Going away for Christmas? Think like a burglar to protect your property

09 December 2019 ( 03 March 2020 )

If you’re planning on going away over the festive season, it’s a good time to review your home security by getting inside the mind of a burglar. Take a careful look at your home and spot the weak points.



Think like a thief!

The gate - a closed gate acts as a psychological barrier but if it’s broken or left wide open, it could suggest a casual approach to security that burglars love. Consider affixing a 'Please close the gate' sign to encourage postmen, leafletters or anyone hand-delivering a Christmas card to close the gate as they leave.

Don't give a burglar a leg up! Chain ladders and wheelie bins to stop burglars using them to climb over a fence or to a first floor window. If ladders are in a shed or garage, make sure that’s securely locked as well.

Doors and windows – don’t rely on just a cylinder lock for the front door. Use a deadlock or similar and lock the windows too.

Lighting – movement sensors and external security lights are inexpensive deterrents. If you have Christmas lights up outside, consider taking them down while you're away, as if they're conspicuously off at the most festive times, it's an indication that you aren't home.

Beware of the dog

‘Beware of the Dog’ signs often have the opposite effect as burglars might assume the dog’s an alternative to an alarm, which is fine if it’s fierce but not much good otherwise!

Criminals also know that pet owners often have a habit of leaving back doors unlocked to let animals into the garden and if someone’s popping round to walk the dog or feed the cats while you’re away they could easily forget to lock the doors.

How to get your home ready for winter

Dos and don’ts

* Do let trusted neighbours or friends know you’re away and when you’re due back, so they’re alert to anything suspicious. Ask them to keep an eye on the gate for you, so if the postie leaves it open, they can close it again.

* Do consider offering your drive as a parking space for your neighbour - not only will this make it look as though someone is home, it could help them with their own influx of party season guests, making them more amenable to keep an eye on your house while you're gone.

* Do leave a couple of lights on a timer to give the impression that someone’s home.

* Don’t let outside Christmas lights lead burglars in by using extension cables fed through partially open windows – opt for battery, solar or outdoor electrical power.

* Do draw blinds or curtains, especially in rooms where valuables or a calendar can be easily seen – someone ‘casing the joint’ will know when you’re next out and which rooms to target.

* Don't leave presents under the Christmas tree.

* Don’t put your home address on luggage labels that anyone can see and know you’re away  - use a business address or just a phone number.

* Don’t leave notes for milkmen, window cleaners or the paper boy.

* Don’t leave keys under mats, flower pots or anywhere obvious – ideally give a set to anyone who needs access.

* Don’t tell the world you’re away by talking about your whereabouts on social media.

* Secure sheds and garages – scooters, bicycles, garden equipment and tools are Christmas gifts for thieves too.

* Rubbish – if you can’t get to a recycling point, wait until refuse collection day before leaving boxes and packaging out that advertise the new contents of your home. And don’t leave the rubbish out for days – better to miss a collection until you’re back home.

And now the weather...

Winter weather is predictably unpredictable; your return may be delayed by bad weather so be safe and resume newspaper or other deliveries when you’re actually back.

Heavy snow or gales can wreak havoc so make sure fences are secure, garden furniture, patio heaters and pots are a safe distance away from windows and cars.


Avoid Christmas present theft when travelling

Christmas is a great time for thieves who know that cars, houses and suitcases are likely to provide rich pickings. So it’s worth taking a few extra precautions, especially if you’re travelling and taking gifts with you.

These top tips should help keep you and your Christmas gifts safe:

Travelling on a plane or train with presents

Don’t put expensive gifts in luggage that will be unattended. For example, in an aircraft hold or a luggage rack on a train.

Don’t wrap presents – you don't need to advertise the fact that these items are something special. And if luggage is security checked, the wrapping paper will probably be taken off anyway, ruining your hard work.

Staying safe on public transport

Check food and plant products are allowed into the country you’re visiting. There are strict rules on ranges of items, from meat to honey, that can be confiscated.

Always carry valuable items in your hand luggage, but check the weight allowance with your airline.

Check the limits on valuable and other items on your travel insurance policy.

Christmas presents in the car

Make sure Christmas shopping and gifts are well concealed and securely locked in your car, preferably in the boot.

Be alert when in public car parks to anyone acting suspiciously.

Christmas shopping safety tips

Be extra careful about wallets, purses and handbags. Christmas shopping and the January sales crowds are a pickpocket’s dream.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.