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For many of us, the holidays are a mixture of fun and frantic shopping. Criminals, however, see the holiday season as the perfect time to take advantage of seasonal chaos.
"Criminals know that our holiday habits can leave our homes, belongings and personal information vulnerable," says Jim Boots of the security company Protection 1. “It's important to be vigilant throughout the year and especially during the holidays. According to the FBI, there's a burglary every 14 seconds in the U.S. And, with homes and cars filled with new gifts and gadgets, the holidays are an especially lucrative time for thieves."
Simple precautions can help you protect your home this holiday season.
"A criminal is more likely to target a home that looks vulnerable. The best thing homeowners can do to protect their homes is to make it clear to burglars that their house won't be an easy mark," Boots says.
Here’s how you can reduce the risk of burglary:
* Program inside and outside lights on a timer to make your home look occupied while you're away.
* Keep bushes, trees and decorations from obscuring the view of your front door from the road.
* Suspend newspaper and mail delivery if you'll be away for several days.
* Arrange for snow removal in case of snowfall while you're away.
Consider installing a cost-effective home security system. Some models allow you to control everything remotely from a mobile or Web-based system, such as a smart phone or laptop. A home without a security system is two to three times more likely to be burglarized, according to a study by Temple University.
Stay safe when you're out
Thieves know our holiday shopping habits and can make us vulnerable to theft while we're out and about. They may break into cars or "shoulder surf" for credit card information and PIN numbers. When holiday shopping, keep these safety tips in mind:
* Never leave shopping bags, wrapped gifts or other valuables visible inside the car. Always place them in the trunk. Thieves are more likely to break into a vehicle if they can see the loot in it.
* Carry only the credit card you need and one piece of ID when shopping. Leave your Social Security card at home or in a secure place.
* Be aware of whom might be looking over your shoulder as you type a PIN number.
* Never allow a store clerk to take your credit card out of your sight.
* Consider enrolling in an identity theft protection service that can alert you if your personal information is ever used incorrectly.
Decorating Tip: Create an indoor winter wonderland
Even if you live in a warmer climate without snow, you can still get into the winter wonderland spirit with a few craft projects around the house. Spray canned “snow” on your windows for a frosty feel, hang up temporary snowflake decorations that sparkle, place poinsettia plants on tables and choose white or blue Christmas lights for an elegant touch outside.
Home-Selling Tip: Showcase all bedrooms
Make sure that buyers know exactly how many bedrooms are in your home. Showcasing a spare bedroom as an office or workout room can mislead buyers, and they may think there are less bedrooms than you actually have. If a room was originally designed to be a bedroom, then make sure you showcase it as such with a bedroom set and an organized closet.
How To: Drill into tile
Choose the proper drill bit: carbide-tipped masonry or diamond-tipped.
Make an X with masking tape over the spot to be drilled.
Begin to slowly drill into the spot of choice, increasing speed as appropriate. Keep the drill bit lubricated with water and apply steady pressure. This step requires patience and persistence because if you drill too fast too hard, you will break the tile.
Once you drill through the tile, switch to a regular drill bit to drill through the dry wall and finish the project.
Did You Know …
Based on contracts signed in October, the Pending Home Sales Index rose 10.4 percent from September.
Home Improvements: Get an awning motor
If you can’t decide whether to have an awning or not, consider an awning motor to get the best of both worlds. You can keep it open during the day and close it at night with ease.
Money-saving tip: Buy or rent what you can afford
If you are in the market for purchasing or renting a new home, be sure to do the proper research beforehand. Avoid getting in over your head and falling into debt later on by educating yourself now. Be realistic about how much monthly payments will be with everything included (bills, food, etc.) and compare it to your monthly income. Committing yourself to a mortgage or rent payment that you can’t afford will only bring stress later on and can prove disastrous for your credit.
Backyard Buddies: Don’t let pets chew on lights
Be cautious when letting your dog outside in a backyard with holiday decorations. Lights on the lower branches of trees can get hot and burn pets. Dogs also have a tendency to chew on cords, like extension cords or stringed lights. There are products you can buy at a pet supplies store that you can spray or rub on things in your backyard. If you don’t want your pets to touch something, the unpleasant scent will keep them away.
-- American Kennel Club
GateHouse News Service