Travellers should keep their valuables hidden in cereal boxes, pasta packets and children’s toy boxes when going away, a panel of six ex-burglars has revealed.
Former offenders said many unsuccessfully attempt to conceal their prized possessions in living room drawers and dressers, pots and pans as well as locked safes which are not secured to the floor or wall.
They would instead advise hiding anything of value in children’s bedrooms, which many thieves consider a no-go area – while under the sofa is also not a bad spot.
One former offender said they have never entered children’s bedrooms or playrooms when breaking in – calling it an ‘unwritten rule’.
Steal: Ex-burglars have revealed where it is best for people to keep their valuables hidden
The research was carried out by John Lewis Home Insurance through a series of surveys and interviews with the help of St Giles Trust, which put the insurer in touch with six reformed former offenders with convictions for burglary.
Working across the Britain, St Giles Trust helps a wide range of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups to find jobs, training and homes.
The insurer found a third of ex-burglars said they would target identity documents during a break in, including passports, driving licences, credit card and bank statements, because of the ‘value associated with them’.
They said: ‘Children’s bedrooms wouldn’t be a bad place to hide belongings. Ideally something of high value would be hidden in a toy or a toy box.
‘Most people have got a “bits and bobs” cupboard in their kitchen where they often keep their keys.
‘Instead, I would hide my car and house keys in the food cupboards if I was going away – rice packets, cereal boxes.
‘They are not going to go through all your food packets. DVD cases is another good place to hide valuables because they are harder to find.’
Letters and leaflets left sticking out of letterboxes and on doormats were revealed as the biggest clue that someone is away – even more so than leaving lights on, curtains closed or having no car on the driveway.
Thief: Using security cameras – including smart doorbells – was viewed as the best deterrent
Similarly, parcel deliveries left on doorstops were revealed as one of the biggest giveaways that someone is away on holiday – an issue that is likely to increase as more and more people order their goods online.
One former offender said: ‘The increase of online shopping has made it easier – if you’re walking down the road and see a parcel on a doorstep there is a good chance someone is not in.
‘I would suggest not ordering parcels if you won’t be around when they arrive and getting neighbours to check for parcel deliveries regularly while you’re away.’
Half of the former burglars questioned said the best room to leave a light on when you go away is the hallway with timer switches as it creates a better illusion that someone is at home.
Security cameras, including smart doorbells with cameras controlled from your phone, were viewed as the best deterrent – even beating burglar alarms.
Clue: Leaving post in a letterbox is one of the biggest signs that people are away on holiday
Worryingly, the former burglars revealed they can spend up to two months watching a house before stealing from it but would only spend as little as five minutes inside before fleeing.
One ex-thief said they targeted homes between 4pm-to-5pm, during the school run, when many homes would be left empty.
However, others said they chose to steal in the night time with one saying 3am was the best time as most people are asleep.
Dr Claire Nee, director of the International Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology at Portsmouth University, has interviewed hundreds of burglars to analyse patterns in offending.
She says: ‘Identity documents are very valuable at the minute due to identity theft for fraud and people trafficking.
‘We also know from both our research and criminal statistics that burglars are going for small, valuable items – jewellery, electronics and cash.
‘Finally, be careful about your conversation on the way to the airport. Talk loudly about your house sitter for instance, not about how you are looking forward to your fortnight away.’
Top tips to keep your home safe
John Lewis Home Insurance have given its top tips for keeping your home secure this summer:
1. Keep curtains and blinds open but move expensive items out of view
2. Set up smart home security such as doorbells with cameras so you can monitor your property even while you’re away
3. Use an alarm system – some even link directly to security firms
4. Use timer switches on indoor and outdoor lights to ensure your home looks occupied
5. Ask a friend to move your post or use the Royal Mail Keepsafe service
6. Don’t advertise your departure on social media, your voicemail message or out-of-office email
7. Lock up your valuables using a secure well-hidden safe
8. Label your luggage – but do not put your landline phone number or address on it
9. Inform your neighbours you are going away so they can keep an eye on your property
10. Check your insurance policy to confirm what you’re covered for – especially if you’re away for more than 60 days