Creative and Cheap Tricks to Keep Intruders Out

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: InformedMag/Flickr

If a burglar really wants to get into your home, odds are that the person will get in. However, there are many cheap or free ways to make the job more difficult. Thieves tend to take the path of least resistance, so if they find it too hard to get into your house, they might very well move onto the next one. Check out these wallet-friendly security tricks for quick and easy ways to make your home more secure.

Check Your Locks

It may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don’t lock their doors and windows. This is a terrible idea, even during daylight hours. Some burglars try breaking in when people are normally at work, so it’s always worth locking doors, even in the daytime.

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Photo Courtesy: Osseous/Flickr

You should also be aware of other people in your home. Even if you live alone, house cleaners, landlords or repairmen may intentionally or unintentionally leave a door or window open. It’s best to double-check your locks whenever you leave and return home.

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Keep Your Life Off of Social Media

Social media has made it easy to keep in touch with friends and loved ones, but it’s also a resource for all kinds of criminals. For instance, burglars can use your accounts to keep up with your schedule and when you leave home.

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Photo Courtesy: Mike MacKenzie/Flickr

It’s still fine to be on social media, but you need to be careful. Don’t announce that you’re going on vacation or out of town before you return. Share photos after you come back. Try not to share anything about your regular routine, either, such as the hours you work.

Don't Flaunt Your Stuff

It’s okay to be proud of what you have, but don’t leave valuables out in the open. Instead, try using unassuming spots to store things. Rather than laying jewelry out in the open, hide it in a place where a burglar is unlikely to look.

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Photo Courtesy: Kelley Ford//Flickr

Alternatively, consider investing in furniture that makes concealing valuables easier. For instance, some over-the-door mirrors open into a convenient jewelry case that isn’t obvious to burglars in a hurry. Whatever you choose, by making burglars have to search for your valuables, you make it more likely that they’ll give up before finding them.

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Use a Safe

A safe is one of the best places to hide things. Good ones can’t be broken into or bypassed, at least not by the average burglar. If you get one, try hiding it under a pile of clothes or clutter so it is not easily seen.

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Photo Courtesy: Rob Pongsajapan/Flickr

You might also consider a camouflaged safe. For instance, some safes are built to look like trash cans. Most burglars are not going to rummage through your trash, so your valuables will probably be safe.

Put Motion-Activated Lights Up Everywhere

Many people that use motion-activated lights only install them in one or two locations. The problem? That still leaves a lot of blind spots. It doesn’t take long for a burglar to learn where there is easy access to a house, so they’ll probably just take an approach that doesn’t trigger them.

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Photo Courtesy: Javier Baez/Flickr

Try putting them up around your entire home instead so that no matter where a person walks in your yard, a light comes on. The number of lights you need depends on the size of your property. Just make sure the width of one light meets the next one.

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Change Up Your Nightly Routine

There is probably nothing a burglar likes better than a routine, since it makes it easy to identify the prime time to hit your home. Make your home less attractive to burglars by changing your bedtime light routine.

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Photo Courtesy: Justin/Flickr

Most likely, your bedroom light is the last one you turn off. Turn it off first and then go back to turn off others. Change the pattern in which you turn them off each night. Also, try leaving a light or two on every night, but change up which lights each time.

Put Alarms on Your Doors

If you can afford a good security system, get one. If you can’t, however, there is a cheap way to do something similar. Dollar stores and large retailers often have cheap alarms you can place on your doors. When the door is open and the alarm is activated, it makes a loud shrieking noise.

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Photo Courtesy: Osseous/Flickr

Granted, the cheap ones do not call the cops. However, most burglars are not going to stick around after hearing one, and if you’re in bed, the alarm will make you aware that someone is trying to break in.

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Add Security to Your Windows

Burglars are as likely to use windows as they are doors. One solution is to use the same cheap door alarms mentioned above, since they work on windows as well. The high-pitched noise should scare off anyone who isn’t expecting it.

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Photo Courtesy: Zaglite/Pixabay

You can also secure your windows with pin-locks. Just drill a hole through both the top and bottom window frames and stick a pin through it. Finally, you can also try inserting some type of pole between the bottom and top of a window to prevent it from opening.

Reinforce Door Jambs

One common yet noisy way that burglars enter homes is by literally kicking doors in. It’s usually not as easy as it seems on TV, but if the burglar knows where to kick — the door jamb area — it is very possible.

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Photo Courtesy: Alan/Flickr

Consider purchasing a reinforcement plate for the door jamb to prevent the door from splitting at the locks. Some plates that only cover a portion of the jamb, while others wrap around to make it even harder to get through.

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Use Longer Screws on Door Plates

When installing door knobs and plates, use longer screws to make the door more secure. The short screws do no good against a well-placed kick since they can easily fall out. It’s a good idea to go through your whole house and fit every door knob and plate with long screws.

