Bad guys get busy during travel season. Whether it’s summer vacation, spring break, end-of-year holidays, or anywhere between crooks are always on the lookout for homes without occupants.

Before you get set to head out – on an extended summer vacation, or weekend road trip – it’s important to make sure your home is protected and secure while you’re away.

For this iDSC Podcast, Doug Shupe, from the Auto Club of Southern California, shares with me several vital tips for home-owners and road-travelers on how to safeguard your house against burglars.

Click play below to learn how to return to your home exactly the way you left it!


Recorded July 11, 2018, Los Angeles, CA

Every 14-Seconds a US Home is Burglarized 

Doug Shupe: Every 15 seconds in the nation, there is a home that is burglarized. Before you head out, make sure that you prepare your home. Don’t post on social media when you’re leaving for vacation. Share that content after you’re home, and you’re there to protect your house.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. Tom Smith here with Doug Shupe of the Motor Club of Southern California, a.k.a AAA. Doug is the Senior Public Affairs Specialist, and, geez, becoming a frequent guest here on iDriveSoCal. Doug, thanks for joining me again.

Doug Shupe: Thanks for having me again, Tom.

Tom Smith: So, the topic du jour is keeping your home safe as you head out for vacation. In this case, we’re in the depth of summer. So, we’re talking about a summer vacation. But, really, this applies to any vacation, any time you’re going to be leaving home. And, you know, you plan the trip diligently, make sure you pack the swimsuits, or the skis, or whatever kind of trip it’s going to be. And while you’re thinking about going and having fun, you’ve got to make sure that the homestead is safe and secure.

Plan Your Vacation & Home Security Simultaneously

Doug Shupe: That’s such a great point, Tom, because a lot of people do just as you said. They put so much thought and detail into packing the bags for the vacation, or, you know, if they’re taking a road trip, they’ve done everything to their vehicle to prep the vehicle for that road trip to prevent a breakdown. But they forget simple things to protect the home while they’re away. And, you know, so-

Tom Smith: I remembered my mesquite flavored almonds and my extra caffeine soda, but I forgot to lock the side door.

Doug Shupe: But you forgot to lock the side door to the garage. I mean, unfortunately, it happens across the nation. A home burglary happens every 15 seconds. I mean, it is incredible.

Tom Smith: Every 15 seconds?

Doug Shupe: Every 15 seconds in the nation, there is a home that is burglarized. And these types of crimes tend to rise during peak travel seasons and holidays. So, before you head out for Labor Day, or for Thanksgiving, or for the year-end holidays, which will be here before you know it, make sure that you prepare your home for when you’re gone. You know, one recent technique that we’ve been hearing about is that the thieves will actually turn off the electricity to a house at the breaker box to check whether anyone is at home. So, it’s a good idea. The Auto Club suggests that you-

Think Like a Thief to Prevent Theft

Tom Smith: Well, that actually serves two purposes, right? If I turn the electricity off, I’m assuming, I’m not a thief, but I’m assuming, one, as you just point out, it will alert me to whether or not somebody comes out and tries to figure out what the problem is. Two, it will kill the alarm, right?

Doug Shupe: Right. So, what we suggest is add a lock to that breaker box outside because, you know, if someone can gain access to the side of the house where the box is located, put a lock on that box. Some other simple things that you want to do is walk around, and close, and lock every single door and window. Slide locks are recommended for those sliding glass doors. Really, check those doors that you don’t use that often, like the door to the garage.

Tom Smith: What do you mean? What’s a slide lock?

Doug Shupe: You can use those certain kinds of simple little things that you can get at any hardware store.

Tom Smith: Like a broomstick handle that I put in the thing?

Doug Shupe: You’ve got those dowels that can be used in the sliding glass door.

Tom Smith: So, you can’t open it?

Take Simple Extra Measures

Doug Shupe: Right. And you’ve also got those little pins that you can use-

Tom Smith: Okay, sure.

Doug Shupe: … for the sliding glass doors as well.

Tom Smith: So, that’s a slide lock?

Doug Shupe: Yes, exactly. And they’re very affordable and really can-

Tom Smith: Sure,

Doug Shupe: … protect you. Leave your blinds and your curtains in their normal position, so your house doesn’t appear empty. If possible, move expensive electronic equipment, like televisions or computers out of the way from the windows.

Tom Smith: All right.

Doug Shupe: If someone’s outside, I recommend going outside of the house, look in the window, and see if there’s anything that could entice a crook to break in.

Tom Smith: Sure. Get that crook’s perspective.

Doug Shupe: Crook’s point of view. Right, his point of view.

Tom Smith: Or her point of view.

Doug Shupe: Or her point of view, right.

Tom Smith: You never know.

Doug Shupe: You never know who’s going to take that opportunity to commit a crime. You know, don’t post on social media when you’re leaving for vacation. I mean-

Tom Smith: That’s a big one, right?

Doug Shupe: It is a big one. We all want to share-

Tom Smith: Look at me on vacation. Look at me. Oh my gosh. I’m 3000 miles from home.

