How To Outsmart Burglars & Secure Your Home

Written by Myles Hemingway

Myles is our self-confessed ‘word nerd’ and property geek. You’ll find him mythbusting everything from mortgages to maisonettes, as well as giving you our spin on the latest property news and industry trends.

A house is burgled every 106 seconds in the UK... you can't afford not to read on.

How to outsmart burglars and scare them away? A good question, and one that sadly many of us are looking to answer. But, it’s not like that’s surprising. Last year, 356,000 burglaries took place across the UK (Statista) – that’s roughly 975 every day! (Gulp)

For our readers across West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, we recommend you pay particular attention to this blog, as your counties have been labelled hot spots for burglary by The Office of National Statistics. Although, that's not to say if you're living elsewhere in the UK that you’ve got the 'all clear'. Quite the opposite.

Burglars are opportunists, so to outsmart them you've got to be open minded. While the crime rate in your area may be low (never a bad thing), it could actually make your neighbourhood an easier target for the average burglar. Why? Well, the less you expect crimes like burglaries, typically the less prepared you are for them - all of which gives a burglar the upper hand and you the backfoot.

So, to ensure you have the advantage over these crooks, no matter where you are in the UK, we’ll teach you not only how to outsmart burglars, but also how to scare burglars away.

Want to know something specific about how to prevent burglary? Use the menu below to navigate to the most relevant section in record time.

  • What is burglary?
  • How to tell if a burglar is watching your house
  • Do alarms really deter burglars?
  • How to prevent burglary: Our top tips on how to scare burglars away!
  • How to outsmart a burglar in the event of a break in
  • Can we help you prevent burglary?
  • What is burglary?

    Burglary is the illegal entry into a building (i.e. your home) with the intention of committing a crime, be it stealing your flat screen TV, car keys or personal documents as part of identity fraud.

    On average, the cost of a burglary in the UK is over £3000 and contrary to belief, the majority of burglaries (65%) occur during the day between 6am and 6pm.

    Burglary vs robbery?

    There’s a subtle difference between burglary and robbery.

    A robbery (otherwise known as aggravated burglary) is when someone burgles using force. This could be with a weapon, or leading you to believe force will be used.

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    How to tell if a burglar is watching your house

    Professional burglars don’t just burst into your home without doing their recon. If a burglar is serious, they’ll try and assess your property from every possible angle, keeping their eyes peeled for weak spots and possible escape routes. Knowing how to spot when a burglar is doing said recon, can be an easy way of how to prevent burglary. So, with this in mind, here’s six ways to tell if a burglar could be watching your home…

      Window shoppers – If someone unfamiliar repeatedly strolls past your house, this could be a sign that your property is under surveillance. In the event this does occur, keep a note of when, as burglars will monitor your house at various points throughout the day to suss out your routine. Why would a burglar do this? Most probably because in their eyes your property is considered low risk. A common reason why, is that you don’t have an alarm.

      Idle investigators – However, not all of a burglar’s recon occurs on foot. Many will camp in a car somewhere nearby and keep an eye out for when you leave. Ask us and it’s always worth keeping tabs on what cars are parked down your street. If you notice an unfamiliar vehicle occupied for long periods of time, don’t be afraid to go and ask if you can be of any help. Doing so, can make a burglar feel not so incognito and have them quickly crossing you off their hit list.

      Flying high – As well as keeping an eye on the ground, it’s also a wise idea to watch for anything suspicious in the sky. Thanks to the growing popularity of video technology, drones are becoming widely available – great news for video creators, but also the eagle eyed burglar. Piloting a drone, a burglar can easily assess your plot for possible exit routes and entry points. For instance, if you have a tall fence that prohibits them observing your back garden from the ground, they can use a drone to get a top down view and establish what’s on the other side. And even if they don't have a drone, they can always fall back on Google Maps.

