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Security Hacks

11 Clever Ways to Deter Burglars that Actually Work

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A burglar trying to pry open a front door

We all want to protect our homes from intruders. Arriving home and seeing that your front door is wide open and your valuables have disappeared is not a pleasant experience.

I know, because it happened to me in the summer of 2014. Since then home security has been a top priority for me. I’ve taken some very effective precautionary measures to deter burglars and they’ve never returned (since then, many friends of mine have taken the same measures and they’ve all successfully prevented burglaries).

The vast majority of criminals try to avoid risky situations and they definitely prefer easy targets with a low risk-reward ratio. Thus, all you have to do is give them the impression that your home is not worth giving a try.

There are approximately 1.4 million burglaries (data from the Department of Justice) in the U.S. each year. In this article, I’ll share with you the best methods that will help you to protect your home and scare burglars away before they even touch the door handle.

1. Make Sure Burglars Can’t Hide Around Your Home

A house surrounded and partly covered by bushes and treesPin

Bad guys like to “work” hidden from everyone’s eyes. Therefore, houses surrounded by big bushes and extensive vegetation attract burglars like a magnet and are more in danger.

So what can you do? Keep bushes trimmed back, remove clutter in your yard and make sure the surroundings of your windows and doors are not hidden and are clearly visible. You are even more likely to deter burglars if you install convex security mirrors to make blind spots visible.

If you want some vegetation under your windows, choose thorny bushes that will make crooks think twice before they approach the windows.

By creating large, open spaces around your home you can make intruders’ lives considerably harder because they will have a much higher chance of being noticed by someone. Believe me, they hate being in plain sight.

2. Install a Real or a Dummy Security Camera

An outdoor surveillance camera mounted on a wallPin

We’ve all seen footage of unfortunate criminals screwing up and running away. They didn’t see there was a camera recording them. However, most intruders will notice a surveillance system before they even try to break in.

Security cameras can indeed deter burglars, especially if you don’t give crooks a chance to have a closer look at the model type (so that they can’t figure out how to deactivate it).

How can you achieve this?

Make sure you install an (ultra)wide-angle camera with night vision. Most burglars will know they’re better off not approaching your home otherwise they’ll be recorded. Don’t have illusions, some of them won’t be deterred by a security camera, but at least you can significantly reduce the threat.

Here’s a reliable 4K security camera with exceptional night vision range and panoramic view:

Another important thing to note is that you should have cameras looking at every entrance (all doors and windows) of your house or apartment if you really want to discourage criminals.

You may not want to spend your money on a real security camera and that’s okay. A dummy security camera can serve as an effective visual deterrent with the obvious disadvantage of not being capable of recording anything.

There are many dummy security camera models available in the stores. Make sure you buy one that’s not very popular so that burglars won’t recognize it, such as this one.

3. Use a Fake Home Security System Sign or a Sticker

Most home security systems are subscription-based, therefore they come with a monthly cost. If you can afford it, go ahead and install one. They’re, without doubt, effective but unfortunately not cost-effective.

If you’re on a budget and want to deter burglars, using a fake security system sign or a sticker often can be powerful enough to spook them. Again, like in the case of a dummy camera, it’s important to choose a sign and a decal that’s not popular and can’t be recognized by burglars as a fake one.

Here’s an example:

Using fake signs and stickers as deterrence is a quick and cheap solution, however, it’s key that they must be convincing. It’s better not to mention any company name because burglars may Google it and realize that it’s just a fake one. On the other hand, you want to avoid using the name or copying the material of an existing brand because that could lead to copyright infringement issues.

Pro Tip

Create your own, unique security system sticker or sign. If you don’t know how to use image-editing software, you can have it designed for a few bucks online (at Upwork or Fiverr) and print it at home.

4. Install an Outdoor Motion Sensor Light

Criminals love dark spots. Those are the places where they can hide and remain unnoticed. While most of the burglaries in the U.S. occur during the day, it’s important to reduce the risk of a nighttime intrusion as well.

An outdoor motion sensor light (when it’s set properly) is an inexpensive and effective solution. Install it at least 10 feet high so that intruders can’t reach or damage it easily. Opt for a model that’s powered by batteries so you can install it quickly and easily wherever you want.

Here’s my top choice:

Note that motion sensor lights usually won’t scare invaders away if they know that you’re not at home or if you live in a quiet, low-traffic area. In every other case outside lights can really have the potential to deter burglars because any unexpected situation (like suddenly “being in the spotlight”) will increase the chance that they take to their heels and seek an alternative target.

5. Keep Your Car Key Next to Your Bed While Sleeping

A car key on a bedside tablePin

Sometimes criminals break into your house at night when you’re at home and sleeping. If you don’t have a reliable alarm system, nothing will deter them when they get in. It’s not always advisable to come face to face with intruders, especially if you’re alone.

So, how can you spook them? If you’re woken up by strange noises just press the alarm (or panic) button on your car’s keychain. That will most likely discourage invaders in the safest way possible without having to confront them.

Quick Tip: The bedroom is the first place where burglars start searching, so make sure you never hide a safe or any valuable item there. Instead, try these secret hiding places.

6. How to Deter Burglars When You’re Not at Home? Pretend Someone Is!

Your property is the most vulnerable to intruders when there is nobody at home. As I’ve already mentioned, the majority of burglaries happen during the daytime when most people are at their workplace. Therefore, it’s critical that burglars never realize that there is no one inside your house or apartment.

So how can you deter burglars when you’re at work or on vacation? Pretend you’re at home! It’s one of the best ways to scare crooks away because the least they want is to meet with the owner.

