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25 ways to keep your auto and home safe from thieves this summer

Criminals don't take a summer break

Summertime is peak season for household property crimes. (Photo: iStock)
Summertime is peak season for household property crimes. (Photo: iStock)

One of the best ways to save on Auto and Homeowners' insurance is to stay claims-free. Securing your vehicle and house will help prevent theft, save you money along with the hassle of dealing with unexpected property losses this summer. 

In 2014, there were an estimated 8,277,829 property crimes (burglaries, larceny-thefts, and motor vehicle thefts) reported by law enforcement, according to the latest FBI annual report on "Crime in the United States, 2014." Financial losses suffered by victims of these crimes were calculated at approximately $14.3 billion.

Peak season for home burglaries


Summertime is peak season for household property crimes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Open windows and open garages along with extended absences from your home for travel and outdoor activities, demand extra vigilance.

The average homeowner's losses for theft from 2010-2014 was $3,786, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). Data also reveals that about one in 215 insured homes has a property damage claim due to theft each year.

Car thieves


Motor vehicle thefts, on the other hand, do not exhibit the same seasonal patterns. However, it would be especially devastating to have your car stolen while on a summer road trip. Car thieves are becoming increasing organized and, in less than a minute, your car can disappear, requiring you to file an insurance claim. 

Related: 10 most frequently stolen vehicles

In 2014, there were 689,527 vehicle reported stolen in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The I.I.I. notes that a motor vehicle was stolen in the U.S. every 46 seconds in 2014. Nearly 45% of stolen vehicles are never recovered.

Here are handy tips to help ensure that your residence and car are less of a target for thieves, especially during the summer vacation season: 

 Burglar fleeing home

A dog can be a great deterrent against crime. Burglars don't like dogs. (Photo: iStock)

Home


1.
Don’t post your travel plans on social media. Some burglars use social networking sites to find victims. 

2. Pushbutton locks on doorknobs are easy for burglars to open. Install deadbolt locks on all your outside doors.

3. Trim your bushes, shrubs and trees to avoid providing a place for an intruder to hide. 

4. Have adequate exterior lighting. One of the best deterrents against a burglar is to install motion-sensing lights.

5. Be sure to lock up ladders and tools which could be used to break into your home.

6. Burglars don't like dogs. Even small dogs make a home a less attractive to criminals.

Related: 12 home theft prevention tips for traveling homeowners

Garage

Garages are a common entry point for burglars. Keep your garage door(s) closed. (Photo: iStock)

7. Get to know your neighbors — it's a great deterrent to crime. Neighbors are extra sets of eyes keeping a watch on your property, reporting suspicious activity, and helping keep you safe. Be sure and return the favor and keep an eye on their home, too.

8. Consider an alarm system. Many insurance companies offer discounts for alarms, and some systems also monitor for fire.

9. Think like a burglar. Ask yourself, “what would a burglar find when he looks at my house that would be inviting?”

10. Many break-ins occur during the day when people are at work. For that reason, when you leave the house, create an illusion that someone's still there. Consider leaving a radio on all day so that would-be burglars think that someone is at home.

11. Garages are a common entry point for burglars. Keep your garage door closed.  

12. Don't keep valuables in your bedroom. Crooks normally go straight to the bedroom because they know people tend to keep cash and jewelry there. Keep your valuables in an unlikely place, but not in the linen closet or the freezer (too common).

Car thief

Leaving the window open even one inch can be just what it takes for a car thief to easily steal your car. (Photo: iStock)

Auto


Auto theft is covered under the comprehensive section of an Auto insurance policy. Theft coverage applies to the loss of the vehicles, as well as parts of the car such as airbags. 

Premium rates for comprehensive insurance are affected by the risk of loss — meaning the likelihood that an insured car will be stolen or damage — and also the car’s value at the time of the loss.

The dollar size of claims has been going up, reflecting the higher value of new cars on the road, the value of the cars that are targets for theft or are damaged and the cost of vehicle bodywork, according to the I.I.I.

13. Always roll up your windows, close the sunroof and lock the car, even if it is parked in front of your home. Leaving the window open even one inch can be just what it takes for a car thief to easily steal your car.

14. Never leave your car running unattended, even to dash into your home, a convenience store, ATM, etc.

15. Never mark your keys with your name and address.

Related: Be smart: These are the top 10 states for vehicle thefts when the keys are left inside

 Steering wheel lock

A car protected against theft with the use of a Stoplock steering lock attached to the steering wheel. (Photo: iStock)

16. Try to park the vehicle with the front facing an obstacle. Turn the wheels toward the curb, recommends Interpol. This makes it harder for thieves to tow your vehicle.

17. Have the vehicle identification number etched on the glass and other parts of the vehicle. This discourages chop shops.

18. Remove registration papers from your motor vehicle to make it difficult for the thief to sell it on the black market.

19. Do not hide a spare set of keys anywhere on or near the car itself — criminals may either see you hiding the key or look in the common locations people use.

20. Install an anti-theft system in your vehicle if it doesn’t have one. Thieves are reluctant to steal vehicles if they know the cars can be recovered quickly. Many insurers offer discounts for anti-theft devices, according to Geico.

Car thief

Be aware of your surroundings, especially at night and in parking garages. (Photo: iStock)

21. Thieves prefer to work in the dark. Be particularly cautious at night about where you park your car. Park it in a well-lit area if possible. According to the Seattle Police Department, more than two-thirds of all auto thefts occur at night.

22. Don't tempt car thieves. Keep valuables out of plain sight. Take them with you or store them in the trunk

23. Look around. Be aware of your surroundings, especially in garages, parking lots and gas stations.

24. Remember, no matter how old and beat up your car is, you can never completely rule out the possibility of theft. Many times old cars are easier to break into and these models are stolen for parts, because they are easy to sell on the stolen parts market. And in some cases, criminals don't care about the value of the car they're stealing. They simply need temporary transportation.

25. When you're at home, don't leave your keys near an open window. Car security systems have advanced so far now that the easiest way for a thief to steal the car is often to steal the keys themselves. This can mean picking them from your pocket, or even stealing them from your house.

Related: NICB: Motorcycle theft up for first time in 10 years

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