Experts share tips to secure homes while you're on vacation

Home surveillance cameras can give you peace of mind while you're on vacation, experts say.
August 16, 2013 8:20:57 PM PDT
You've packed your bags, stopped your mail, and ready to head out for a vacation. But before you go, have you taken steps to secure your home?

There are all sorts of new inexpensive, and even free, gadgets and apps on the market that will allow you to monitor your house, potentially keeping it safe from thieves.

Mark Beach loves hitting the road and 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 2 million burglaries in the US 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," security consultant Chris McGoey said.

But now you can monitor your house while you're away just by picking up your smart phone.

"Anyone can do this now. Not just the rich and famous or the uber-tech savvy," CNET senior editor Bridget Carey said.

With the free Presence app, for example, you can turn an old iPhone or iPad into a home security camera and view the live stream from your current phone wherever you might be.

"If there's motion being detected, it can send you an alert on your phone," Carey said.

There's also the iCam app, a $5 download that works with both Android and iPhone devices.

"It taps into the webcam that you have already on your computer. And you can do multiple cameras too," Carey said.

Smart gadgets are in high supply too. CNET says they 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 that can detect motion, record video and send alerts to your phone.

Some people are even repurposing their old baby monitors for the job.

"You can also use this to your advantage, too, as a second camera for the house," Carey said.

There are some potential drawbacks.

"If you have a power failure, your electronic systems might fail," McGoey said.

And unlike with a security service, no one's 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.

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, and put out your trash on trash day -- basically make it look like you're still home.

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