We’ve all seen them on mom’s Facebook or your ex-girlfriend’s Pinterest. Sometimes they come in the form of a 4-minute video or infographic. Those friendly little lifehacks for keeping your house a little bit safer with minimal effort.

The issue is that burglars are getting smarter every year (well, smart as you can be when you’re looking to score on some old jewelry or a blu-ray player), and what was a creative security measure not long ago is child’s play now.

So let’s take a look at some of these lifehacks and how to make them actually work for you.

 ALARM PICKETS

ADT security sign with pumpkinA quick search for ADT alarm signs will turn up over 3 million results, many of which are listings on  or Amazon. This seems like a cheap and easy method of home security; after all, why bother paying for an expensive alarm service when you could just stick a $10 sign in your yard and call it a day? Surely just the threat of an alarm would keep a clever criminal at bay.

The trouble is that, given the sheer number of buying options, this is a popular idea. And if you thought of it, chances are good that a robber will too. The reason “Beware of Dog” signs work is because there’s evidence of a dog barking at the daily mail. With a security system, you don’t have that dual threat. And if a burglar decides it’s worth a shot regardless of the sign, your dummy picket will end up costing a lot more than $10.

In fact, advertising your system is a poor choice even if you actually do have an alarm. Just throwing the brand out there provides potential pilferers with the exact keywords they need to look for a flaw in the system. You can look up just about anything online these days, so you’re really better off skipping the sign all together.

However, if you’re really insistent in telling everyone that you have an alarm, or maybe you just want something to cover that bare spot in the shrubs after election season, go ahead and get one. The key though is to get a sign from a different agency than the one you install. While your burglar is busy Googling how to hack one system, your new Xbox will be safe and sound behind another.

SOCK DRAWERS


Theoretically, your bedroom is the most remote room in your house – up a set of stairs, away from doors, only one point of entry, etc. Plus you can check every morning that your things are still wrapped in that old pair of tights with the obvious run. Or maybe your stuff is in a grocery bag at the back of your closet. Or you got really creative and shut those diamond earrings in the freezer or in the drawer under your oven with the muffin tins you swear you’re gonna use one Thanksgiving.

The thing is a burglar is gonna put themselves in your shoes to evaluate your house and the places you think are safe. You have to outdo them by putting yourself in their metaphorical ski mask.

Think where a burglar doesn’t want to get caught. Basements usually have just one entrance, so it’s hard to make an escape if a family comes home in the middle of your heist. So consider investing in a safe to keep in your basement by the septic pump. A robber wants to spend as little time as possible outside, since you’re likely to be seen by neighbors or homeowners. Make a secret compartment in the garden or garage – but be sure it’s waterproof just in case. If it took power tools to put it there, it may very well take the same to get it out. Kids’ rooms are usually low priority on the to-steal list, since most of what’s there tends to be toys or furniture of lesser monetary worth. So if you’re really set on a sock drawer, that’s the one you want.

There are plenty of places in your house to hide things. Another common suggestion is to have a fake soup can in the back of your pantry, since robbers usually aren’t on a snack raid. Put that creativity cap on and figure where the absolute least likely place is to look (just be sure you’re gonna remember it in 2 months).

LOCK BOXES

Lock boxes are great – you can keep all sorts of stuff in them and they’re usually a space saver compared to other methods. The problem you’re gonna run into though is that that lock isn’t the most important defense for your box. If you have this thing sitting out in plain view, what stops someone from picking it up and walking out the door? If I’m determined enough to get all the way into your house, I’ll figure out how to break that lock at my leisure.

If you’re going the lock box route, best to hide that thing well (see previous item) or bolt it to the floor. Better yet, keep a tracking device in there just in case so you can follow where your lock box wanders off to.

LEAVING THE LIGHTS ON

multi-colored lamps

So you’ve decided that no one will break in if they think you’re home, and you’re willing to bet your electricity bill on it. Buddy, I’ve got some bad news.

Statistically, most robbers operate 9-5 while you’re at work, and all those lights on in the middle of the day look really suspicious. Sure, the light trick is good in theory, especially if you’re gonna be gone into the wee hours, but you have to be smart about the implementation. Setting your lights on a timer is the best way to make your house “act natural.” Not to mention that your electric bill will be a lot thinner in the long run.

 HALTING YOUR MAIL

Some of you may not know that you can actually pause your mail service if you’re maybe going away for a week or two and don’t want it building up while you’re gone. This is used pretty frequently as a burglar deterrent, since if no one is picking up the mail, there’s probably no one checking that the doors stay locked and your valuables remain in your possession. So if no mail comes, there’s no reason to pick it up, so your robber shouldn’t get the tip. The logic is sound, right?

However, a really committed burglar is watching your habits and your schedule. If the mail always comes and then just stops for days at a time, that makes it pretty clear that you’ve done some post office magic.

In the end, it’s better to go the old fashioned way of getting friendly with your neighbors and having them watch things for you. Have one person collect your mail, another take in the trash cans, and a third to walk the dog (sidebar: you’ll save plenty of cash on dog boarding if Fido can stay home).

“This dastardly villain will notice that I’ve suddenly gained three family members!” I hear you cry. So what? Even if it’s clear that you aren’t actually there, the message you’re sending is that your home is being watched by more than just your neighborhood burglar. And most of the time that’s more trouble than it’s worth.

As an added measure, try not to advertise your absence on social media. Save the Facebook pics for when you’re procrastinating on unpacking.

The tl;dr is this: be smart about your house. Those simple shareable hacks may seem great at first glance, but you can’t be taking shortcuts when it comes to the safety of yourself and your home. Keep your security layered so you have multiple lines of defense. And if you’re gonna have a “Beware of Dog” sign, you might as well get the dog to back it up.