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I’m a Burglar—Here’s How to Outsmart Me

Updated: Jul. 29, 2021

From burglars' mouths to your ears: Here are the vulnerabilities they look for when they're deciding whether to rob you blind.

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Doorknob of modern car

Keep a car parked in your driveway

The investigative team at Portland, Oregon, news station KGW conducted an anonymous survey of 86 inmates incarcerated for burglary in the Oregon Department of Corrections, and almost all of the burglars surveyed said they’d think twice if they saw a car in a driveway. Check out these other ways you can make it look like you’re home when you’re not.

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Home Ownership the day you get your new Keys to your new home. House keys inside door lock
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Keep your doors and windows locked

Yes, this seems obvious, and yet a lot of people actually forget to lock their doors and window. Most burglars KGW surveyed said they tended to “break in” simply by walking through an unlocked door or climbing through an unlocked window. If a burglar gets through this first hurdle, having a diversion safe can prevent further harm.

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Installation locked interior door knobs, close-up woodworker hands install lock.

Consider making your door kick-proof

Some of the burglars surveyed by KGW said they’d be willing to kick in a locked door. It’s actually not difficult to kick in a door. However, you can make your door much more challenging by swapping out the faceplate on your door for one that uses three-inch stainless steel screws—just one of the tips from Family Handyman for reinforcing your door. Learn how to spot 15 signs your house is vulnerable to being burglarized.

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Door handle Lion with ring in mouth

Don’t ignore a knock on the door

Every burglar surveyed by KGW reports knocking on the front door before breaking into a home; if someone answers the door, the burglar makes up an excuse and moves on. You don’t have to open the door for the person, but definitely let the person know you’re home—you just might thwart a burglary.

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TV remote
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Keep your radio or television on while you’re at work

Most of the burglars surveyed by KGW said they wouldn’t break into a home if they could hear a radio or see that the television was on. If you’re concerned about wasting electricity, consider setting a timer to turn on the radio or television during prime burgling time—find out what time of day burglars are most likely to break in.

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Pruning bushes in the garden. Autumnal garden work.

Prune those shrubs

Burglars value their privacy while they’re breaking and entering. Theoretically, if every house on a particular block seemed empty, a burglar would still choose to target the house that offers the most privacy. To deter would-be burglars, keep the shrubs around your house well-trimmed.

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Warm light of external lamps on the house wall
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Keep the outside of your home well-lit

Because burglars value their privacy while robbing you, they’ll be deterred by a well-lit property. Even if burglars are relatively certain that you’re at work or on vacation, they’d still rather target a home they can approach in the dark to avoid calling any attention to themselves. Here’s how to spot (and fix) 35 other things that make your home a target for burglars.

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Dog walker crossing a street with dogs.

Rethink your regular routine

Burglaries happen much more quickly than you might think. Cleveland Police Captain Keith Sulzer tells cleveland.com that he often hears burglary victims say, “I was just gone for ten minutes.” If you keep to a regular routine and a burglar is watching your home, you can bet he or she will know when you leave and for how long—even if you’re just walking the dog. If it’s not possible to change up your routine, be sure to make it look like someone is home when you leave (turning on the TV or radio, for instance), even if you plan to be back in a jiffy.

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sergey causelove/Shutterstock

Watch what you say on social media

Over time, more and more burglars are using social media to target potential victims. Don’t make it easier for them by announcing when you’re be leaving for vacation or posting from your trip. Even if you’ve set your social media settings to “private,” the information you post can still get passed around to someone outside your social circle. Check out the 13 sneaky signs a burglar is watching your home.

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Silver CCTV Camera on the white wall

Consider investing in a security camera

“Get a camera and make it visible,” advises one of the burglars in the KGW survey. Of 57 convicted burglars surveyed by NBC 4 New York, 37 percent said they’d be inclined to avoid breaking into a house with a visible security camera positioned near a door.

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Protection of the apartment and the house. Alarm and surveillance console. Apartment under protection

Get an alarm system

Not surprisingly, the sound of a home alarm system going off will quickly deter most burglars, KGW found. However, some burglars said they follow a fast and efficient routine that allows them to get in and out in less than five minutes, giving them time to get away before police can respond.

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Gold jewelry in jewelry boxes

Hide your valuables where burglars won’t look

A determined burglar will search everywhere for valuables, including the stove, the freezer, the toilet tank, and even boxes of cereal. However, most of the burglars surveyed by KGW reported heading to the master bedroom first before going through the rest of the house. Their second favorite room to search for valuables was the living room. Storing valuables elsewhere can help make a burglar’s job that much more difficult. For instance, you’ll probably want to avoid the 10 hiding places burglars check first for valuables.

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Cute beagle dog sleeping in a funny position

Don’t assume your dog will deter a burglar

It’s worth noting that 70 percent of burglars surveyed by Fox 5 News in Atlanta said a dog wouldn’t deter them from targeting a home. And one of the burglars who spoke to NBC 4 New York said even a barking dog wouldn’t stand in the way of his burgling: “Dollar store Beggin’ Strips do wonders,” he said. To learn more about how crooks think, learn 21 things a burglar won’t tell you.