Doug Shupe: Exactly, or two days away, and I’m heading out here.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Doug Shupe: Don’t do that. And, you know, a lot of people think. “Well, I’ve got so many protections and privacy settings on my Facebook,” but you just never know.

Tom Smith: Right.

Don’t Broadcast Your Plans & Whereabouts on Social Media!

Doug Shupe: And so, just don’t do it. Post after you get home those photos, and share that content after you’re home, and you’re there to protect your house. You know, ask a neighbor to pick up your mail or have the post office put it on hold.

Tom Smith: Sure.

Doug Shupe: And suspend the newspaper subscription. If you still get the newspaper, suspend it while you’re away as well.

Tom Smith: If you still get the newspaper, stop wasting your money.

Doug Shupe: Well, stop. Stop. Definitely stop those because that’s the thing is, you know, these thieves will look for those newspapers in the driveway.

Tom Smith: Sure, sure.

Doug Shupe: They’ll look for the mail piling up.

Tom Smith: And I’m sorry newspaper friends out there, I don’t mean to cut into your business. If you get the newspaper, keep getting it if you want to. If you don’t want to, then, you know, you could pretty much get everything you need on your mobile device.

Doug Shupe: And if you get it, stop it temporarily while you’re away.

Tom Smith: See, that’s the nice thing about listening to iDriveSoCal Podcast is that, you know, you can subscribe, and the podcasts can be delivered to your inbox, and thieves won’t know whether or not your home or on vacation.

Doug Shupe: Right.

Tom Smith: I’m just saying.

Have Someone Monitor Your Home While Away

Doug Shupe: And you develop that good relationship with the friend or the neighbor, someone who can inspect your house regularly, and ask them to turn on the outdoor lights at night.

Tom Smith: Sure.

Doug Shupe: Or put your lights on a timer.

Tom Smith: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Doug Shupe: That’s an easy way to do it.

Tom Smith: Timers are good.

Doug Shupe: Whoever is watching your home should have a key to your car in case that it needs to be moved during an emergency. And, also, let them know who may be visiting your home while you’re away, like a maintenance worker or perhaps a pool cleaning service. Let them know, so that they’re aware. You know, just making sure that you’re not also keeping spare keys hidden outside the house. Just like you wouldn’t put a spare key outside of your car, you don’t want to put a spare key underneath the flower pot or underneath the doormat because thieves will search for them.

Tom Smith: The old fake rock’s not dead not/

Doug Shupe: It’s not going to cut it.

Tom Smith: Was it a news story I saw about some kids? I don’t think it was a news story. I think it was … What was it? It’s a little documentary, or something, or like some kids broke into a celebrity’s house. And they caught it on … It was right up here in Hollywood Hills. They caught it on closed caption. I almost want to say someone was breaking into Paris Hilton’s house.

Break-ins Can Happen to Anyone

Doug Shupe: Well, we know the story. We have heard of those.

Tom Smith: And it was on … They were caught on security camera coming in numerous times. And the way they were getting in was a key under the mat on the side door.

Doug Shupe: Yeah, yeah.

Tom Smith: And they stole like thousands of dollars of jewelry.

Doug Shupe: It’s very unfortunate. And, you know, there has been a rash. We’ve heard about it the last year of celebrity homes that have been burglarized. And if you imagine all of the security that they have, and thieves can still get in, just imagine what they can do at your house if you don’t take those those preparations. And so, you know, if possible, install a monitored alarm system in your home. And, you know, you may be eligible for a discount on your insurance premium after the system is installed.

And, finally, you know, make sure that your home insurance is updated and provides adequate coverage for any valuables in your home. If you own expensive jewelry, high-priced electronics, or other luxury goods, you may need an additional writer to your insurance policy or a floater insurance policy to be adequately covered in the event of a loss. So, really make sure that before you go on vacation, you have that conversation with your insurance agent. Make sure you’re covered.

Tom Smith: Think about that moving forward trip, but don’t forget about the old homestead.

Doug Shupe: The old homestead.

Tom Smith: That you’ll come back to.

Simple Planning Goes a Long Way

Doug Shupe: You know, that movie we always see, Home Alone. We always see it at the holiday season. Those criminals are smarter than those guys in that movie, right? They, unfortunately, can get into your home. And so-

Tom Smith: Yeah, and Macaulay Culkin, he always gets the best of them.

Doug Shupe: He held his own. Yeah, he did. But, you know, that’s the thing is everybody’s so excited, especially in the holiday season, and the hustle and bustle of the holidays. But, you know, that most wonderful time of the year can turn out to be not so wonderful if you don’t take those steps to protect your home

Tom Smith: Yup, yup. Doug Shupe, thank you so much as always. Doug’s the Senior Public Affairs Specialist here at the Auto Club of Southern California, also known as AAA. Doug, thanks again. For iDriveSoCal, I’m Tom Smith. Thank you for listening.