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Vacation season is when burglars go to work: How to protect your home

One area insurer reports the average loss in a house break-in is $2,316. There are several easy precautions that homeowners and renters can take to keep their valuables safe. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — Vacation season is busy for burglars when people leave homes empty, but there are easy precautions to take.

“You’d be astonished at the number of people who don’t properly lock their property,” said John Townsend of AAA Mid-Atlantic. “They don’t use deadbolt locks and door locks, which are the first line of defense.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic Insurance Agency reports the average loss in a house break-in is $2,316. The District of Columbia already has had 689 burglaries as of June 12.

Easy precautions homeowners and renters can take to keep valuables safe are listed below.

  • Lock up or hide valuables: “Keep expensive jewelry and other precious commodities that you have well hidden, or place them in a safe lock box within your home,” Townsend said.
  • Unplug computers: Hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated at using “the internet of things” and household electronics such as thermostats, door locks and TVs to gain access to your home network. “Disconnect your computer so your system won’t be hacked,” Townsend recommended.
  • Make your home look inhabited: Put some lights on timers. Stop delivery on the mail and newspapers, or have a trusted neighbor collect them while you’re away.
  • Be discrete: Announcing vacation plans in the grocery store checkout line, for example, might alert crooks you won’t be home. Many security experts recommend not posting vacation pictures on social media until returning from vacation.
  • Use an alarm and video surveillance: Simple security methods, such as locking doors and windows, can be supplemented with high-tech aids, such as motion-activated cameras and video that can send images to smartphones.

“You should have overlapping systems,” Townsend said. “Not only will you get an insurance discount for that. It will give you peace of mind when you’re away.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic also advises vacationing homeowners to turn off the water before leaving town. Returning home to a broken, dripping ice maker could be shocking.

“That little drip can cause a flood of problems and extensive water damage which may not be covered depending on your policy,” Townsend warned while observing that many people don’t know what’s in their policy and what’s covered.

So check your insurance policy, Townsend advised.


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