If you’ll be away for just a few hours leave the TV on and turn up the radio so that it can be heard from outside. You can also leave the vacuum or the mop bucket in the middle of the room. If burglars look through the window, they’ll believe that there’s someone cleaning the floor.

Vacuum cleaner in the middle of the living roomPin

If you’re away for a longer time use multiple timers that randomly turn on and off the lights, TV, and radio. Never just simply turn on the lights and leave them on constantly because that can draw burglars’ attention. Your goal is to make your home look lived in so that invaders choose another, less risky target.

Don’t forget to ask someone to empty your mailbox and remove flyers and newspapers from your doorstep regularly. If you let them accumulate, it can be suspicious and crooks will think there’s no one at home. However, it’s important that you do not hold your mail. Burglars can easily spot if mail is not delivered to your house for several days.

If it’s winter, ask someone to leave tracks in the snow. Untouched snow is a sure sign of no one being at home and will call invaders’ attention in no time.

Also, ask someone to keep your lawn mowed and maintain your yard while you’re away.

Never post the exact date of your absence and your vacation photos on social media until you return home.

By the way, if you suspect that someone has been in your house while you were away, here’s how to detect the signs.

7. Install a Grade 1 Deadbolt

If burglars see signs of increased security they’re more likely to search for an alternative target. That’s why it’s so important not to call their attention by using cheap and easy-to-break locks. A simple cylinder lock is not enough to stop criminals. You can be sure that most intruders will spot if your lock is an easy target.

Deadbolts are classified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) according to their security level from Grade 1 to Grade 3. Your best choice is a Grade 1 deadbolt which is the most secure category. Burglars will notice if your door is equipped with that kind of lock and many times it will spook them. You can replace your old deadbolt or you can also add one to your existing cylinder lock to reinforce your door.

Make sure you use a secure and durable deadbolt strike plate installed with long anchor screws. That will prevent kick-ins and keep the crooks out.

Related: 7 Best Ways to Secure a Door From Being Kicked In [That Really Work]

For French doors use a Patlock. It’s a highly effective visual deterrent that makes it really hard for burglars to open any French door. So they usually don’t even try.

Want to increase apartment door security? Check out our article about how you can take it to the next level with only a few simple changes.
Have a UPVC door? This is how you can dramatically improve its security.

8. Improve Window Security

If crooks see that your door is reinforced some of them may try to break in through your windows, so it’s a good idea to make them burglar-proof. Windows are often the weakest point of houses and apartments concerning security.

So what can discourage invaders? Double glazed windows are harder to break and they are clearly visible from the outside, therefore can serve as a deterrent. So double glazed windows certainly give you an edge over criminals. You’ll find everything you need to know about double glazing in this article.

But I’m not telling you that you should replace your windows. Instead, install window security locks or bars and reinforce your window glass by covering it with a protective film. You can also use security screens to protect your window. They are usually made of steel and do a great job as visual deterrents.

We have a whole article full of helpful tips on how you can burglar-proof your windows. Make sure to check it out if you want to improve window security!

9. Keep a (Guard) Dog or Pretend You Have One

Large dog bowlPin

Does having a dog really deter burglars? Yes, most of the time it does. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to keep a (guard) dog for the sole purpose of scaring crooks away.

Dogs are certainly one of the most effective deterrents and most intruders avoid properties with dogs. However, once you get one you must care about it, which takes both time and money. So don’t keep a dog just to be your “living alarm system”.

Another thing you can do, if you don’t want to get a real dog, is to pretend that you have one. Place a large bowl close to the entrance and leave a big muzzle and a leash in plain sight somewhere in the yard. Also, put some warning signs or stickers in clearly visible places that make it obvious that there’s a dangerous canine nearby.

If you want to take it to the next level, you can use dog barking sound effects or get an old, used dog house too (but don’t be surprised if your neighbors will look strange at you).

10. Deter Burglars with a Video Doorbell

This one is not the cheapest method available, but it’s definitely effective, especially if you want to scare burglars away remotely.

How does it work? First, you need a video doorbell that’s capable of sending you an instant alert to your cell phone whenever someone approaches your door or presses the bell. So, it must have a built-in motion sensor. On the other hand, you want a model that allows two-way talks.

When invaders get close to your door, the doorbell sends you an alert and thanks to the live video feature you can check on your phone who is trying to get into your home in real-time. All you have to do is surprise the crooks by sending them away in a firm voice.

They won’t know that you’re talking to them from miles away so they have no choice but to escape from the scene immediately. Nest and Ring are established brands on the market and they both have some really high-quality video doorbells that can serve as great burglar deterrent gadgets.

We compared the different Ring Video Doorbell models and Peephole Cam in this article. Make sure you check it out before buying!

11. Join Your Local Neighborhood Watch (or Start One)

Criminals don’t like “working” in areas where they have a higher chance of being caught. Therefore, they usually avoid districts with high activity of crime prevention groups.

Neighborhood watch groups have two major advantages: they scare burglars away and they’re formed by people living in the same area who can easily spot suspicious activities.

If you’re interested, you can find more information about neighborhood watch here.


As you can see you have many options to deter burglars and protect your home. Some of them are really easy to implement and cost nothing. You don’t have to apply all the above-mentioned methods to successfully prevent burglaries. Try those that best suit your needs.

According to a study by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, most burglars do consider signs of increased security before a break-in. So don’t underestimate the power of prevention because you can definitely scare many criminals away just by using some of the techniques you’ve read in this article.

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About the Author

James Mora is the founder of DailyHomeSafety. He is a home improvement expert, contractor, avid DIYer, and security manager. He is passionate about home repairs, remodeling, and teaching. Read More

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