The Best Home Security Tips (From Real Life Ex-Burglars)

It’s fair to say that everyone has some concerns about leaving their house in safe hands. Whether you are going on vacation, a business trip, for a weekend away, or simply to the mall, leaving your house empty and/or not secured properly can be asking for trouble. 

Everyone seems to have one or two tricks of their own to discourage burglars and there are all kinds of home security tips you can implement, many of which don’t cost a penny.

So who is the most qualified to give the best home security advice? Actually, it’s those who used to break into houses for a living. Let’s take a look at the best tips to stop your home being targeted by burglars. All of the following tips are from actual, real-life ex-thieves.

Be Careful What You Post on Social Media

Gone are the days when we used to send rolls of camera film off for developing after getting back from vacation. These days a lot of people snap pictures and upload them instantly to Facebook, Instagram and other social media. 

However, a lot of those vacationers have their settings viewable as ‘public’ which is like announcing to all the local burglars in your area you aren’t at home! It’s better to wait until you’re back before uploading your vacation shots. And keep your settings to ‘friends only’ or ‘private’ so you can control who sees your posts.

Keep Valuables Out of View

You can never be sure you won’t ever be robbed but there’s no reason to make it easier for potential burglars.

If someone does end up breaking into your house, they will look in the most obvious places for cash, jewelry and electronics. Keep your valuables in the last place you’d expect they would look.

Don’t Let Just Anyone Come In

Even with the best security system in the world, you can still be robbed if you let the wrong person into your home.

This tip is from a FedEx worker rather than an ex-con but he has a great point. This delivery man remembers how easily strangers would just let him into their home without even asking for ID! Make sure you always ask for ID – someone with nothing to hide won’t mind showing it at all.

Consider a Guard Dog

A big, frightening dog who barks loudly is certainly a burglar deterrent. In fact, no burglar is going to risk breaking into someplace they might get mauled or worse.

The best part of this home security tip is you don’t actually need to get a real dog. Just get a ‘beware of the dog’ sign and put it somewhere visible. That way you have a great burglar deterrent and won’t have to scoop poop or spend a fortune on dog chow.

Set Booby Traps

Forget those Home Alone style booby traps which are going to cause you more problems than any potential burglars. Instead, you can show the burglars that you are on to them and deter them from targeting your house.

Try gluing a fake key underneath your doormat. When the thieves spot it and think they’ve struck gold, only to realize it’s glued to the ground. 

They will assume they are being watched and leave! If you have a security camera it can be funny to watch these opportunists fail so spectacularly.

Best Place to Keep Your Keys

Most people tend to hang their house keys by the front door or leave them on a table nearby. It’s easy enough to do once they are home from a long day’s work. However, this is not the best place to keep your keys.

This is where burglars expect (and hope) you to leave them. But if they’re that close to the door, a burglar could even put some kind of device through the mailbox and lift them out! Make sure you always keep your house keys out of reach.

Don’t Forget to Protect the Car

Protecting the house is important but don’t forget about your vehicle. It is easy to forget a car can also be invaded and any valuables stolen. You might also have a broken window to deal with, or maybe the whole car will be taken!

It is important to safeguard your vehicle as well as you safeguard your home. Lock the car properly, park it in the garage not on the street (if possible) and invest in a car alarm.

Keep Your Spare Keys Safe

It might surprise you to learn how many people keep their spare house keys somewhere obvious. You might think nobody would think of looking under the mat or under the pot plant in case you lock your house key indoors by accident, but guess where burglars are going to look first?

If you have to hide a spare key outside make sure you put it somewhere clever where nobody would consider looking.

Doors aren’t the Only Way In

Although it’s always prudent to lock your doors when going out and leaving the house empty, remember there other ways that a thief can gain entrance. 

Don’t just lock your front and back doors. Seal up the windows as well. One burglar claims he used to be able to get into all kinds of places via windows the owners hadn’t locked.

Don’t Leave Valuables in the Car

Being security conscious isn’t just limited to the house. You should also make sure your car is secure, as well as your garage if you have one.

Lock the car doors and windows to deter burglars. Also ensure there aren’t any valuables on display. If a potential thief sees personal items and various belongings in the car, they are more likely to attempt to break in.