      Knock a door run – Door to door scams are an easy way for burglars to get to know you, and have a sneak peek inside your house, by simply brushing up on their acting skills. These scams are incredibly varied - some could have the burglar imitate a cold caller, while other could be as up front as them asking to use your toilet or posing as a runner in desperate need of a glass of water. When in actual fact all they’re after is intel on your property and to determine whether you’re at home.

      TOP TIP: Install a peep hole to your front door and don’t open it to anyone who raises your eyebrows.

      Marking – Ever found a golf ball on your front lawn or that your doormat has been turned upside down? These, along with many other funny happenings, could be signs that a burglar sees your house as an easy target. In the burgling world, this is called marking.

      Snap happy – What with high resolution cameras on smartphones, we’re free to take pictures of whatever we want, when we want. So, it’s worth remembering that not only does this work in our favour, but the burglar’s too. In the even that you catch someone, be they a postman, courier or paperboy, taking a quick roster of snaps in front of your house, before making a swift exit, we'd suggest notifying your local Police Force by ringing 101 or your Neighbourhood Watch.

    Do alarms really deter burglars?

    Alarms - are they how to stop burglars targeting your home? Yes, and no…

    While alarms are a tried and tested method of burglary prevention with the power to decrease the likelihood of a break in, it’s important to realise that they’re only a partial deterrent. By this we mean the following

      Yes, an alarm will alert others of the burglar’s presence and will somewhat decrease the time a burglar spends rummaging around your house – a factor that hopefully minimises the value of what they can take.

      But, what it won’t do is stop them dead in their tracks, especially if they’re already inside. Nor will it mean they act slowly. In fact, when an alarm is going off, a burglar’s approach turns from stealth to speed, which can often have them causing more damage to your home.

    However, that’s not to say alarms aren’t worth the investment. We’d always advise on investing in the best alarm system you can. In our experience, alarms with window sensors prevent burglary particularly well, as they go off before the burglar has even entered the house.

    NOTE: It doesn’t pay to be cheap when it comes to alarms. We’d always advise upgrading an old alarm system and staying away from fake boxes. Why? Because thanks to the internet, burglars know more about your alarm system than ever before. In most cases they're a Google search away from the instruction manual.

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    How to prevent burglary: Our top tips on how to scare burglars away!

    So, how do you scare burglars away? Well, to prevent burglary you first need to think like a burglar. Sounds odd, but it’s actually pretty simple. Go outside to the front of your house and take a step back. Then ask yourself the question:

    ‘If this wasn’t my house and I was a burglar, how would I get in? Why would I choose this route? And (crucially) what would make it harder for me to do so?’

    If you’re finding this difficult, ask a trusted friend or family member. And then once you’re done, read on to discover our 19 burglary prevention hacks to help you outsmart the crooks…

      1 - Fit quality locks

      Let’s get the most obvious out of the way first. Quality locks are your primary defence against any burglar, be they on the front door, windows or your garage, so you’d be foolish not to invest in quality hardware. Solid locks alone can be enough to deter the majority of burglars, who are just hunting for easy targets.

      To learn more about the various types of locks and which one is best for your property, click here

      TIP TO PREVENT BURGLARY: If you have a particularly old locking mechanism, you could be at a significantly higher risk of burglary thanks to a process known as lock snapping. Lock snapping is a burglary technique that consists of breaking a certain type of lock cylinder by removing the handle mechanism and applying a good amount of force. To lock snap, all a burglar needs are basic household tools. A professional thief can snap a lock in under 20 seconds!

      Want to outsmart burglars and prevent yourself being a victim lock snapping? Upgrade your cylinder for as little as £50.

      2 - Reinforce your door & door jam

      Another quick fix to increase the strength of your front door is reinforcing both the door and the jam. The easiest way to do this is with a door reinforcement plates - plates that screw over your existing hinges and locking mechanism to reduce the likelihood of it being kicked in or being tampered with.

      Fancy installing one yourself? See how easy they are to install below...

      3 - Try a video doorbell

      Out of all the burglar deterrent gadgets, video doorbells are by far the most on-trend. Fit one to your house and you’ll be able to monitor your doorway 24/7 using nothing more than your smartphone. Yet, how they work is pretty simple.

