Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas tried to warn us. Home Alone did too. Although winter isn’t peak season for burglaries, it offers would-be breakers and enterers some unique opportunities to scheme. After all, there’s no better time than the frigid months for people to leave their homes for a vacation somewhere warm—and even better if you’ve left a bunch of pricey new gifts under the tree or lying around the house.
There are things you can do to better protect your home in the colder season, even when you’re away for an extended period. The first, of course, is to install a home security system, including cameras (and install them well). But here are some less obvious tips.
No holiday displays in the window
What good is a Christmas tree if it’s not visible from the street, broadcasting your holiday cheer and interior decorating skills to passersby? A lot of good, actually, because that ostentatious window tree is a beacon to potential thieves. It says, “There are gifts and nice things in here.”
According to home security expert Beth Priestley, “When you’re going away, you’ll want to make sure valuables are hidden from view as much as possible, especially if you live on the ground floor or on a busy street. Although having wrapped presents under the tree looks nice, for thieves looking through the window, it shows exactly where potentially expensive items that can be easily sold on are.”
Don’t share your holiday plans too freely
The holidays make us feel friendly and neighborly. You might want to sit down and talk about the season’s blessings with the person next to you at the diner. That’s fine, but don’t tell them anything about your holiday plans.
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Priestley says the “sad fact” is many burglars live near the people they steal from, so “it’s a good idea to avoid discussing your plans for Christmas with anybody apart from close friends and family.”
No real-time posting on social media (or keep it locked down)
This one will be hard if you’re on a long vacation, but for the most part, try to avoid posting on social media about your whereabouts in real time unless you have your privacy settings locked down tight. This is good advice generally, too: Thousands of followers don’t need to know where you are every second, and waiting to post helps you stay present in the moment. (You’ll also seem cooler—you were having too much fun to open up the ‘gram. Just saying.)
“Lots of evidence suggests that thieves are increasingly turning to social media for information about homeowners who are away. Consider making your accounts private and, whether it’s a Christmas market or the office party, refrain from posting about it until you return home,” says Priestley.
Put your lights on a timer
Plug-in timers might seem archaic in the age of smart plugs and phone apps, but having lights on in your home is a major deterrent to potential criminals and if you’re on vacation, you might not always remember to toggle the lights on and off periodically from your phone.
Priestley recommends using an old school timer not only program your lamps to turn on in the evening, but to save money on your holiday light displays, too, if you’re prone to forgetting to shut them off before you go to bed.
Stay on top of your Amazon deliveries
Finally, per Bob Vila, you should be careful making it obvious that you have a flow of gifts coming into the home. Don’t let those Amazon packages pile up outside your door—you can often choose your preferred delivery date at checkout, so select a time you’ll be home. If you’re bring stuff in yourself, pull your car into the garage before unloading the trunk if you can. To the best of your ability, you can even try to do your shopping in smaller chunks, so you’re never seen with a huge amount of new goodies at once.