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There is one home burglary every 15 seconds.

Some of those home burglaries will be by scam artists who previously checked the homes out by posing as legitimate visitors, talking their way in and maybe even opening a window in a bathroom for easy access when they return.

Some will be opportunists, who just happen to spot an easy target in a neighborhood -- like an open door or window.

And yet others will be experienced crooks (we won't use the word "professionals" -- it's too good for them) who know how to "case a joint" without being noticed, and know all the tricks of the trade for breaking and entering.

Whichever category they fit, we know that the average time it takes for a burglar to break into a home is less than a minute, and the amount of time they spend inside is little more than 10 minutes -- though, posing as contractors or furniture removers, they've been known to take much longer and completely empty a home.

In this recent case, a friend was keeping an eye on a neighbor's condo while the owner was away.

She was making her rounds to check the place and apparently surprised a burglar who escaped out the back.

She had gone into the home, noticed a light on, and made a hasty retreat to her car, where she phoned the sheriff.

 "The moment you figure out something is amiss, leave. Get to a safe place and call the cops. It's not worth getting hurt."

Vacation Home Burglary Tips

1.     Take a walk around your home, inside and out, to figure where the weakest link in your security might be -- like leaving a window open in a secluded spot. High-risk places include the door from your garage into the house, back doors, side "breezeways" where a burglar would not be seen, and large shrubs close to the residence where thieves could hide.

2.     Take action to increase protection in these vulnerable places -- like installing keyed window locks and deadbolts on doors and using toughened glass in windows and doors. Remove shrubs. If you leave windows open on the second floor, make sure your extension ladder is locked away.

3.     Be wary about who you allow into your home and how much information you give about your belongings and schedule. This applies even with neighbors you don't know or fully trust ("inside" jobs are not uncommon). And don't leave valuables in view, inside or from outside the house.

4.     If you're able, vary the times you leave and return home. If your household has several cars, vary who drives them, making it more difficult for an observer to know who is home and when.

5.     Make it tough for home burglary prowlers to know whether they're under surveillance. Fake cameras can be good -- but only if they could be taken for the real thing, not cheap plastic devices with flashing lights, which home burglars easily identify.

Fake security stickers or signs don't work either, but, if you have an alarm, real stickers and signs work.

6.     Control access to and around your property. Consider motion-activated lights, even on the street outside your home.  Video Surveillance, No Parking, and No Outlet signs can be effective against home burglary too. This way, would-be thieves know you mean business.

7.     Motion-activated cameras are another powerful weapon -- both as a home burglary deterrent and, linked to a computer (and, better yet, to a home network), to record images of your unwelcome visitors. These days, these devices are inexpensive. (Network linked cameras cost around $50) can even email images so you have an off-site backup (mine sends images automatically to a separate gmail account, so even if the camera is disabled, we still have the pictures online).

8.     An alarm system, preferably with a visible box outside the house, will not only deter crooks but sound an immediate alert of a home burglary. You might seriously consider a system that's monitored 24/7 by a security company who will quickly notify law enforcement of an incident.

9.     Avoid creating temptation. Don't leave things like lawn mowers and bikes unattended outside; lock them up. Inside, burglars are more likely to go for "middle of the road" valuables than expensive jewelry and appliances -- because they're easier to redeem for cash.

10.  Don't hide a key. Home burglary crooks know all those "secret" places. Our local law enforcement has interviewed a burglar who hit the same house every few years for 30 years.

"Astonishingly, as he was showing us what he liked about it, he jumped out of the car to show us where they had hidden the key, over the door, for about 10 years!"

More Home Burglary Dangers

There are two other important home burglary facts you should know.

First, if you've previously been burglarized, you're statistically more likely -- six times more -- to be targeted again, so you will need to take extra precautions.

And second, home burglaries can involve much more than the theft of your valuables.

If the crooks steal personal and confidential information, you could become a victim of another major scam -identity theft.

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