Imagine coming home and finding that your house has been ransacked for all of your most valuable possessions. Experiencing a house burglary is absolutely traumatizing. The thought of someone breaking into your home—the one place where you're supposed to feel the safest—is often scary enough to encourage you to take as many precautions necessary for preventing it from happening. While it's impossible to fully ensure one will never be burglarized, there are simple steps one can follow to prevent a burglary from happening, or minimize the impacts should one unfold. People from around the world shared their tips on how to protect your valuables from a house burglary. Their advice is sourced from their own personal experiences, so you can definitely learn something valuable from their mistakes:
#1 Lock Your Shed
Your shed. Seriously. LOCK YOUR FREAKING SHED, even if your house is well locked—if your shed isn't likely to have access to a plethora of tools I can use to gain access. Don't help the burglar. Lock your shed. I can actually confirm this one. I forgot to lock it one night and lost my lawnmower and a few grand in tools.
#2 Spare Keys
Don’t keep the spare keys near the front door. That is, under a pot plant, under a doormat, on the top of the door frame, etc. Or, if you're going to do this, Get a key that fits in the lock but doesn't turn. The thief may try for 10 to 15 seconds before ditching. All the while, you have some nice footage for the police via your video doorbell. I feel like this would be kind of brilliant.
#3 Fire Safes
Fire safes are only safe from fires. My sister’s house burned completely. The fire department didn’t put a drop of water on it, and the propane added to the heat until the underground tank ran out. There was nothing but ash and rubble. When we broke into her fireproof safe, the plastic on the inside was mostly melted, but she recovered most of the paper documents inside, including about $2,000 in paper cash.
#4 The Ol' Switcharoo
My cousin lives in a bad neighborhood, so she went to a thrift store, bought an obvious looking jewelry box and a bunch of expensive-looking costume jewelry that’s actually worthless to put in the box. She keeps this in a conspicuous place. Then she leaves a few 20s on top. That way, if someone breaks in, they will grab this and run, ignoring some of her well-hidden valuables.
#5 Good Rules Of Thumb
Don't leave things out that people can see from outside your home or car. If you buy a new TV or computer, break down the box it came in. Don't just leave it by your garbage bin. Lock doors and windows. Keep your handbag close to your body and closed. If someone wants to break in, they will. Don't keep everything out in the open. And have insurance on anything that is valuable.
#6 Meaningless Destruction
In my old neighborhood, if you got broken into and didn't have anything worth stealing, they'd trash your place. Like, cut open your mattress, smash all your kitchenware... serious business. A group hit our block a couple of times. My roommate and I, both broke college students, didn't have any valuables. My engineer neighbor had a watch collection, though. They left most of the more expensive models but decided to kick dents in all his new high-end stainless appliances and $10k speakers. They didn’t even take the speakers, they just kicked them in.
#7 A Cop's Advice
We had our apartments burgled. There were four apartments in the area. The guy kicked down the door, and apparently, he was in and out pretty quickly. I came home from work and the cop told me to never leave valuables in my nightstand. He might have even said bottom drawer. Sure enough, mine was checked—I could tell because my envelopes were moved from where I placed them.
#8 Keep Your Textbooks Safe
For the college kids that might read this, don't keep your textbooks in your car. On the day of my finals, I had about six textbooks I was going sell after my finals. I left the books in my car while I took my tests. I came back to find someone broke my window out to steal the textbooks. A cop told me that it's very common and unlikely they will catch the guy, so I was out $700, which was huge for a college student.
#9 Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
Someone broke into my car to steal a $20 portable DVD player with no battery which I had accidentally left strapped to the headrest after returning from a holiday road trip with my daughter. They didn't even bother taking the power cable, nor did they take the $100 sunglasses that were in the closed console.
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#10 Burglar Behavior
Not a burglar, but our home has been broken into. We only had the one-bedroom at the time, but the places that the burglar looked into were: the closet (everything was thrown out), desk drawers (found a bit of cash and our passports were taken), the entry furniture (drawers), under the bed and bedside tables. At least now I know where not to hide valuables. Not that I have any.