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Photo Courtesy: Charlie Gross/Flickr

While you’re at it, consider changing the type of screw you use. It’s much harder to take off hex or Robertson screws than Phillips-head or flat-head screws, even for a burglar with a screwdriver.

Secure Sliding Doors With a Solid Pole

Put a solid pole along the tracks of sliding doors. If a thief tries to open your door, the pole will stop it from opening. Be sure, however, that the pole won’t break in the process.

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Photo Courtesy: Pat (Cletch) Williams/Flickr

It should also be completely solid. Burglars can slide a skinny tool through the middle of pole that isn’t solid and use that to lift the pole up. It can be done quickly and easily. This goes for any pole you use to lock an entryway in your home, including windows.

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Stop Leaving Your Key Under the Mat

Leaving a spare key under the mat is a well-known secret — one that burglars are in on. If you are still leaving your key under the mat, stop right now. Instead, buy a locked key box, like the kind many realtors use when showing a house. Only give out the code to the box to those who absolutely need it, and periodically change the number.

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Photo Courtesy: Dru Bloomfield/Flickr

Most people place their key boxes by the front door. Try putting yours in a less convenient spot for added security.

Use a Wider-Than-Average Peephole

Peepholes are a necessity for any door that strangers might approach. However, as handy as they are, most peepholes only provide a limited view, and some criminals have figured this out. All they need to do is move a little to the side and they can’t be seen.

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Photo Courtesy: Peep Test/Flickr

While it’s best not to answer the door if you can’t see who’s knocking, some people inevitably let curiosity get the better of them. Instead of taking chances, get a wider peephole that won’t let thieves hide.

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Use a Security Mailbox

Your mailbox provides a lot of information to a thief. Mail has personal information inside of it that thieves can use to steal your identity, but even the envelopes can be used against you. Just by learning a parent’s first name, criminals can get kids to listen to them by suggesting mom or dad sent them. Additionally, if your mailbox is piled with mail, burglars may assume that you’re on vacation.

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Photo Courtesy: Gail Young/Flickr

To solve these security hazards, consider purchasing a security mailbox. In it, mail is dropped into a hidden compartment that you have to unlock to access.

Change Your Garage Door Opener

Many people have garage openers on a keypad right outside their garage. This isn’t remotely safe. For starters, anybody that looks hard enough can see you putting in the number. Someone with a good camera can even be across the street and see it. Second, because the keypad is sitting outside, it’s accessible to everyone. Anyone with some hacking skills can get in without your code.

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Photo Courtesy: Bernard Hermant/Flickr

Consider purchasing a garage door opener that attaches to your keychain instead. That way, it’s always with you, but thieves can’t use it.

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Secure Your Overhead Garage Door

Many people don’t realize how easy it is for people to get into a garage. While the noise of a garage door guarantees you’ll know someone entered while at home, that’s not a problem for burglars when you’re not home. This is especially a problem when the owners are out on vacation.

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Photo Courtesy: Kevin Wolf/Unsplash

There is a way to stop a garage door from opening. Most garage doors have a hole in the track right above where the wheel stops when the door is shut. By putting a padlock through that hole, the door is effectively locked..

Get Security Cameras

Having security cameras around your home is always a good idea. When burglars see them, they usually decide they’d rather target a different house. You can spend a fortune on cameras and monitoring if you choose, but budget options also exist.

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Photo Courtesy: Linda Traynor/Flickr

In fact, some people even purchase cheap decoy cameras to fool criminals without the expense. You may think that this will do no good, but the sight of a camera is usually enough to get criminals to back away. You are less likely to be burglarized if the thief thinks he will get caught.

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Add Reinforcement Panels to Garage Side Doors

Garage doors are a common point of entry for many thieves, but you can minimize that risk by reinforcing them. Screw in a panel straight to the door to start. Then add a plank across the top and the bottom.

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Photo Courtesy: thesawguy7/Flickr

Unless you never use the door, be careful not to screw the planks into the door. Instead, add brackets to the door frame to lay the planks in. You can then get out if you need to, but most burglars will not take the time to break through it.

Add Tint to Home Windows

Window tint isn’t just for limousines. For one thing, it can decrease your heating and cooling bills. More importantly, it can deter potential thieves. If they can’t see through your windows, they won’t know what is going on in your home.

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Photo Courtesy: BEA Building Products & Clay Solutions/Flickr

This has the dual advantage of hiding valuables inside your home and making it harder for thieves to learn your routine. Do remember to close your blinds at night, however. Inside lights can make the tint easy to see through.

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Use a Deadbolt Protection Device

Deadbolts provide an extra layer of security over a regular doorknob, but they can still be picked by experienced burglars. Make it harder by adding a deadbolt protection device. These are available in many different forms, but they all provide the same result.

