Updated September 30, 2019

Do You Make These Home Security Mistakes?

10 Home Security Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes
Read more about Home Security

Are you making these home security mistakes and don't even know it? Here are the 10 most common mistakes — and how to fix them.

When the local news has a story about a burglary, most of us shrug our shoulders and move on to the next story. After all, burglaries are one of those things that only happen to someone else, right?

So perhaps you start to become a little lax with security. Maybe you leave your front door wide open during the day or you announce your vacation plans all over Facebook.

Guess what? That's practically inviting burglars to make a little visit to your house.

What are burglars looking for? Easy targets.

Don't become an easy target by making critical home security mistakes. And the scary thing is, most of us don't even know we're making them.

Take this little home security quiz and see if you're guilty of the following mistakes. If you find that you are, we show you how to fix it. With a few changes around your home, you can create a stronger fortress against the bad guys.

Related: Best Home Security System

1. Do you put off little home maintenance projects?

Maybe your garage door doesn't quite close all the way or maybe you have a broken basement window. Perhaps the light bulbs in your outdoor light fixtures have gone out and you haven't gotten around to replacing them.

For you, these are minor problems that you've become so accustomed to that you probably don't even see them anymore. You mean to fix them ... someday.

In the meantime, a burglar looking at your property could easily spot these problems as potential easy access points.

What to do instead: Make a point to walk around your property every few months for areas that need repair and could be inviting to potential thieves. Consider asking a friend to go around with you, who may see things that you have overlooked. And be sure to keep your outdoor lights in working order (burglars do like to lurk in the dark).

Maintaining your home also means doing your gardening. Untrimmed bushes or overgrown hedges provide the perfect cover for burglars.

Read here for more information and helpful links to how you can deter burglars with smart landscaping (discover which plants can scare off burglars!).

2. Do you forget to lock up sometimes?

Whether you're just forgetful or whether you're in a hurry, failing to engage the locks in your home when you leave for the day is another simple mistake that could cost you.

Some of us are too confident in our neighborhood - 14 percent of people who live in rural areas don't bother locking their doors. Others are cautious about locking the front door but are more lax about their garage. And most common is that many of us leave our windows wide open, making your house a very easy target for robbing.

You'd be surprised at how often houses are robbed because of carelessness about locking up. 40% of burglars gain their access through an unlocked door or window, when nobody was home! And this stat goes even higher to 55% for burglaries that occur when the residents are at home.

What to do instead: Always lock your doors, even when you are home during the day. Even during the warm weather months, close the most prominent windows on your first floor every time you step out or turn in for the night.

3. Do you post pictures while on vacation?

Do you announce to all your social media followers that you're going on vacation? And do you update Facebook with your vacation adventures while they're happening?

Sure, maybe you've made your coworkers jealous, but this also tell burglars that now is a great time for them to check out your empty apartment.

Some burglars plan out their moves in advance (41 percent said they mostly struck on impulse), and they are getting smart about using social media to see which houses will be empty. They also keep an eye out for houses that have been empty in recent days. Obvious clues include overgrown lawns and overflowing mailboxes.

What to do instead: Turn off the social media notices when you're on vacation (really, take a true vacation), and tap your neighbors for help. Ask them to bring in your mail and take care of how the outside of your home looks when you're away. You could even ask a neighbor to park in your driveway.

Tip: You can request the USPS to stop your mail delivery while you are away and hold it until you are back.

4. Are you a creature of habit?

Burglars aren't always random bad guys who happen to come across your neighborhood. Some of them could be people who live near you and who are out looking for ways to pay for their drug habits - and your possessions may help them get what they need.

They may drive by your house every day and notice your car is always in the driveway because you work from home. Or they may notice that you always bring out the garbage cans by 7 a.m. on Wednesdays. The day they drive by and notice something different, it may cross their minds that you are away.

What to do instead: Change things up to keep potential burglars on their toes. Park your car on the street every once in a while.

When you are away and rely on automatic lighting to fool people at night, consider getting a lighting system that can vary the times, rooms, and lights that are being used. Don't just leave the same one light on, as that tips burglars off that you're not home.

5. Do you hide a spare key close to the front door?

Did you stick a key under your welcome mat the day you moved in and it's still there? Maybe you thought you'd be smart and put it above the door or right under the stairs.