Keep the Closet Protected

A lot of burglars head to the closet as soon as they gain entrance to the property, on the hunt for jewelry and other valuables.

Think about keeping your jewelry somewhere other than the closet, preferably somewhere not too obvious. Most people keep their gems and accessories in the closet, but find a different hiding place and your trinkets should stay safe.

Take Care with Your Garage Door

It is more important than you might think to take adequate precautions with your garage door, since that is an entryway into the property.

Although just about everybody closes it and locks it when they are going out, that isn’t the only time you should think about it. 

What if you are working on something in the garage and decide to nip indoors for a soda, bathroom break or to answer the phone? 

Even a few seconds leaving the garage door open is a great opportunity for potential thieves to sneak in and grab whatever you’ve left lying about or, maybe worse, entering the house that way.

A Safe is a Good Idea

Yes, a safe is always a great idea to protect your valuables but there is also another benefit to a safe.

Burglars will head straight for a safe because they assume it contains something valuable. Why not set up one safe as a red herring in a visible place and then hide your valuables somewhere else? That way if a burglar grabs the decoy safe they will end up with nothing!

Be More Cautious than the Neighbors

Although this might not sound fair, it’s just a fact of life. However secure your home is, make sure it is at least as secure as your neighbors’ homes.

For example, if you have motion-activated security lights and your neighbor doesn’t, guess which house a burglar is going to try and break into? Thieves aren’t choosy about which property they target – they just want the easiest one. 

So if they see you have security lights, a ‘beware of the dog’ sign and a security alarm, they’re going to try your neighbor’s place instead.

Lighten Up

If you’re going on a business trip or vacation, a dark and empty house is going to alert intruders you aren’t there. 

Set up some kind of automatic lighting system so the lights go on and off periodically. This will make it look like there’s someone at home. You can buy inexpensive lighting timers and set them to come on in the evening. A burglar won’t know the house is empty.

Extra Security

Although the goal is not to attract thieves at all, it’s a good idea to have additional security in place to make it very difficult to steal anything. So what kinds of extra security should you consider?

If you attach your sound system or TV to a mount, it’s going to be more time consuming and difficult for a thief to just grab it and run off with it. This means they’re more likely to give up and seek some easier prey.

A Tip about Funerals

Although it isn’t nice to consider sad things like bereavement and funerals, people grieving can be more vulnerable to home invaders.

Potential thieves can learn about recent deaths from social media posts or obituaries and then plan a break-in when everyone is going to be attending the funeral. 

If you are concerned about this, you might like to get someone to house-sit on the day of the funeral, since a robbery is the last thing you would need on such a day. 

If all your friends, family and neighbors are going to be at the funeral too, you can pay a house sitter (just make sure you check them out first, to check they aren’t a burglar!!)

Burglars Hate Inconvenience

Thieves want quick and easy jobs. They want to gain access to a house and grab your valuables fast before running away. 

Or at least that’s what they will be hoping for. Typical anti-theft devices are something many burglars are familiar with already, so don’t bother trying to fool them that way.

The best thing to do is to make everything as time-consuming and inconvenient as you can. This puts a dent in their thieving attempts, since they know they won’t be in and out as fast as they’d like. 

The longer it takes them to find or access things to steal, the more likely they are just to quit and try somewhere else.

Free Tickets aren’t Always ‘Free’

This sneaky trick was revealed by an ex-burglar. He used to make friends with his team mates and then ask if he could borrow something. He would then pretend to have lost it but buy a ticket to an event as way of apology.

While they were at the event instead of at home, he would go in and rob everything! For this reason it’s a good idea not to take anything at face value, especially tickets to fun events from people who haven’t known that long.

Portable Safes aren’t So ‘Safe’

Although keeping your valuables in a safe is a great idea, not every safe is the same. A mini lockbox, for example, can just be picked up and carried away, allowing the burglar to break into it later, at his convenience.

So the best thing to do is forget this type of portable lockbox and instead keep your valuables elsewhere.

A Medicine Cabinet Can Be Attractive to Thieves

Not many people consider their medicine cabinet when burglar-proofing their home. Although you might not keep your jewelry in here, a lot of the medicines in there can end up being expensive.

If you do have valuable things in the bathroom, don’t keep them in a cabinet because that’s where a burglar is going to look first.

What Kind of Safe is Best?

