Consumer Watch: Keep your home safe when away

Consumer Watch: Keep your home safe when away

August 3rd, 2014 by Ellen Phillips in Business Diary

Ellen Phillips

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Now that readers know tips to help make a good vacation even better, don't forget, statistically, that if anything can go wrong at your home, it'll happen while you're off having a great trip. From an appliance calamity to Richard Robber breaking in and stealing you blind, it's imperative we all take basic preventative measures to keep our homes safe and sound while we're away.

1 Ask a friend or trusted neighbor to keep an eye out. From such simple steps like driving by each day to more advanced care such as watering inside plants or checking for frozen pipes, these folks can be your best bet. Give Nellie Neighbor a house key for any inside tasks, plus any emergency that might crop up; additionally, hand over an extra car key in the event the vehicle needs moving for whatever reason.

2 Take preliminary safety steps before you leave that don't require your friends' attention. Several days before departing, visit USPS.com or go to your local branch to fill out a "Hold Mail" form. Call your newspaper delivery department to do the same. Piled up mail and papers are an open invitation for crooks to help themselves to your belongings as it's obvious from these collections you're far from home.

3 Don't reveal your plans on social media. Many thieves search Facebook and the like to see when subscribers are out of town. Sure, that upcoming trip to Disney World is exciting, but you don't want to arrive back home and find your home was burglarized while the family was off laughing with Mickey and Cinderella. Along this same line, keep your normal voice mail announcement; callers don't need to know you're not at home, only that you're unable to come to the phone at the moment.

4 Call the police before you leave and, perhaps, they won't warrant a call upon your return. We always do this when we travel for more than a weekend and, thus, are assured our sheriff's officers go out of their way to drive by the house several times. When I talk to the officer on dispatch, he always wants to know if we're leaving on a light so make sure at least one lamp is on a timer programmed for certain nighttime hours.

5. Do not hide a key outside the house - ever. Sophisticated criminals know Every. Single. Possible. Hiding. Place.

For those vacationers able to take a memorable trip, I do hope the past few columns enable each of you to enjoy a safe and fun-filled trip.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Sunday. You may contact her at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com