      Each doorbell comes with a motion sensor that sends a notification to your phone as soon as it senses movement. Not only are these a great way to outsmart burglars, but they’re also ideal if you’re the type to be expecting deliveries, whether they be off Amazon or your weekly food shop.

      As well as letting you physically see what’s going on, video doorbells don’t let anyone know of your whereabouts, as you can answer them from anywhere in the world. So you could be on holiday in Cyprus, yet a burglar may think you’re upstairs in the bath. Our current favourite is the 2nd generation Ring video doorbell.

      4 - Secure your letterbox

      Your letterbox could also be making you vulnerable. How?

      Letterbox fishing is technique used by burglars to get at any of your possessions that are within close range of your front door, most often your car keys. They do this by sliding a pole, topped with a hook, through your letterbox - basically a more conniving form of hook-a-duck.

      A simple way to outsmart burglars in this instance is to install a mail cage or box to the back of your door. As well as preventing burglars, these are also ideal for keeping post away from pets.

      5 - Hide valuables out of sight

      Sounds obvious we know, but very few of us actually do it. We're proud to have the box for our new 70+ inch TV sat on the curb for public viewing and will leave the door garage open just so neighbours can drool over our classic car, without realising we're giving a big thumbs up to the local burglar.

      Just to be clear, we're not saying you shouldn't treat yourself to such luxuries. But, what we are saying is you should be mindful of where you place them. For instance, if you have valuables (say a pricy portable speaker), that will be in plain sight when your curtains are open, then at the very least either shut your curtains or conceal these items in a cupboard. Burglar prevention is all about planning ahead - the less burglars know the better.

      6 - Be silent on social media

      Social media isn't just great for us, it's great for burglars too. All they need is to find your name on a piece of post and they can monitor your online profiles. Some will even have the cheek to send you a friend request, knowing that if you accept, any privacy barriers will come down.

      The reason they’ll make such an effort is because access to your social media does most of their recon for them. As a result, many of the warning signs we discussed above may not even occur. Let us explain...

      In the eyes of a burglar, those pictures you posted on the day you moved in are a perfect guided tour, and that beautiful before-and-after of your garden is a great indicator of any potential exit routes. Those X amount of selfies are perfect for face recognition. The post of you posing with your new car is also ideal for anyone on lookout. Oh and how can we forget that photo reel of holiday snaps you posted five minutes ago. Along with the live video that followed, you're clearly not home.

      See what we mean? To outsmart burglars you MUST use social media wisely, otherwise it can very easily work against you.

      7 - Close the blinds (the right way)

      Another simple strategy to outsmart burglars is closing your blinds, the right way. By this we mean don't turn them downwards, particularly on the ground floor. Do so and all a burglar has to do, depending on the height of the window, is either find something to stand on, or if your house is slightly below pavement level, simply walk past the front window and take a glance. We’d suggest doing this with your whole house, because as mentioned above, if a burglar sees you as a serious target they could very easily replicate this on the first floor using a drone. Turn them so the slats are facing upwards and this won't be the case.

      8 - Light timers & motion sensor lighting

      Lights are a big indicator that someone is home, so using them to outsmart burglars is a no brainer. Lighting’s also affordable - both the methods we discuss can be done for less than £10 each!

      Inside your home, light timers are by far the simplest way to deter burglars using light. These timers attach to your plug socket and work by restricting the flow of power to the light at specific times. For instance, you could trigger a lamp to come on at dark to give the allusion that someone is inside.

      But remember, you should always use these devices discreetly, because if a burglar sees a light flicker on due to a timer, it’s a good sign that you’re not home. Our favourite place to use a light timer is in the hallway. Not only does it mean it's a lot harder for them to be seen, but it also means light is distributed evenly throughout the house - effective when you've got the curtains shut.

