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Even though a burglary occurs every 20 seconds in the U.S., you can still protect yourself without installing top-dollar security features.

Home burglary generally has a pattern; criminals are looking for an easy target they can rob fast. Learn from the pros. Here are five tips from career burglars you can use to defend your home and prevent break-ins:

1. Nighttime Burglaries Aren’t the Best Time. Burglars like to break into homes during daytime hours—the last thing criminals want is to encounter someone at home. Weekdays are ideal for thieves, since weekend schedules are too unpredictable. Between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. are the most popular times because there’s a high chance people will be away at work or school.

2. They Know When You’re Not Home—Thanks to Social Media. While it’s tempting to post about your vacation to your social media feed, wait to share those trip photos and exotic location check-ins until you’re back home. Criminals scout public social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to find victims. Even if all your accounts are private, that old friend from high school could be a potential criminal. Never post what times you’re not home or how long you’ll be out.

3. They Don’t Like Your Security Practices. Burglars want nothing to do with alarm systems (whether they’re from the best home security companies or not). Homes without a security system are almost 300 percent more likely to be targeted for a break-in. If you do install an alarm system, make sure you guard it with a strong code. Don’t use your house number or birthday, and clean any dirt or grease off your keypad so a burglar won’t guess your code based off the numbers you’ve hit the most. Also, tricks that make it look like you’re home really work. Motion sensor lights, TVs left on and cars parked in the driveway make burglars nervous and run from properties.

4. Shrubs and Architecture Make Great Hiding Spots. Tall bushes are favorites of burglars since they offer an obstructed view from the street and neighbors. Think twice about large architecture features, too, like fences, half walls and big fountains. Such décor elements give a burglar more time to hide and plot their method of entry. The best defense is a clear view of your front porch.

5. Valuables in the Open Help Them Decide on a Target. Keep your expensive items out of sight. You’re making it too easy for a burglar by advertising the types of valuables they can steal. Don’t leave a new laptop in front of your first-floor kitchen window, expensive jewelry on your living room coffee table, or even a nice car in a garage window with a clear sight line to the street. Key hooks—especially with labels for each key—need to be concealed out of view from windows, as well.

Source: Krystal Rogers-Nelson/RISMedia’s Housecall

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