#11 A Helpful Tip
Glue a spare key (not one that opens something important) under your doormat. Weird right? A few years ago, I did this in addition to installing cameras. Over the last couple of years, I've seen this exact scenario play out: the thief walks to the door, checks under the mat, unsuccessfully tries to grab the key, backs up, looks around to see if anyone is watching (presumably because they think they have fallen for some trap/prank where they are being surveilled), and LEAVES. They don't even search for another way into the house because it spooks them.
#12 Furry Problems
I had a malamute dog years ago; a particularly fluffy one. A friend had heard that it was possible to spin their fur, so I saved enough to knit several jumpers. Anyway, a burglar took stuff from our garage and this massive box of fur too. It must've been quite a surprise. The guy must have been really desperate if he stole the fur as well. Don't leave valuable stuff in your garage.
#13 A Burglar's Perspective
Fake rocks are a dead giveaway. Sock drawers are cliche. If you have a small safe that’s not bolted down, burglars are taking that thing. Also, all burglars have a “safe guy.” Our goal is to get in and out pretty quickly. If you hide something in a random box all the way up in your attic, it’s probably safe. Whatever you do, please don’t leave your dang kid at home alone.
#14 Unlocked Cars
You’d be surprised at how often people leave their cars unlocked with nice things inside. A lot of people actually leave them unlocked with the keys inside. It’s actually how the majority of cars are stolen. Eliminating the easy opportunity is the easiest step and will do a lot to keep your valuables safe. Just make it a habit to check.
#15 Extra Precautions
Not a burglar or former burglar, but NEVER hide keys and lock combinations in a jar near the door or under your welcome mat. Also, if you purchase something big, like a TV or something big, never leave the box near your home. the burglar would see it and know you have something valuable in there. I know this sounds crazy but mow your lawn frequently. It’ll show that you have enough time to mow your lawn and that someone must be there. It’s obvious, but only announce your trips when you're finished so at first, nobody knows your not there.
#16 Flower Pot Storage
I used to work at a bank. Another teller told me about how this woman brought in a flower pot to the girl's teller station. The bank teller was understandably confused when the woman pointed at the flower pot and said, "I need to make a deposit." Turns out, this woman had planted thousands of dollars in her flower pot over the years. The problem? She watered that flower for years with the money planted in the soil.
Not only that, but she wrapped every bill in duct tape to keep the water from messing up the bills. The teller had to dig into the pot and help this woman unwrap money from duct tape. The teller said the worst part was the bills were soggy and moldy when they unwrapped them, so most of them were torn, or the ink was faded beyond readability so the woman lost money. Don't put your money in flower pots or wrap it in duct tape.
#17 Spice Boxes
My mother has a closet filled with food supplies; boxes of bags of spices and such. There are at least three dozen boxes at all times in said closet. She replaces one of the boxes regularly so the expiration date remains relevant. She then opens them up carefully, fills them with valuables, and then carefully closes back up. She had me try to find which one of the boxes it was. I genuinely couldn't tell from sight alone, only the slightly different heft tipped me off after 10 minutes. No burglar will ever find that stash.
#18 The Perks Of Messiness
Not a burglar, but someone broke into my family's house four or five years ago when we were out at a concert. They checked everything—they took all the money and jewelry they could find. Except, my room was a mess, to begin with. I left piles of clothes on the floor, my study desk was incredibly messy, and I left piles of papers on both desk and floor.
Now, I had $800 and golden earrings on my desk, just sitting there. The burglars opened the doors... and didn't move a thing. They left my $800 and golden earrings alone and moved to another room. From then on, I have been using this as an excuse for why I don't need to clean up my room.
#19 Light Automation
LED lighting is cheap these days. If your house is going to be vacant for a while, consider investing in one of those smart-lighting home automation systems where you can set different rooms to turn on and off at different points in the day. (Kitchen during dinnertime, bedrooms at night, etc). My neighbor did that and it fooled me. I rang his doorbell to ask to borrow a pressure washer with no response. I figured he was with family and wasn't taking any more visitors, but it turns out, he's been on vacation for the past four days.
#20 Innovative Grandma
Not a burglar, I but learned this from my sister who would steal stuff from our mom while cleaning—if it's in a place they can find just by cleaning, the burglar will find it. Also, for the older, not-tech-savvy people, do not hide money in the optical drive (that is, where you put the CDs and DVDs) on your computer. I don't know why my grandma thought that was a good hiding spot.