Although it isn’t always best to lock items away in a lightweight safe, that doesn’t mean you should forego safes altogether. But do think twice before investing in one because some are better than others.

Invest in a safe that does the job well, one a burglar can’t simply pick up and run away with. Choose the heaviest safe you can find. If it can be bolted to the wall or floor, even better!

Don’t Let the Kids Open the Door

Even if you live somewhere safe and don’t mind your kids playing outdoors by themselves, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for them to open the door.

Children can be trusting and often miss subtle clues. They might not be able to tell a visitor is actually a burglar. While the kid is coming to find you, the burglar can grab any valuables on display and disappear before you even reach the door. 

Tell your kids not to open the front door. That’s something for the grownups only.

Watch Out for Bag Snatchers

Do you load groceries into your car from the shopping cart? If so, never just open the trunk and start loading in the bags.

First remove your purse from the cart and then either lock it inside the front of the car or wrap it securely on your arm. 

You wouldn’t believe just how fast a sneaky robber can pass by on their bike and grab your purse before you even realize what’s going on.

Locked Windows aren’t Necessarily Safe

As long as the doors and windows are properly locked, your house is safe from burglars, right? Actually, no, not necessarily. Even locked windows can be opened from the outside. 

This is because a lot of windows will open from outside, if a wily thief has the right strength and tools. For this reason, ensure you have the correct kind of windows so burglars can’t gain access this way.

College Textbooks are Expensive to Replace

What do you think of first when you think about valuables? Most people would think of jewelry, TVs, cell phones, and so on. But there are some items that are just as valuable and just as attractive to would-be thieves.

College textbooks can be valuable, so don’t leave them lying around. A lot of thieves like to grab these and sell them on to make a fast buck or two. Meanwhile you will have to buy them all over again (and they aren’t cheap).

Fake Books are Simple but Effective

Talking about books, you know those fake books where you can stash valuables? They have been around forever but still work well and are inexpensive. 

So keep your treasured possessions in fake books, false outlets, down the back of an ugly chair, or somewhere else a thief won’t think to examine because it looks like a normal object rather than a hiding place.

Don’t Share Too Much

The more you are tempted to show off your best bling when receiving a designer purse, new pair of earrings or another expensive gift, the more you are likely to attract the wrong type of attention. 

You might assume only your nearest and dearest are envying your new bling on Facebook or Instagram but potential thieves might also be eyeing up your new trinket and thinking you might have more of the same back at the house for them to rob. 

It can be tempting to show off a fancy new possession but it’s wise to keep it more private so you don’t end up attracting burglars.

Burglars Don’t Only Want Cash and Jewelry

Cash, jewelry and electronics probably come to mind first when considering what a thief will want. But most households have other valuable items which they might not immediately think of.

Ordinary possessions like tools can be expensive to replace and a burglar can steal your entire toolbox with one grab. 

Think about what else in your house might appeal to potential thieves and improve the security or change where they are kept.

Don’t Leave Valuables on the Night Stand

Do you take off your earrings before going to bed and leave them on the nightstand? Is that where your cell phone tends to be while recharging? Do you have cash in the top drawer?

Thieves often head straight for the night stand because they know they can find valuable items on it or in one of the drawers. Don’t keep anything precious on the night stand, or anything you can’t easily replace.

Is Your Shed Secured?

A well-stocked lockbox can earn a burglar some extra bucks but grabbing this from your garage isn’t the only way they can snatch your tools. What exactly do you keep in your garden shed? Is it even locked?

Thieves can grab your tools if you keep them in an unsecured shed and they can even use them to crank open the windows or doors of your house. Keep thieves out of your shed.

Check Your Hiding Places are Effective

Although you might think you’ve stashed your valuables somewhere a burglar would never look, thieves can easily work out where your hiding spots are.

Ask a friend or family member to look for your items after you’ve hidden them? If they can find them relatively easily, that means a burglar will also be able to.

Consider Shatter-Free Film

Coming home to a smashed window is something nobody wants to experience since this not only means replacing the glass but also means someone has been in your house and ransacked it.

You can prevent this from happening by investing in some shatter-free film. Paste this on the inside of all your windows. It won’t be visible but will keep your windows much safer since if the glass won’t shatter, a burglar can’t get in.