      Step outside and motion sensor security lights are a good shout. In essence a floodlight that lights up a specific area as soon as it senses movement. While these can be a pain if you've got pets outside, they’re also a significant burglar deterrent. Ask us and we’d opt for an product using LEDs. Not only are they brighter than the average halogen light, but they also use less power.

      NOTE: For those who already have an exterior light but want to upgrade to LED, you can often find good replacement bulbs online.

      9 - Invest in CCTV

      Why not outsmart burglars and record their every move using CCTV? Once a burglar prevention strategy exclusively for the rich, CCTV cameras are now a lot more affordable; you can get a decent setup for just a couple of hundred pounds if you shop around. CCTV allows you to monitor your house 24/7 from all angles. With many modern systems you can even do this via your smartphone! Sounds ideal, although while CCTV systems have a lot of perks, before making the investment it’s important that you understand what CCTV cameras say to a burglar.

      On one hand CCTV tells a burglar that you're security conscious and that their ability to snoop around will be somewhat hampered.

      However, on the other hand it also tells them - unlike some of the more subtle burglar prevention strategies on this list - that you have something to protect. So, although in first instance CCTV seems like a perfect tool to scare away burglars, in some respects it could actually increase the likelihood of your home being targeted. (jaw drop)

      TIP TO OUTSMART BURGLARS: If this 'thing' you’re looking to protect is a classic car, then install CCTV inside your garage. Not only will it record any burglars, but chances are if they’ve already gained access to your garage, they’ll be more focused on starting your car and making a quick escape than being caught on camera. The dosey ones may even remove any face coverings, allowing you to catch them red handed.

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      10 - Protect your pains

      Windows are an incredibly vulnerable part of any property, even if they’re securely locked. The main weakness of any window is the glass itself. A couple of blows from a hammer or a baseball bat, is typically all that's needed to break in. That is unless your windows are fitted with 3M Safety and Security Window Film. A transparent film that works to delay and even in some cases prevent smash and grab burglaries.

      See just how much of a burglar deterrent 3M's window films are and how they’re ideal method to outsmart burglars below...

      11 - Place calendars carefully

      A detail often overlooked by most of us is the visibility of our calendar. Have it in plain sight and it's a HUGE giveaway to a burglar. For instance, a week with no days crossed out or the word 'Holiday!' written in bright red marker pen, gives any burglar a good idea of when you’re not at home.

      PREVENT BURGLARY BY: Positioning your calendar somewhere it can't be seen, or buying yourself a diary.

      12 - Fit a high fence

      As you've probably realised by now, burglars choose their targets primarily based around risk, so an easy way to outsmart them is to restrict what they can see. High fences are great for this. Not only do high fences keep their eyes away from your back garden, but they also make a quick escape far less likely. Smear anti climb paint on top of your fence panels and you’ll have most burglars doing an about turn.

      BURGLAR DETERRENT TIP: High fences are only a good burglar deterrent if you lock the gate to your rear garden. You can pick up a well-made security bolt for less than £10 at your local hardware shop.

      13 - Get new gates

      Much like with fences, gates are another form of coverage you can use to outsmart burglars. Gates are another barrier for a burglar to negotiate, so gated driveways tend to be more secure. Ask us and you’re best to opt for an electric full privacy gate (basically a gate with no gaps in) so unlike your classic wrought iron gate, potential burglars can’t see what’s on the other side. Being electric also adds another element of security. Cracking keypads and hacking fobs is not something a burglar wants to be doing.

      14 - Trim back shrubs

      Camouflage is like gold-dust to a burglar, so keeping up to your garden is a vital form of burglar prevention. For you as a homeowner, visibility should be a priority, and when looking out of your windows, you shouldn’t have any blind spots caused by trees, shrubs or other forms of greenery. If you do, a burglar will use them to their advantage. If you’re not the green-fingered type or have other commitments, we'd suggest hiring a gardener. A small price to pay to scare burglars away.

      15 - Scrap the 'Beware Of The Dog' sign

      Contrary to belief, sticking the classic 'Beware Of The Dog' sign on your side gate will not automatically outsmart burglars in your neighbourhood. In many cases, it will actually encourage them. Confused? Read on...

