You've packed your bags, stopped your mail, and you're ready to head out for summer vacation, but before you go – have you taken steps to protect your home?
Mark Beach loves heading to his lake house for weekends, but one day, he arrived to an unexpected surprise: The house had been robbed.
"They took lawn equipment, they took sporting goods equipment. I was just mad," Beach said.
According to the FBI, there are more than two million burglaries in the U.S. each year, with the average loss of just over $2,000 per victim.
"If you're away on vacation for an extended period of time, someone may pick up on that fact and decide to come and pay you a visit," said Chris McGoey, and security consultant.
Now you can monitor your house while you're away just by picking up your smartphone. There are many new, inexpensive and even free gadgets and apps on the market to allow you to keep your house safe from thieves.
With the free Presence app, for example, you can turn an old iPhone or iPad into a home security camera, and view live stream from your current phone.
"If there's motion being detected, it can send you an alert on your phone," explained Bridget Carey, senior editor for technology website CNET.
The iCam app costs $5, but it works for Android and iPhone devices. Carey says this app taps into your computer's webcam, or multiple webcams.
CNET says smart gadgets are in high supply, too, and range from single-camera systems like Dropcam – which costs $149 and features night vision and digital zoom – to advanced, multiple-camera setups like Logitech Alert – which can detect motion, record video, and send alerts to your phone.
While high-tech devices are cheap and easy to use, McGoey says there are potential drawbacks.
"If you have a power failure, your electronic systems might fail," McGoey said. "If your internet is down, you may not be able to log on to monitor the video or activate the alarm system."
And unlike with a security system, no one is monitoring your house but you.
"You kind of have to put the burden on yourself to be able to monitor when there's an alert for a motion detection going on, be able to grab your phone and maybe call the police if you are concerned," Carey said.
As for Beach, he's considering all security options and says he's excited by technology that might save him from another theft.
"I think it's great, and I think if more people were able to use it in their house, more burglars might have to find a real day job," he said.
Security experts say the best defense against break-ins may actually be your neighbors. Let them know you'll be away, have them pick up your mail, remove flyers from your door, and put out your trash on trash day. If your home appears occupied, thieves are more likely to look elsewhere.
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