There are around 1.1 million burglaries in the United States every year, according to a 2019 FBI report, and 63% of these are in residential homes. Though homeowners and renters are always searching for solutions to make sure they don’t become yet another statistic, robbers are innovative in finding ways to commit their crimes.
A home security system can be a significant deterrent to burglars, but may not completely stop a determined criminal who has their eyes set on your valuables.
Here are 10 possible signs that someone is casing your house, and recommended actions to keep your home safe.
1. Unfamiliar people on the street
Burglars often case several homes at the same time, especially if they’re on a single street. They learn very quickly which homes have people coming and going, which are empty, and which have security systems.
Always be on the lookout for suspicious behavior when you see strangers on your street. This may include someone who walks up and down the sidewalk multiple times, with no apparent purpose. If they’re attempting to be covert or hide their face from view, this is a red flag.
2. Strange cars parked on corners
Take note of any cars that are new to your neighborhood or that aren’t parked in designated spots. Consider this: if the car’s owner has a good reason to be there, why would they be parked in a random spot, rather than right outside someone’s home?
Write down the license plate of any unfamiliar cars, whether they’re in a parking spot or not. If something goes awry, you’ll have useful evidence for law enforcement.
3. Flyers stuck in doors
Industrious thieves have a sneaky method of casing homes and leaving flyers in the door. Unpicked flyers are a telltale sign of a home free of action and people.
If possible, talk to a neighbor and ask them to grab any pamphlets they see stuck in your doorframe. This could decrease your chances of having your home burgled.
4. New social media followers
Technology has helped burglars innovate, and thanks to social media, they don’t always need to physically visit a house to know when it’s empty. People often post their whereabouts on social media, broadcasting to the world where they are, who they’re with, and by extension, when their home is empty.
Avoid posting private information on social media or other websites. It may be tempting to tag locations in your photos. But consider this Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, which states that at least 65% of household burglaries are committed by someone the victim knows.
You can also keep an eye out for new social media followers, especially around the holidays. You don’t want burglars to know when you’ll be on vacation, attending your office holiday party, or visiting family, so be sure you know the ways to keep your home safe when traveling on holiday.
5. Fake surveys
Particularly bold thieves will take a direct approach of going door-to-door, often under the guise of performing a survey. They’ll canvas an entire neighborhood, getting vital information on who lives in each home, and their comings and goings.
This door-to-door scam is also a very useful way for burglars to view what’s in each home. From the doorway, they can see all of your valuables, whether you have a guard dog, and collect other helpful information that lets them know whether breaking and entering is worth it.
It’s tempting to be compliant and hand over details of your job, how many people live in the household, and other information. Remember that though a stranger may put you at ease, they’re still someone you don’t know. Don’t give out personal information to anyone you’re unfamiliar with, as you don’t know how they’ll use it.
6. Strangers taking pictures
When you notice someone on your street taking photos, there may be an innocent enough reason. They could be avid bird watchers or lovers of architecture. However, they may be taking photos of home security systems visible through your windows.
View anyone taking photos of your home with serious suspicion. A burglar may be looking for holes in the setup, such as a window that's not covered by a certain camera angle or a part of your yard that a guard dog can’t access.
7. People showing up at your door with an “emergency”
Someone who arrives at your house and claims to have an emergency is hard to turn away. They may say that their car has broken down, they desperately need to use the bathroom, or they’re having a medical emergency. Remember: it’s sensible to be skeptical.
These days, people won’t often leave home without a cell phone. If they need the bathroom, they’re more likely to stop at a store, mall, or restaurant than someone’s house.
Not comfortable with a stranger entering your home? Simply refuse them entry. Let them know you can help by making a call or arranging a tow truck on their behalf. Someone with a real need will agree to this, whereas a burglar looking to case your home won’t. If they become pushy or aggressive, call the authorities immediately.
8. Hang-ups on your landline
Keep an ear out for callers on your landline who just hang up. This is a tried-and-tested way for burglars to find out if you’re home. Once or twice may be a harmless mistake, but a few of these calls, especially within a short period of time, could be a sign that your home is being targeted by a burglar.
A home security system like Cove can help put your mind at rest when you’re faced with frequent hang-ups. Along with its wide range of home security equipment options, Cove comes with 24/7 monitoring. You can also have a two-way conversation with live agents through the system’s touch panels, as soon as you feel uneasy.
9. Service workers
A service worker only comes when they’re called. Ask yourself whether someone who needs to see your gas or electricity meter, or adjust your internet service, is there because you reported a problem, or if they’re trying to gain access to your home.
If a supposed technician turns up unannounced, ask for their details and tell them you’ll need to reschedule as the company hasn’t informed you of their visit. Burglars will most likely flee pretty fast. If you do call your provider and they have no record of a visitor, there’s a strong chance that the person who arrived at your door was looking to gain access to your home. Be sure to alert your neighborhood watch or the local authorities so that they can warn others.
10. Mild vandalism
Before a burglary, criminals may perform a mild act of vandalism to test how you respond. A rock through a side window could be the work of teenagers, but it may also have been thrown to test whether your home has a security system and how you react.
Burglars will be looking to see whether you call the police or a neighbor is roused, and how quickly the vandalism is fixed.
Exterior lights are often a target, too. Burglars may unscrew or break lightbulbs during the day, so when they come to your door at night with the intention of robbing you, they can do it in darkness. If you spot breakages, holes in a fence or something that isn’t at it should be, take note. They could be a sign of an imminent break-in attempt on your home.
Stay alert and be active in keeping your home secure
A University of North Carolina study stated that only around 12% of burglaries are premeditated. But for those premeditated cases, thieves often like to scope out a street to decide which houses are the safest for them to break into and which don't have a security system in place.
Be active in keeping your home secure and your family safe. When something seems out of the ordinary, it usually is.