Protect your home during the holidays

LOS ANGELES And this time of year homeowners are especially vulnerable to being ripped off. But you don't have to turn your home into Fort Knox to protect it.

"OK, here's one problem: You don't really want your packages delivered to your home unless you know you're going to be there," said Candysse Miller, Insurance Information Network. "Be sure they're delivered to your office. We've found that people are following UPS and FedEx trucks and they're picking up packages at doors."

That's just one of the tricks Candysse Miller uses at her home to close the door on thieves. And most of the ideas are simple and free.

"One thing some people forget about is the phone," said Miller. "You can hear [the ringing] outside. Turn it down, so that if someone is lurking around your home, they're not going to hear the answering machine turn on."

Outside on the lawn near the front window, Miller points out: "So here's the tree, and if you're a thief, you could actually look in and see big gift here, big gift there -- there are bound to be other trinkets in there. If no one's looking -- Boom -- you go in and grab them."

Those are things you can do for free. But more deterrents such as light timers and window locks work well and all can be had for just a few dollars.

That takes care of the inside. Now let's look at the outside.

"You put your lights up, but a lot of people, including myself, forget the last step, and that's getting rid of the tools," said Miller. "Now, thieves are opportunistic. They're going to see this [ladder] and they see an alternate way into your home, whether it's a second-story window, a balcony, this is a way in."

"How many times the day after Christmas do you see trash cans around your neighborhood with boxes stacked high? You can see what all your neighbors got for the holidays, all their gifts. And it's not just you that sees it. It's anyone who's casing your neighborhood. Wait till your trash day, break the boxes up and wait until the last minute to put your trash cans out. That way no one's going to know what you've just got for Christmas."

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