For many, the holiday season brings to mind some pretty important questions:

1) Am I traveling to visit friends or relatives?
2) Am I leaving my house or apartment all by itself to guard my jewelry, electronics, and personal info?
3) How do I make sure my home is safe and sound while I’m away?

Even with a home alarm, an empty, unattended home is vulnerable. (Anyone who’s seen Home Alone knows that.) And it turns out, those security methods you were taught as a kid can actually aid a burglar in entering your abode.

So let’s take a moment to learn about these faux-effective security methods and find out what you should do instead.

Keeping a light on

What you may have heard: Keeping a light on will make a home burglar think someone is there.

Why this might not work so well: Unless they’re reading the world’s longest book nonstop, most people turn lights on and off continuously throughout the day. So if one suspiciously stays on, it’s a giveaway that no one’s home.

What to do instead: Install timers that randomly flick lights on and off.

Letting your dog play bouncer

What you may have heard: This will scare the bejeezus out of a burglar.

Why this might not work so well: It’s not the sight of a dog that burglars hate, but rather the sound. Thieves will find it hard to work with a loud, yapping type getting in their way. And your giant dog, while intimidating to look at, could easily stay mum if the burglar happens to be familiar (like a handyman who worked on your home).

What to do instead: Let the dog relax and set a security alarm while you’re away. You’ll be alerted much faster than a bark — and, depending on your alarm system, probably just as soon as the police.

Growing full shrubs to keep burglars away from windows

What you may have heard: A tall (and one would hope prickly) shrub is an obstacle thieves just won’t want to deal with.

Why this might not work so well: Burglars can easily counter thorns or foliage with layered clothing, gloves, and cutters. And conversely, a thick patch of greenery makes the perfect hiding place.

What to do instead: Get those hedge trimmers and sculpt away.

Planting a security company’s sign in your yard

What you may have heard: Putting up an alarm company’s sign (or sticker) will keep thieves at bay.

Why this might not work so well: You could be overplaying your hand. While having a security system is good, advertising which company you use might not be. Tech-savvy burglars could access their plans and find flaws in the setup.

What to do instead: Use a generic sign to show that you do indeed have protection … but from whom, no one knows. The more obstacles you create, the more likely it is that a burglar will move on in search of an easier target.

Using social media to share the season’s greetings

What you may have heard: OK, this isn’t so much a full-fledged myth as it is a complacent mistake, but it bears mentioning anyway. After all, who hasn’t taken holiday vacation photos and posted them online without so much as second thought?

Why this no good for home security: Announcing online that you’re away from home (surprise, surprise) is interesting news to more than just your Twitter followers.

What to do instead: Share your travel plans — but do it face-to-face (not Facebook-to-Facebook) with your friends or neighbors. That way, they can discreetly check in on your pad.

Some security methods are worth following — like protecting your home with insurance

No matter how much myth-busting we do, home burglaries can still happen. And if they do, you can be prepared with a reliable homeowners or renters insurance policy.

Homeowners 101 | Renters 101


about Alex

As copywriter for Esurance, Alex had professional experience in everything from film to literature to (thanklessly!) correcting the grammar in friends' emails. As a fervent Minnesota sports fan, he spends most of his non-writing time gently weeping into cereal bowls.