Attics and Basements are Good Hiding Places

We have discussed various places where you should hide your valuables and where thieves are more likely to look.

There are places burglars tend never to look though and those include attics and basements. If you have expensive possessions, try hiding them in one of those places. 

The Benefits of External Storage

A burglar might not look in your basement or attic but they still might. There is another idea to consider if you want to guarantee the safety of your valuables.

Your home might not be as safe as you’d want it to be, which means sometimes it’s easier to hide your valuables somewhere else entirely, such as an external storage facility.

Burglars Hate Cameras

Installing a camera, or more than one camera, is a great idea, since would-be thieves hate them and for good reason. If you catch a thief on camera you have much more chance of them being caught. 

Also cameras can deter burglars from attempting to enter your house in the first place.

Burglars don’t want to get caught on CCTV. Also they aren’t going to know whether the camera they see is even real or a decoy. Even a sign saying there is CCTV should be sufficient to deter burglars.

Avoid Cliché Hiding Spots

Although the above tips are all very useful for those who want to protect their homes and valuables, don’t forget burglars are familiar with hiding places and used to locating and grabbing valuables quickly so they can make their escape.

Bear in mind that some of the cleverest hiding places such as fake outlets and books or containers in the freezer (for your frozen assets!) are very well-known these days. 

Most burglars will know about these devices and might even check yours if they have time.

Sliding Doors Tempt Thieves

Sliding glass doors opening on to beautiful swimming pools or manicured lawns are very popular these days, but are they a security-friendly feature?

Not necessarily. In fact, one ex-thief explains that any glass door is relatively simple for an intruder to break through. Even though they look nice, big glass doors do pose a security threat, even if you use shatter-free film on them.

Try a Red Herring or Two

Although this might seem a bit extreme, you can plant fake jewelry in a cheap jewelry box.

Burglars want to get into your house, grab whatever they can get and get back out again as quick as possible. 

If you buy a cheap jewelry box and plant some cheap jewelry in there, any burglar who manages to get into your house will hopefully grab that and run, without realizing they haven’t found any of the real stuff!

Get Rid of Boxes

This is very simple and a great way to deter burglars without spending any money. It’s just a great habit to develop and encourage the rest of the family to do as well.

If you purchase something expensive like a TV or computer, it is likely to be delivered in a large box with the brand and photo of the item shown on the box. A burglar who spots this in the garage or front yard will know you have something worth thieving in the house. 

For this reason, either throw the boxes into public garbage or break them down so they won’t show the brand and photo any more.

Is Your Safe Fireproof?

So you already know a small or portable lockable safe isn’t that foolproof because a burglar can take it away with them. But what about a fireproof version? Is it a good idea to get a heavy duty safe to stash your jewelry and other prized possessions?

Don’t assume fireproof means the safe is any safer. The contents of the safe will not catch fire even if your house burns down. However, a fireproof safe isn’t any harder for a burglar to steak or crank open with their (or your) tools.

Should You Lock Drawers?

It’s important to keep your front and back doors closed, to ensure the windows are locked before you go out and choose the right kind of safe as well as good hiding spots for your valuable possessions. 

And what about wardrobes or drawers which contain valuables? Should you also lock those?

You might assume it’s a good idea to lock them but this will only let a thief know where you keep your valuables. 

Plus, the flimsy type of lock on wardrobe or desk drawers is really easy to get open with a crowbar, making them pretty pointless. Don’t keep your valuables in there.

Don’t Trust Everyone

Although we don’t know everything about people who come to our homes, it’s still prudent to be picky about who you invite in as well as who you trust with important secrets. 

If someone is just an acquaintance or a relative stranger, you can be friendly but ensure you don’t make it obvious where you keep your valuables.

The better you hide your prized possessions so only your most trusted friends and family members know where they are, the better. 

In Conclusion

Although it’s impossible to 100% guarantee you will never be the victim of a burglary, you can see from the above tips that you can protect yourself as much as possible. 

Most of the above home security tips are from real ex-burglars, so see which apply to your home and you can hopefully deter intruders or at least make them think twice.

There’s probably no such thing as being ‘too cautious’. Even if your home contents are insured, you can’t replace items exactly and some sentimental things might be gone forever.

Make it difficult for a burglar to get in or to find your valuables and they will likely try some other house instead.