Guess what? Burglars know the common hiding spots for spare keys. They may have even seen your cat sitter or neighbor search for it while you were away.

What to do instead: Be more creative with your hiding spot or, better yet, give your key to the cat sitter and your neighbor and ask that they keep it on their key ring.

6. Do you leave tools outside?

Have a ladder sitting on the side of the house that's easy for a burglar or two to prop against your house? Do you have some tools lying around your front porch that could give someone an easy way to smash your window? Hide them.

What to do instead: Be as tidy with your outdoor tools as you are with your inside stuff. Put a lock around your ladder so it can't be moved. Keep your tools where they belong - in your house or a locked shed or garage.

7. Do you meet Craigslist people at your house?

We want to believe the best in people, but stranger meetups to exchange items are best done away from home, in the open. You don't want someone you don't know sizing up your property, scoping out items they might want to steal, or looking for weak spots in your home security.

What to do instead: Depending on the size of the object you're selling, consider meeting the person in a neutral location, like a coffee shop or public park. Some police departments are even designating some areas as Craigslist-safe zones. Certainly, not every Craigslist customer is a potential burglar, but better safe than sorry.

8. Can you see any valuable items from outside?

You'd be amazed what a burglar can learn about you and your lifestyle by just peeking in a few windows or by inspecting your garbage.

Don't leave easy-to-take possessions near a window, such as a smartphone or car keys, where a burglar could smash and grab in a flash. Boxes from a new TV or gaming system sitting on top of your garbage can send a signal to burglars that you have other things worth money, and they may start studying your property more closely.

What to do instead: Go outside your home and see what you can see through your windows right now. Would any be of interest to a burglar? Rearrange any valuable items to further inside the room.

Break down any boxes so they fit inside a trash can or trash bag, or take the cardboard to a recycling center soon after setting up the TV or gaming system.

9. Do you know who your neighbors are?

One of the best resources you can have in your arsenal of home security tools is relying on your neighbors.

Everyone laughs at the nosy neighbor on TV sitcoms, sitting by his window with binoculars and a notepad. But having neighbors who keep an eye on your property and look for things that are out of the ordinary is helpful, especially when you aren't home.

What to do instead: Take the time to interact with your neighbors and become friendly with them, as having more eyes on your property is a good thing. You'll also have an automatic network of people willing to help you out with the mail and lawn when you're away. And be open to returning the favor.

10. Do you rely on just your dog for security?

If you're convinced your dog can do just as good of a job as any security system, you probably just haven't caught up to modern times.

Some people still think of home alarm systems as wired systems that require a landline phone and lead to many false alarms with police. However, there are many other options on the market today that can fit a variety of preferences.

You could even skip the 24/7 monitoring pricier packages and simply make your home "smarter." You can control indoor and outdoor lighting from your smartphone even when you're miles away (good for avoiding mistake #4).

Another neat little trick is being able to watch your home through video and make it seem like you're home by virtually answering the door and talking from your phone to a device. Installing electronic locks on your doors that use a keypad rather than a key is also a good option; this type of lock can help keep your home safer from burglars.

What to do instead: You also can pay for a home security system that contains door alarms and window sensors to alert you and the police to any break-ins. Over 50 percent of burglars will stop what they will doing if they see an alarm onsite, according to a study of incarcerated burglars.

But, as with most of the home security tools on this list, the technology only works if you use it every time and set it up properly to avoid false alarms.

Avoid using just a dog as your sole security system. Your dog may literally be all bark and no bite. A dog's bark may intimidate some burglars, but the truth is that if a burglar is still insistent on entering your home, your dog probably won't do much besides just bark. In an experiment where people posed as burglars and entered homes with dogs, all dogs allowed the burglars to roam freely through the house.


When it comes to avoiding home security mistakes, perhaps the best advice is to use common sense. Fix items related to home security as soon as they need it. Double check your locks when you leave the house until keeping your doors and windows locked becomes a habit.

Primarily, though, think about how your home looks through the eyes of a burglar. Look for potential weak spots and consider whether you've created a pattern where it's obvious when you're home and when you're gone. For most people, a few simple changes are all it takes to make their home one that a burglar will avoid in search of an easier target.

Write to Kyle Schurman at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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