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It’s also a prime season for home break-ins. Whether you are planning to spend the holidays at home or away, here are some tips to help avoid becoming the victim of a festive burglary:
1. Deliveries: If you are expecting a parcel, make sure someone is there when it is delivered, or ask a neighbour to take it in. Avoid having it left on the door step.
2. Valuables: Ensure valuables cannot be seen from outside. If your tree is visible, avoid the temptation to put wrapped presents under it any earlier than Christmas Eve.
3. Box disposal: Leaving empty boxes and packaging outside the house or beside the garbage bin is advertising that the latest gadgets are there for the taking.
4. Lights on: Whether you are out for the evening or away for a week, leave some lights on or use automatic timers so your house will look lived in.
5. Mail: Stop the mail and newspapers if you will not be at home during the holidays. Have a neighbour pick up free newspapers and fliers that can accumulate in your absence.
6. Keys: Don’t hide keys in obvious spots like under the doormat or in the mail box. Leave a key with a trusted neighbour if you feel it is necessary.
7. Lock up: Keep the garage door closed and all doors locked at all times. Unlocked doors from the garage to the basement give easy access to uninvited guests.
8. Combination locks: Consider installing combination locks on your doors. You can program in a separate code for the cat sitter and delete the code on your return. This will help to avoid extra keys in circulation that could get into the wrong hands.
9. Snow: Make arrangements to have your driveway and walk cleared if it snows when you are away. Nothing screams “on vacation” louder than a foot of untouched snow two days after a storm.
10. Social media: Instruct all family members not to share where you are going and when with 1,000 Facebook friends and all of their friends’ friends. You never know who you can trust, particularly if news of your absence goes viral.
Finally, resist the temptation to post photos of your partner drinking pina coladas to social media as soon as you take them, particularly if you post to Facebook and Twitter simultaneously.
Properly using privacy settings on Facebook may limit access to your personal information, but anybody can follow you on Twitter. A minute by minute travelogue including your expected return date can be like a GPS for burglars planning their next heist.
Related: 12 ways to burglar proof your house
Sheryl Smolkin is a Toronto lawyer and writer. Contact her through her website and follow her on Twitter @SherylSmolkin.