Vacation considerations

Hit the road but don’t advertise it

By Denise Waldron

While the pictures may generate likes and comments from friends and family, it also lets thieves know you are away.

Lisa and Bryan Moores of Lindsay recently went on an 11-day sojourn to Ireland. Lisa took her 500 or so Facebook friends along for the trip via her photos of and commentary on castles, pubs, restaurants and spendy stores, like Louis Vuitton and Chanel.

The couple’s adult daughter lives with them and was home from work in the evenings and weekends, leaving their home vulnerable during the day. Fortunately, no one broke in. Lisa says she does not think she would change a thing on their next trip. “My social media is pretty private,” she said, adding, “I am not too concerned. I’m lucky someone is usually here and great neighbours keep their eyes and ears open.”

Not everyone is so lucky, but being sensible about the clues you leave for others can deter thieves while you’re on holiday. The biggest culprit? Posting photos of your fabulous holiday hijinks on social media.

While the pictures may generate likes and comments from friends and family, it also lets thieves know you are away. Advertising on social media that you are on holiday is like placing a sign on your front lawn telling everyone your house is empty.

Along with keeping your vacation pictures off social media while you’re away, said Kawartha Lakes Police Service Constable Paul Hatton, it’s important to use your social media on a limited setting, so only your friends and family can see what you post.  

Are there people on your friends list you have never met? It is a good idea to remove them. A friend request from a stranger or that casual acquaintance may not be all it seems. There’s no way to really verify someone’s identity online.

There is another way thieves can find out you are not home — through location services, said Hatton. “If you’ve got this on and linked to your social media, it will post the location of exactly where you are.”

Posts or photos that have location services enabled may tag you, letting others know not just that you are away, but where you are. Adjusting your settings on social media so you are not automatically tagged, along with requesting to review any tags, will help reduce the risk.

In the real world, if your mailbox is overflowing with mail, newspapers and flyers, it is giving away you are not home, said Hatton. “Get your neighbour to collect these for you.”

Mail box full of junk mails

You can have your mail held while away. For a fee, Canada Post will keep it in your absence and deliver it upon your return. Cheryl MacMillan works at the Lindsay Canada Post depot. It is a double bonus to put a hold on your mail as your carrier knows you are away. “Your carrier is another set of eyes for your home. If they notice something is not right, they let management know.” That manager can in turn call the authorities, she added.

Of course, determined thieves can thwart the best-intentioned preparations. When planning for a vacation, Maryon Allen is serious about details. She and her husband and two children took many week-long trips to Delawana Resort in Muskoka. She asked her brother to stop by daily to check on the house, collect mail and papers and to report anything suspicious. The lights were on timers and the grass was freshly cut. She even refrained from posting vacation pictures online.

Police would say she did everything right,  But their Lindsay home was burgled anyway. Allen said she felt violated. “Even though they weren’t destructive, it’s unsettling to know someone has been in your house.”

Her husband couldn’t sleep, and she was concerned about something she had heard: that thieves would come back and hit the home again, knowing the couple may have replaced the stolen items with insurance money. This was enough to persuade the couple to have a monitored alarm system installed.

Monitored alarms are the best way to protect your home or business, according to Marlene Morrison Nicholls, president and CEO of Stewart Morrison Insurance.

“Many people install Google cameras, but these are just monitored by the homeowner and so do not provide any discount on your insurance. An alarm must be monitored and connected to both fire and police.” 

“Insurance companies here could not impose restriction of coverage because someone posted a vacation photo,” says Morrison Nicholls, but says “posting photos online while away is not the best practice.”

Constable Paul Hatton’s tips to protect your home and property while away

  • Install a trail cam inside your home if you can’t afford a monitored alarm system. (Trail cameras only capture images once they sense motion in proximity.) These are inexpensive and will capture photos of anyone in your abode while you are away.
  • A standard locking pin on sliding doors is usually cast metal, which is weak and easily broken. To prevent the door from being forced open, add a snug-fitting section of hockey stick to the track.
  • Ask your neighbours to park their second car in your driveway and to put their trash in front of your house on collection day.
  • Store your car keys well away from the door and out of sight.
  • Install solid exterior doors, not hollow ones. . Doors are one of the weak spots thieves look for. Cheap locks can be easily broken, so deadbolts are a must.
  • Lock all garage and shed doors.
  • Arrange for your grass to be cut and snow to be removed if you are away for a week or more. Cleaning up unkempt gardens and fallen leaves makes your home look lived in.

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