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13 ingenious ways to prevent break-ins

High-tech devices at low prices can protect your home

Profile picture of Tom Rains
by Tom Rains ConsumerAffairs Research Team
someone breaking in a house

Summer is the prime time to kick-back, unwind and take a well-deserved vacation; but did you know July and August are the most popular months for burglary? That's right: while you're searching for the best Air B&B deals, thieves may already be casing your house! 

Take a quick look at this list of nifty gadgets to guard your home — whether you’re going to see a ball game with friends for a few hours or go backpacking in New Zealand for a month. Remember: no one should be sweating about their home security when they should be having a great time.

1. Fake TV light

amazon fake tv light
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $39.95
  • Mimics TV light

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When thieves see the flicker of a TV behind the curtains of a house, their first thought will always be that someone must be home. A fake TV light is a handy device that projects varying colors and intensities to mimic the visuals of television. That way, it will look like you or a housesitter is kicking back on your couch at home, binge-watching Netflix instead of checking in to an Italian villa.

2. Smart locks

amazon smart locks
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $169.99
  • No need for keys

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A smart lock makes it so much easier to keep your home safe from break-ins. Instead of fumbling with keys, you can enter a code on the doorbell's touchscreen; making it easier to share access for close friends and family. The lock also cuts back on multiple sets of keys that can be lost, as well as quickly and easily "changing the lock" via your code for added security. Look for smart locks that are compatible with Alexa, so you can access an app to lock or unlock your door remotely.

3. Electronic watchdog

amazon electronic watchdog
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $75.21
  • Mimics dog barking

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It's a known fact the majority of burglars do their best to avoid dogs — why deal with a yapping, possibly dangerous animal? As simple as this deterrent is, a lot of us have neither space nor the time to own a dog. Fortunately, the electronic watchdog option is not only housebroken, but it won't chew up your shoes! The electronic watchdog uses motion-sensing technology to detect burglars, and the barking noises increase as burglars come closer. Although the device has other sound applications, we found that the most important was as advertised.

4. Fluorescent green paint

amazon fluorescent green paint
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $8.67
  • Marks tools as yours

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Arts and crafts, meet power tools. This odd marriage may seem silly, but it results in an excellent thief deterrent. Thieves tend to look for new, unmarked tools to sell secondhand, and bright green (or even pink!) paint covering large areas significantly decrease their resale value. It’s also a convenient way to keep a record for the police if they recover your property. Just remember, be careful where you paint! The point is to make them unstealable, not unusable.

5. Engraver

amazon engraver
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $19.99
  • Puts your name on your possessions

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Did your mom ever put your name on your lunch as a kid? We bet no one ever stole your Lunchable, did they? The same principle applies to your things today. Using an engraver to mark personal items in a very visual spot makes theft much more unlikely, and goes hand in hand with the bright paint to ward off thieves. Having your name engraved on your possessions makes it harder for thieves to sell, and a great way to prove to your mom during holidays that your brother didn't buy your missing glue gun at a yard sale.

6. Security window film

amazon security window film
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $44.49
  • Keeps your windows from shattering

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Security window film is pretty nifty and a great weekend DIY project. By carefully cutting-to-size and laying over the existing pane, you can hold your window together in the case of extreme cracks and potential breakage. This means your window is safe from burglars and bare feet are protected from broken glass.

7. WeMo Switch Smart Plug

amazon wemo switch smart plug
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $49.99
  • Let you remotely control lights

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This handy, easy-to-install device lets you control all your lights from a mobile app, allowing you to turn devices on and off while you are home. Even better, you can set and forget with the Away Mode, which switches lights on and off in patterns to make it look like you’re home. Away Mode is a real benefit for those of us that regularly travel and cannot have someone check on your house. The best part? You simply plug them into an existing outlet.

8. Letterbox cage

amazon letterbox cage
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $24.95
  • Collects excess mail

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The premise of the letterbox cage is simple but brilliant. Typically, thieves can peek inside windows to see if your mail has piled up on your entry floor. If it has, they can guess that you’ve been away for a while. This letterbox cage catches the mail dropped into the front slot while you’re away, making it look like you have promptly gathered your mail every day. A would-be robber will be none the wiser.

9. Strong security chain

amazon strong security chain
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $121.42
  • Secures valuable goods

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The classic security chain is an oldie but a goodie. If you are worried about a thief burgling your valuables, lock it up with this extra-strong security chain. Some of these chains are made of tempered steel, making it virtually impossible to cut with traditional bolt cutters. Its anti-corrosion coating makes it suitable for use outside, and make sure to look for the square-shaped chains that work better against advanced cutters employed by thieves.

10. Ring video doorbell

amazon ring video doorbell
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $99.99
  • Sends doorbell alerts

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The Ring video doorbell connects to many smart home devices — like the Amazon Echo and Google Home — to send notifications if sensors notice movement outside or when someone rings the doorbell. These devices work well if you have a hard time hearing your doorbell, find it difficult to answer the door or just want added security. The doorbell also has an HD infrared camera that can monitor your outdoor entrance at night. For about a hundred bucks, that’s a pretty great deal.

11. GPS tracking device

amazon gps tracking device
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $49.95
  • Tracks valuable items

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The GPS tracker is easy to use — place it in a discreet location or attached to a valued keepsake, then set and forget it. You can track the location of the object right from your smartphone. You will even get an alert if the tracker leaves a pre-set zone. Battery life is about two and a half weeks.

12. Sturdy padlock

amazon sturdy padlock
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $96.04
  • Keeps possessions on lock

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The padlock is a classic thief deterrent, but this one surpasses its predecessors. The tensile strength (the maximum weight it can withstand before fracturing) of this German-made padlock is a jawdropping 6 tons. No rookie thief is getting through this lock!

13. Fake camera

amazon fake camera
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PRODUCT DETAILS
  • Costs $8.49
  • Looks like the real thing

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Scaring thieves away is half the game, and these fake cameras do the trick. Need we say more? Thieves will definitely think twice before busting down your door when this realistic camera is staring them down.

Bottom line

Protecting your home from a break-in doesn’t have to be a chore — some of these products will actually make protecting your home fun. Stay safe this summer and beyond by keeping vigilant, trying out some of the above items, and using other tips and techniques to secure your home.

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Profile picture of Tom Rains
by Tom Rains ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Tom Rains graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2014 with a master’s degree in Professional Writing. Tom’s passion for delivering quality content fuels him to provide consumers with accurate, well-researched information on major life purchases.