#21 Burglar Strategy
Former burglar here. I'm going to look under your bed, I'm going to dump out any drawer I find. I'm checking your freezer. I'm looking under the bathroom cabinet. Think that incredibly smart hiding spot you saw in a spy movie will work? We watch spy movies too. It is really going to be a matter of security versus convenience for you. If it takes me more than a minute to get to something (and don't forget I'm more then willing to break stuff to get to the stuff) then it's not worth my trouble. I want to be out of your house in less than 15 minutes tops.
#22 Take Special Care
Special care should be made sure to not keep valuables in places like safe deposit boxes or banks. Burglars know that's where valuable items are kept, so that is obviously the first place they would look! Instead, you should keep everything you value right out in the open behind unlocked doors and windows.
#23 Bolt It Down
Any safe that's not bolted down and is small enough for one to two people to carry isn't safe at all. Also, my ex's grandfather had a safe stolen from his home that was bolted down. The thieves wrapped a chain around it and ran it out the window to a truck. They took the safe straight through the wall. All they had to do was follow the drag marks though... But still.
#24 The Dirtbag Advantage
I had my house burglarized by a so-called friend. He missed by far the most valuable thing. It's just a safe sitting on the laundry room floor. He missed it because I’m a scumbag and had it covered with a mountain of dirty clothes and towels. So not being tidy saved me upwards of $35K.
#25 Odd Shopper Behavior
I knew a guy who would conspicuously look around, pick up something moderately bulky, and shove it under his shirt. Then he'd browse elsewhere, very smoothly remove the item and go about his shopping. His entire goal was to get caught for not stealing. Probably the finest example of a contrived, utterly time-wasting "got 'em."
#26 The Curtain Hem
I had my home burgled twice. The best place to hide jewelry is in the bottom hem of your curtains. Are you taking off a valuable ring before you shower but don't want to go all the way to your jewelry box? Tuck them in the curtain hem. It's not a long term solution, but getting into the habit of keeping your good stuff out of plain sight will save you on the day someone breaks in. It is so easy to leave earrings, rings, and bracelets laying around.
#27 A Secret Space
My mom used to hide what little valuables we had in a small space behind our washing machine. It was a really heavy one. Unless you knew it was there, you couldn't know there was a space and that it was accessible. She had to spend 10 to 15 minutes hiding stuff because it was really hard to access, so I guess that burglars wanting to do their thing as quickly as possible wouldn't spend time looking there.
#28 An Empty Safe
We had a huge safe that takes two to three people to move. They broke into my house and flipped everything all over searching, but when they found the safe, they left everything else and focused on taking that. I even had iPads and Rolex watches lying around in open. The point is, we kept the safe empty and would only keep a few fake pieces of jewelry in case there was ever a home invasion.
#29 Vacation Pictures
Wait until you get home from vacation to post pictures. A buddy’s house got totally cleaned out because he kept posting pictures on social media while he was gone. The police think he actually got robbed several times since the burglars took his furniture too. They knew he was gone and when he was coming back. Change up the times on your lights that are on timers too. It doesn’t take long for someone to notice a pattern.
#30 A Better Idea
I've got some jewelry from my grandma and great-grandma, but I just keep it in a locked medicine cabinet in our closet along with things we don't want little baby fingers getting a hold of. I may just have to make a fakey and hope it's enough to distract any potential burglars.
#31 The Benefits Of Insurance
Get good insurance coverage on things you value. If they want to come in, they'll find some way. No matter how well you think you protect your house, they will find an entry. It would be your best bet to cover all expensive items with insurance and MAKE SURE to always have either a cloud copy or a removable drive copy of important files. This way, if they steal your computer, you'll still have the files.
#32 The Teenage Bandit
As a troubled teen, I robbed schools. I can say this: lock your dang windows. 99% of the time, we got in with unlocked windows. Also: If you are a janitor or security guard etc., don't ever set your keys down. It's way easier than you think to snatch your keys when you're not looking and the vacuum cleaner is providing a lot of noise cover.
