Thoughts
7 Signs Someone Is Casing Your Home
1) Unfamiliar Vehicles or Persons
Thieves are often looking at more than one house in a neighborhood. When looking for potential targets, a good sign that a property is suitable is the homeowner absent from the house. A thief may walk up and down a street to see when no one is home.
Other warning signs are cars that seem out of place parked on a corner where they can monitor multiple dwellings. Take note of the license plate for any strange car parked on your street. If something does happen, you have evidence to give to the police.
2) Door-to-Door Scams
That person knocking on your door during dinner time may be more than just an annoying salesman. It may seem bold, but many burglars will go straight to the front door to check if someone is home or not.
Even if you are home, getting you to open your door for a few minutes can allow burglars just enough time to see what valuable items are inside your home.
Be wary of anyone who is asking questions that could reveal something about your house or your schedule. This could include surveyors or religious groups that want to talk to you.
A great way for burglars to get something about your schedule is to get you talking about your work. Use your gut instinct here and if you feel uncomfortable about someone who has knocked on your front door, politely refuse to speak to them and send them on their way.
3) The Flyer Method
As we’ve noted before, burglars are looking for an unoccupied home when scoping a neighborhood. One of the old fashioned tricks of the criminal trade is to leave flyers at the front door of a home.
Thieves may walk from door to door, leaving flyers at all of the houses in a neighborhood for a few days in a row. They will be able to tell which homes are empty if all of the flyers are still at the front door.
4) Strangers Taking Pictures of Your Home
The man taking pictures of different parts of your house may think it’s photo-worthy, or he may be scoping your home to break in later. Technology is utilized every day by criminals to aid in their misdeeds.
Taking pictures of your property allows a burglar to look at security measures you may have, such as security cameras, motion detectors, or signs of an alarm. This also gives them a chance to look at where your windows are and other details that can help them during a home burglary.
5) New Followers on Social Media
People love Facebook and other social platforms. These apps provide a great way to share things that we want our friends and neighbors to see. But, in many cases, it isn’t just our family and neighbors looking at what we post.
Have you ever posted information about an upcoming vacation? Or, maybe your spouse gave you a new watch that was quite expensive, which you posted online? These are a big red flag for burglars that your house may be ripe for a break-in. Posting info about you being away from your home lets would-be burglars know precisely when you are gone and for how long.
6) Strangers With Random Emergencies
A common trick that burglars like to employ is casing your home by getting you to let them in. They may do this by posing as a jogger who needs to use the bathroom or by acting like they need to use a phone. You, trying to be kind, let them inside to use the restroom or the phone.
While inside, they are looking around to see what home security system you have and what items of value could be quickly taken during a robbery. Remember to use your gut instinct if someone knocks on your door and is acting strangely. If they show signs such as avoiding eye contact or act fidgety, it is best to be polite and deny their request.
7) Fake Service Workers
This is something you may have seen in the movies, but comes from numerous real-life cases. Would-be burglars will dress up as a service worker to gain entry into your home or back yard. The burglars might come disguised as city workers needing access to your backyard, or as security workers checking up on your system.
In some cases, even real workers can be suspect. During their work, they case houses and come back later for your valuable items. Or, they may let a friend know which homes are the best and if there are any security systems. The worker can leave a window unlocked or strange markings letting their cohorts know which house to hit.
What To Do To Protect Your Home
Install an Alarm System
Installing a security system is the single most effective way many people can discourage burglars from targeting your home (1). Most burglaries are crimes of opportunity where a burglar sees the chance for a quick entrance and exit and takes it. They do not want to draw attention to themselves from neighbors or law enforcement. So, many burglars avoid houses with an alarm system.
Data shows that a steady decrease in burglaries between 2001 and 2005 coincides with an increase in the number of registered home burglar alarms.
- Dr. Seungmug Lee, Associate Professor Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Texas Arlington
Have Video Cameras Installed
As with alarms, cameras can be a significant deterrent for would-be burglars. Cameras round out home security units by adding an extra layer of protection. When burglars see a security camera, they know there is a risk they could be captured and identified, so they avoid your home altogether. Make sure that security cameras are easily visible but out of reach so they can’t be vandalized.
Limit Facebook Posts
As noted above, some of the people looking through your social media profile may be burglars looking for the right time to break-in. A high profile example of this was the robbery of Kim Kardashian in October 2016 (2). The perpetrator in the case noticed the expensive jewelry she regularly posted pictures of and planned a heist.
While you may not be posting images of millions worth in diamonds, don’t think people aren’t watching. Limit posting information about high-value items you own and especially details that could help strangers figure out when you won’t be at home.
Have Your Mail Collected On Vacation
Just like the flyers on doors, uncollected mail is a significant indicator that nobody is at your house. If you plan to go on a trip, make sure you have someone to come and pick up your mail and flyers every day. Not only will this prevent mail from being stolen, but it will also make it look like people are home. Ask your neighbors to also be on the lookout for suspicious activity while you are away.
Keep Garage Doors Closed
Open garage doors are a giant invitation that says come in and steal my valuables. When burglars case homes, they are looking for quick and easy opportunities. An open garage provides a burglar an easy opportunity to quickly run in and steal everything from golf clubs to power tools (3). As a side note, also make sure to lock your car in your driveway. Burglars can use the technology in a modern car to gain access to your home or check your GPS to see when you are away from the house and where you go.
Most offenders... avoid alarms [and video] altogether and, upon encountering such devices abandon all thought of attacking a dwelling.
- Richard T. Wright, Board of Regent’s Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Georgia State University
Install A Video Doorbell App
We’ve established that most home burglaries happen when you are away from your home. But, the reality is that you can’t watch your property 24/7. Thankfully, there is technology that can help. When a burglar is thinking of breaking in, one of the most common tricks is to ring the bell.
With traditional signals, if you aren’t home, you won’t know about it. Something you can do to solve this problem is to install a door camera. This works by alerting you on your phone when people ring the bell. So, even if you are away from your home, you can respond and look for signs of suspicious activity.
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Your home is where your loved ones reside and feel safe. But, when burglars are in your neighborhood scoping your home and looking for signs of easy access, it is disconcerting. Home burglary statistics are not any more reassuring, with over 3,000 break ins happening each day in the US.
While you can’t stop people from scoping your home, you can deter them from breaking in. Protecting your windows and door with alarms and surveillance is a good start. But being aware of signs of suspicious activity and knowing when to alert law enforcement is ultimately the best way to avoid being the target of burglars.