      Burglars are aware that dog ownership comes with its quirks. One of which is some form of movement inside your house during the night, as your dog investigates a strange noise or wanders over to its food bowl for a late night snack. As a consequence, you have to be careful of how you go about setting your alarm, maybe even have it fully disarmed some nights or opt for a system with no infrared motion sensors. AKA music to the ears of any burglar.

      16 - Get a mean-looking dog

      While dogs do have their drawbacks, they can be a significant burglar deterrent, especially if they’re a breed known for being fierce - for instance a Pit Bull Terrier or Rottwieler. Our go-to would be a German Shepherd. They're great at catching criminals as part of the police, so we’re confident they’d have burglars on edge.

      Not that your dog needs to be fierce to be a good burglar deterrent.

      17 - Make friends with neighbours

      Establishing a solid rapport with your neighbour can go a long way and give you the upper hand when you’re looking to outsmart burglars. At any point that you’re out of the house, neighbours can be your eyes and ears, which often proves to be a better deterrent than most of the burglar prevention gadgets put together.

      Neighbours who’ll approach someone suspicious (i.e. a potential burglar) and ask what they’re up to, are an incredibly valuable piece of burglar prevention. This is because doing so means a burglar has two, maybe even three households to take into account if when planning a break in, so will more than likely reassess their target.

      18 - Organise mail collection

      Just like ringing the doorbell and getting no response, days worth of mail jammed inside the letterbox is another tell tale sign that someone isn’t home. Many burglars use leaflets drops as part of their recon stage, and target those houses that fail to dispose of them. This is also where that good rapport with your neighbours comes in handy; getting someone to collect your mail while you’re away, is a simple way to avoid this from happening.

      19 - Upgrade your double glazing

      When we think of securing our windows, we think to check the locks, shut the blinds and maybe even apply some protection film if we’re keen, but but what we tend to forget is the window itself.

      Double glazing has been around for a long time and become more burglar-proof with age. For instance, on modern double glazing the rubber beading is built into the frame. Something that with earlier double glazing sat on the outer edge of the frame, exposed to the elements. All this means that depending on the age and condition of your windows, you could be at risk. Burglars have been known in the past to actually peel back this rubber beading and remove the entire window. Scary stuff!

      Got any ways to prevent burglary of your own? Share them with us over Twitter.

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    How to outsmart a burglar in the event of a break in

    Break ins are never pleasant. No one wants a masked stranger rifling through their house, leaving with all their valuables, and the treasured memories that came with them. But, that’s not to say even if a burglar breaks in it’s game over. Until they find your valuables it’s stalemate.

    So, to minimise the likelihood that any crooks actually find what they’re after, here’s 3 ways to outsmart burglars from the inside…

      Don’t hold cash - This goes without saying. Keep your money in a bank and always take your cards with you when you leave the house. That way a burglar can’t endulge in a contactless shopping spree and get you into trouble with you bank. A consequence of which, could be a drop in your credit score!

      Hide your jewellery box ANYWHERE but the master bedroom – Your master bedroom is the first place that a crook looks for valuables, so if you’re looking to outsmart burglars, simply put them elsewhere.

      Buy a safe - Safe’s are the pinnacle of burglary prevention. Not only are they fireproof and burglarproof, but if bolted to the ground they’re practically irremovable.

      BURGLARY PREVENTION TIP: Don’t just keep valuables in a safe. Also store documents like your passport and driving licence in there too, as what’s the next thing that happens after a burglary? Identity fraud.

    Can we help you prevent burglary?

    Unfortunately, we can’t help you prevent burglary any more than we have done throughout this blog. But, as a trusted national homebuyer, we can help you decrease the likelihood of being burgled by moving to an area with a lower crime rate.

    With over 50 years combined experience in property purchase under our belts, we can be your buyer who can complete in as a little as 7 days! A deal you’ll be hard pushed to get on the open market.

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