#33 Strict Security
Avoid storing valuables in unopened vehicles, dresser drawers, closet, under a mattress, and in the cupboards over the sink. The only real safe place for valuables is in a standing or hidden safe. We look everywhere. Whenever I get my own place, I'm going to have security cameras, iron bars on my windows and doors and plenty of light outside my house.
#34 The Perfect Illusion
As a young woman living alone, this is what I was told to do. Leave a very large food and water bowl on the back porch. It seems a little more genuine and leaves the impression that your dog is big. In addition, showcase a large, dirty pair of men’s working boots. Now you, a small single woman, seems like you live with a big man and a big dog. Maybe even really sell it with dog bones and stereotypical “man” things.
#35 False Outlets
I've seen people make false outlets for hiding valuables like cash and jewelry. Just an idea, a burglar would have to be at your home for a long time to start checking outlets.
#36 Hollow Doors
I know a guy who was a former criminal. He would hide his money INSIDE an interior door. Most interior doors are hollow inside. He'd take off the wood strip on the top of the door and stuff his goods inside the door. It was usually taped inside the door. His place was searched by cops and broken into a few times. They never found his stuff.
#37 Say No To Old Boxes
Don't try to hide something valuable like money inside of old boxes. When I was younger, I thought that hiding money inside of an old headphones box would be a great idea, because no one would expect to find them there. We lived in a village, and we had to burn a furnace to keep the house warm. My mother almost put that headphone box with money inside of the furnace.
#38 The Emerald Thief
When I was a nanny, I used to be sent to collect my employer's huge emerald ring from the bank vault. I suggested she keep it in the back of the fridge inside something. I proudly wore it all the way home every time.
#39 The Open Garage
The open garage is an easy one. People work in their garage all the time with the door wide open and it makes for an easy case. I can walk or drive by and see you have a couple of dirt bikes, some nice tools on the wall and other miscellaneous goodies. Chances are, a burglar will wait for you to leave. Some people have the audacity to even leave their garage door open overnight, making it incredibly easy.
#40 Special Duck Gear
Someone stole my duck hunting bag out of my car (it was my fault, I apparently didn't lock it) and I was almost in tears because I thought they took my calls. It's all just money, but one of the calls was custom-made and I didn't want to lose that. Turns out, they dropped the calls and took the bag. The calls were priceless in my mind, but likely about $350 altogether, and really easy to take as they are on a lanyard.
#41 It Pays To Be Honest
I’m an electrician and one time, I was on a job installing some wall fixtures for a customer. We found $3500 in an octagon box. I told the customer about the find and he’d stashed it there when they bought the house 15 years prior. I guess even he forgot about it being there. He did give me a handsome tip of $300 for being honest about finding it and not keeping it since he would have never known.
#42 Small Lockboxes
Inside one of those small lockboxes. It's great when you find one because they are simple to open and if they don't have a wall safe, then all of their main valuables and money are usually in it. Jackpot. My dad had a small one bolted to the floor that contained about $50k cash in it. He told me about it a few days before he died and said it was mine now, but he never gave me the combination or where it was exactly. It took me longer to find the thing than open it. I ended up prying it off the floor and taking the whole thing back to my house, where I had more tools to open it up.
#43 Good To Know
Keep your TV on a VEVO mount (or equivalent). Free-standing monitors are a lot easier to quickly move. Laptops are easy pickings. If there's a landline phone on a table or countertop, look under it for receipts—many people hide receipts under their phone and it's a fair indicator of how much money the house may have. Almost no one keeps cash or jewelry anymore, but people are still as egotistical as ever—the closest display to the door is probably the most valuable item in the house, with the more sentimental items being closer to the bedroom.
#44 A Beastly Protector
I lived in a four-apartment block. Every apartment got broken into except mine, but the only easily accessible window to my apartment was my dog's room. There's nothing like 90 pounds of a beastly animal protecting your home. My dog really doesn't like someone waking him up from a nap.
#45 A Syrian Burglary
Inside vacuum cleaner. We hid money in it and it got stolen with everything else in our house back in Syria. The sad thing is that we weren't even using that vacuum cleaner. It was just gathering dust. The culprits were actually the military forces that invaded the area, rather than someone we know or someone who was simply desperate.