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Photo Courtesy: Todd Huffman/Flickr

These devices prevent not only burglars from lockpicking the door, but also anyone who may have picked up or copied your key. It makes getting through the door extremely difficult, and that’s usually enough to keep criminals away.

Get Thicker Locks

For doors with an external lock, such as those found on a shed, bolt cutters are a thief's best friend. Unfortunately, they often have them on hand. The good news is that you can make it hard enough to cut through a lock that they might just give up.

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Photo Courtesy: James Case/Flickr

For starters, the shackle — the bit of metal above the body of the lock — needs to be thick. A thin shackle won’t deter a thief with bolt cutters at all. The shackle also shouldn’t be exposed, or at least not exposed enough for bolt cutters to get to.

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Make a Burglar Box

The majority of burglars are not interested in dawdling in your house to search for things. TIme is of the essence once they enter your home, so they need to find what they want quickly and go. You can help them out with this.

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Photo Courtesy: Blake Imeson/Flickr

In a very obvious spot, have a box or other type of container that would interest a burglar. Put in a little money, a few pieces of fake jewelry and maybe some ticket stubs. When they find it, they will think they discovered your valuables and, hopefully, leave.

Use Door Stoppers

Have you ever tried to open a door that is blocked by those little rubber stoppers? If so, you know it is nearly impossible to do. A burglar would, at the very least, make a lot of noise trying to get in.

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Photo Courtesy: Helen Penjam/Flickr

The rubber ones are effective, but there are also heavy-duty door stoppers created specifically to prevent break-ins. These so-called smart door stops also beep if anyone tries to open the door. Similar items are also being created for windows and sliding doors as well.

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Add Extra Door Locks

The more locks you have on your doors, the better — as long as you actually use them. In addition to a regular door knob lock, you should add at least a door bolt. These are the locks that you see on hotel room doors. They are incredibly strong and very hard to get through.

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Photo Courtesy: Tony Webster/Flickr

Some people choose to put up chain locks. While they’re better than nothing, chain locks do not offer much protection from people trying to get in. They are more suitable for keeping little ones from getting out.

Check Your Door for Cracks

When a door doesn’t fit in its frame all the way, there’s usually a crack somewhere around the edge. This is bad for two reasons. First, it can allow outsiders to look inside your house. Second, it can also help them get inside the door.

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Photo Courtesy: Emily May/Flickr

You can easily check for cracks. When it’s dark outside, turn on an indoor light and go outside. If you can see light, there is a crack. While you do not have to buy a new door, you should consider getting some weather stripping.

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Add Security Signs?

Even if you do not have a security system, you can make people believe you do by putting up security signs on windows and in your yard. This often deter thieves because even if they’re not certain you have a system, they still don’t want to take a chance.

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Photo Courtesy: Daniel Lobo/Flickr

If you do this, don’t tell anyone, not even family and friends, that the signs are just for show. They may not mean to reveal that the system is fake, but they may let it slip one day by giving advice to others on how to protect their homes.

Leave on the TV

Years ago, people used the TV as a burglar deterrent. They would leave it on so that the noise and lights would make people think they were home or awake. However, if the owners were away too long, the TV would eventually cut off on its own.

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Photo Courtesy: Loewe Technologies/Unsplash

With all of the smart systems out there, a smartphone can let you control your TV even when you’re not at home. Some smart systems also let you control indoor lights. By controlling these things as if you were home, burglars won’t realize the house is empty.

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Get a Smart Security System

On a similar note, smart security systems allow you to control various security features remotely. You can double-check locks, set alarms, change the temperature setting and more depending on the system you choose, and all from your smartphone.

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Photo Courtesy: Dick Thompson/Flickr

You might consider buying a smart doorbell system if it is not included with your security equipment. These alert you if someone is at your door. You have probably seen the commercials where thieves are trying to break in but are scared off when the homeowner speaks to them. Few thieves stick around when there’s risk of a human confrontation.

Add a Safety Door and Storm Windows

Safety doors and storm windows can cut down energy costs down, but they also add an extra layer of protection to your home against burglars and anyone else trying to break in. In fact, good ones can be beaten, kicked, and more and still be standing.

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Photo Courtesy: ntm1909/Flickr

What’s more safety doors and storm windows now look good. There was a time they were not attractive, but new designs can be quite stylish. These doors and windows can be an investment, but the benefits they provide make them worth it.

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Have a Spare Car Key

Do you ever valet your car or have it detailed? Are your car keys on the same key ring as your house keys? It’s very easy for a determined criminal to make a copy of a key. Sometimes, they don’t even have to go to the store to do it.

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Photo Courtesy: Mike Maguire/Flickr

Using nothing but a mold — which can take only seconds to make — a crook can make a duplicate key to your house. To prevent others from easily copying your house key, have a spare car key on a ring by itself to give others who need to access your car.