We’ve mentioned it before, and crime studies bear it out: having a sign from an alarm company on your lawn or in windows can be a good way to deter burglars. That simple sign alone, even if you don’t have an alarm system installed or armed – can be enough to have criminals taking off for another, easier target.
Now, we certainly don’t recommend faking it! A sign is nice but it won’t send up an alarm or call the police department if someone tries to break in. But we do recommend taking whatever simple steps you can to deter criminals, and that includes adding a sign to let criminals know that your home is protected by a real and functioning alarm system.
The problem is that while criminals may be lazy and eager to avoid danger, they’re not stupid. Present them with a mousetrap and they’ll build a better mouse. Turns out that’s exactly what some criminals have done when it comes to alarm signs.
In a recent scam, criminals use the fact of that sign to gain entry to homes under the guise of alarm technicians. They’ll ring your doorbell, tell you they’re from your alarm company and that they need to perform some service or maintenance, then scope out your home for valuables so they’ll know exactly what to hit later.
That doesn’t mean you have to pull down the signs, though. It just means you need to be smarter. Here are a couple of ways that you can protect yourself against these types of scams.
Never Take Someone’s Word For It
This may sound obvious, but when you’re busy and distracted, you’re probably not thinking about whether the person at your door is for real. All you know is that someone wearing a uniform, probably carrying a clipboard and looking official, needs to fix something important. You’re not programmed to be immediately distrusting so you let that person in.
But whether it’s someone claiming to be an alarm technician, a cable company repair person or anyone at all who “looks official” but who you don’t know, never simply let them into your home.
No legitimate alarm company will send a technician to your home unexpectedly and unsolicited, so chances are, there is no good reason for that person to be standing at your door.
What if you’re not sure? Maybe by a stroke of coincidence there’s reason to expect someone. Still, be cautious. Always ask for a name and proof of identification, and then leave them on the porch while you call your alarm company to verify that person’s identity. An alarm company badge isn’t good enough – they’re easy enough to fake. Make sure it’s a reliable form of ID like a driver’s license.
Don’t worry about adding a few seconds of wait time to someone’s day or insulting someone by requiring proof. A real technician will be ok with your choice, and a fake one won’t stick around long enough to complain.
If you have surveillance cameras installed at your front door, it’s an added warning sign to criminals that they’re being watched. No criminal wants his face caught on camera so he can be tied to a crime.
The visible presence of cameras may be enough to deter someone from trying to scam you in the first place. They’ll also give you a chance to see who’s there so you can prepare yourself before you open the door. When you’re caught by surprise, you’re more likely to react without thinking. But if you see a stranger and have a minute to run through your mental script, you can avoid a hasty – and perhaps unwise – response.
Your best bet is to have cameras professionally installed. While you can grab any number of DIY camera systems and watch your front porch from an app on your smart phone, you may be missing some key ingredients that mean the difference between simply “having cameras” and having a camera system that is effective for security.
For example, most consumer-level cameras don’t record video. You may be able to upgrade to a storage service but it’s typically expensive and limited. An alarm company can install professionally monitored and recorded camera systems so that in the event of a concern or break in, you can go back and view actual footage of a suspected criminal.
Camera positioning is also important, and a professional will understand exactly where and how to place cameras for maximum security benefit. Home surveillance cameras are a lot different than the ones you may see on TV. While they can “see” pretty well even in the dark, you won’t be zooming in on quadrant three to catch a criminal’s face.
That means cameras must be positioned ideally to capture the best and most useful images. A professional alarm company will place cameras in ideal locations, at the proper angles and distance from the subject being recorded.
Get Acquainted With Smart Doorbells
Cameras are a great idea, but imagine that not only can you see who’s at the door, but you can speak to them without ever opening it.
Smart doorbells like SkyBell give you one-tap access via a smartphone app to see, hear and speak to someone at your door – even if you’re not home. Whether you hear the bell ring or you’re alerted through your app, you can immediately see who’s there and engage in a real-time two-way conversation without ever opening the door.
That means not only can you prepare yourself for speaking to a stranger, but you can do it from behind the protection of a locked door. Criminals will never even get a glimpse into your entryway and you don’t have to worry about your physical safety if someone tries to force their way in when you open the door.
Since you can answer the doorbell even when you’re not home, it gives you the added security of making it appear as if you are. Remember, criminals tend to want the easy score, and that means they’re less likely to try to break in if they think someone is home to catch them.
Good security is a combination of a well-designed and professionally monitored alarm system, some practical deterrents, and a little bit of smarts. Alarm your home – and arm yourself with a bit of knowledge – and you’ll be safer from theft and scams.
If you’d like to install a security system and find out more about how cameras and other smart tech can improve your safety, contact us for a free in-home consultation and estimate. Our professionals will schedule an appointment and answer all your questions.