How to trick burglars into thinking an empty home is occupied

Posted July 8th, 2024 by SimpliSafe

During the summer months, we may spend more time out of the house - soaking up the sun abroad or heading off on fun days out with the family. However, when you leave the house, it provides opportunities for those with prying eyes to get curious. 

Burglars have many different techniques, but are generally quick and opportunistic when looking to target a home. Although this is worrying, some steps could be taken to prevent homes from looking like a target. 

The best way to help protect your home when you’re away is to make it look occupied and secure. But how do we do this? Keep reading as we explore 7 ways to trick a burglar into thinking your home is occupied, alongside other frequently asked questions about burglars. 

7 ways to trick a burglar into thinking your home is occupied 

One of the best ways to prevent a burglary is to make it look like someone is in your home. But how?

1. Get tech-savvy with home security systems

Ok, so maybe this technique doesn’t exactly make it look like someone is in - but it does make it look like someone is watching!

Your home security system is not just a defence against intruders, but it’s also a burglar deterrent. Some wannabe criminals won’t want to set off a house alarm or get caught on a doorbell camera, so by installing visible security measures and outdoor cameras, you’re letting them know that they will be seen. 

From motion sensors to entry sensors, extra sirens to yard signs, let burglars know you’re watching them and they will be caught. 

2. Get a little help from friends

Protecting your home when you’re away isn’t a one-man job - sometimes you need to employ the help of neighbours, family and/or friends. Not only can they help you make your home look occupied, but they can also provide another watchful eye on your home. 

Why not take your going away as an opportunity to get more involved in your community, and join or start a local Neighbourhood Watch? Placing signage outside your home, indicating that you’re involved is just another burglar deterrent and to let them know that they’re always being watched. 

3. Let there be (smart) light

Lights are some of the most visible signs that someone is in the house, and you can be really *smart* about this. Using timers, smart bulbs and plugs, you can create the illusion that your home is occupied, by scheduling lights to turn on and off at various times. You don’t have to have a ‘smart home’ to do this either - it can either be pre-programmed or configured remotely via an app. 

You could also light up the outside of your home, too! With the help of solar power and motion sensors, along with timers and smart bulbs, you can deter nighttime prowlers with outdoor garden and porch light security

4. Create the illusion of activity

Now, an occupied home isn’t just one with a light on. To truly make your home look occupied, you need to create the illusion of activity inside and around the house. There are so many ways you can do this, including:

  • Television and radio timers: Set your devices to turn on and off with timers or smart plugs, simulating that someone inside is watching TV or listening to the radio.

  • Smart speakers: With smart speakers, you can ‘drop in’ from your phone to play sounds of daily activities - like conversations or pet noises.

  • Curtain and blind manipulation: Keep curtains and blinds in a natural state - closed enough that nobody can see inside, but open enough to make it look like you’re not trying to hide your absence. 

  • Leave a car in the driveway: Whilst a car in the driveway may appear unsecure when you’re away from home, a burglar wouldn’t know that. Instead, it creates the illusion that someone is home. 

5. Hide the obvious

There are some things that make it obvious that you’re not at home, including having mail and deliveries left on your doorstep and your bins not going out on ‘bin day’. This, however, can easily be remedied.

Many postal services now allow you to hold mail and deliveries during absences, or you can ask for them to be posted to a trusted neighbour or secure drop-off location. 

Alternatively, you could ask a trusted neighbour, family member or friend to drop by to collect your mail and sort your bins for you. You can even provide extra PINs on your home security system, to allow them entry without giving away your usual code. 

6. Maintain the exterior

When you’re away from home, the exterior of your home can become somewhat neglected. If you’re going to be away from home for an extended period of time, you could hire a gardener to come and mow your lawn and maintain your gardening - preventing it from looking neglected and abandoned.

7. Leave someone at home

Now, before you panic, we don’t mean leaving someone behind from your summer holiday. If you’re struggling to make your home look occupied when you’re away for an extended period of time, or worried it won’t be enough, why not occupy it?

There are many different ways you can occupy your home, without actually being there. These include:

  • Renting out your home - Consider listing your home on a temporary rental site, such as Airbnb. This way you can keep your home occupied and secure, whilst gaining some extra income. Learn how to protect your home when it’s on Airbnb

  • Hiring a pet sitter - If you were thinking about leaving your pet at home, why not leave them with a pet sitter *in* your home? That way, your pet still has their creature comforts, you’re preventing pet theft, and your home is secure. 

  • Hiring a house sitter - A house sitter can be employed to stay in your home whilst you’re away, collecting the mail, taking the bins out, etc. Many travellers often use this as a means to get paid accommodation, whilst exploring a new city or country. 

Frequently asked questions about burglars 

What scares burglars the most?

Getting caught! No one committing a crime wants to be caught red-handed, so making your home look occupied and fitting it with a home security system and domestic CCTV will send them on their way before they even consider breaking into your house. 

Do burglars target empty houses?

Yes, an empty house is somewhere where a burglar may be least likely to be caught breaking in. Hence, they target empty houses over ones they feel could be occupied. 

Which houses do burglars avoid?

Whilst there’s no real telling, burglars may tend to avoid homes that they worry they’ll be caught in, such as ones with home security systems and those that look occupied. 

What time of day do most burglaries occur?

According to government data found by Get Licenced, most burglaries occur during evening hours, typically between 6 PM and midnight, when homeowners are most likely to be out or asleep. 

For more advice on optimising your home security when you’re away, get in touch with our team of professionals today.