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Make sure criminals don’t identify an easy target

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As the holiday season approaches, it’s easy to become distracted by the anticipation of a holiday, but don’t let this blind you to the risks of leaving your home unprotected.

Criminal activity increases during the holidays, so take precautions to help keep your home and belongings secure while you’re away, says Mike Greeff, chief executive of Christie’s International Real Estate.

The most effective tool is a home monitoring system. “The peace of mind is well worth the financial outlay. Cameras linked to beams on the exterior can be monitored off-site. You simply use an app to view live videos of your property at any given time on your smartphone and from anywhere in the world.

“You can set your alarm, or disarm it. You can open and close gates, and live video playback allows you to see whether your beams have been activated by a squirrel or a dangerous intruder. Video footage is also useful evidence for successful arrest and prosecution.”

Greeff offers the following tips: 

* Test your alarm system and cameras to ensure all connections in all zones are operational.

* Inspect the perimeter of your home and mend holes in fences.

* Advertise your security systems and armed response. Place signage in areas of high visibility.

* Valuables should be locked in a safe or hidden in an ordinary container in an unusual spot.

* Do not hide a spare key outside your home. Give the spare key to a trusted neighbour.

* Ensure sensor lights are working, or install some before you leave.

* Disconnect your remote-control garage doors and lock them manually to prevent the use of a universal remote to open them.

* Use timers to switch lights on and off every night to provide the impression someone is home.

* Cut back shrubs and bushes on the pavement outside and near gates. These are perfect hiding places for criminals.

* Make sure your insurance premiums are up to date and your home is alarmed at all times when unoccupied. Your house sitter or neighbour must understand this since many insurance policies will not cover you for theft if the property was not alarmed at the time of the robbery.

* Employ a trustworthy house sitter so your home does not appear unoccupied. If this is not possible, give a neighbour keys and instructions to open for cleaners, gardeners, a pool service or other usual maintenance. Ask the house sitter or neighbour to clear your postbox daily and put out bins on collection day. Criminals looks for signs that premises are unoccupied. 

* Provide a thorough checklist of procedures for your house sitter or neighbour. This should include how to arm and disarm your alarm.

* Specify the location of the electrical box and mains switch, the water mains stopcock in case of a burst pipe, and manholes in case plumbers need to unblock drains or sewers. 

* Ensure you have your insurance provider’s contact numbers in your possession and your policy details.

* Don’t shout about your holiday on social media.

* Check your online privacy settings and the contact information you have loaded. Ensure your physical address is not visible to anyone online. Delete previous posts or invitations that may include your phone number and your home address.

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