The holiday season is coming fast, bringing with it a whirlwind of bonding time with distant relatives, cashing in those spa gift cards you got, glittering nights on the town … and potential danger. With a few simple tips, you can keep your holiday a happy one by keeping your house secure from thieves.

Don’t advertise that you’re out:

  • Make your home look occupied by having your indoor lights on a timer, or link them to an app that you can control from your phone.
  • Ask a neighbor to pick up mail and the newspaper, or call to have them held and suspended. A pile of papers is a clear signal that no one’s home!
  • Watch your social media presence carefully. Facebook updates, tweets, even your answering machine message can give away that you’re out of state and your home unprotected.

Make your house a poor target:

  • Before you leave, secure all windows and doors. Windows may be secured with sash pins, bars (there are attractive wrought-iron styles available), or a security alarm system. Doors may need to be reinforced, particularly around the lock, window, and mail slot. A video security system, with cameras pointed at home entrances, also makes an excellent deterrent.
  • Consider having an inexpensive exterior electrical outlet installed, instead of running an extension cord through a cracked window.
  • Draw the curtains so valuables such as your big screen TV aren’t visible from the street.
  • It may be picture-perfect to set up the Christmas tree and small mountain of gift boxes in front of the living room window, but it’s also a perfect opportunity for a thief looking to do a quick smash-and-grab. Consider setting the display up against an inside wall or out of direct line of sight of a window.
  • Don’t hide keys under your doormat, above the door sill, or under nearby flowerpots. That’s the oldest trick in the book and everyone, even those with innocent intentions, know to look there. Save spare keys with a trusted neighbor or friend.

After the holidays:

  • Don’t leave a mound of unwrapped gifts in sight of a window, tempting anyone walking by.
  • Watch out for people claiming to be from a charity. They may be scoping out your home when you open your door. People with a legitimate charity will be glad to show you ID linking them to that cause.
  • Don’t set out boxes from large gift items until right before trash collection. That pile of cardboard tells thieves that there are new, valuable things just inside.
  • If you are robbed, take extra precautions. Sometimes lightning strikes twice as thieves come back for the expensive replacements of what they already took. Be alert and be safe this holiday season.