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4 Ways to Secure Your Home Technology

by Cassie March 15, 2016

Home Technology Security

Home security measures are not limited to your alarm system, surveillance cameras, or monitored fire detectors. Something as innocuous as a computer can become a thief’s most effective tool in stealing your personal information. Online files could also be manipulated or corrupted to spread viruses across large networks in minutes before anyone knows what is going on. With that in mind, what can you do to secure your physical and digital technological assets?

1. Secure All Devices and Servers with Strong Passwords

At a minimum, you will want to secure your computer, your smartphone and your tablet with a password. You should also use a password to protect your WiFi network as that can reduce the odds that anyone uses a baby monitor or your smart home thermostat system to get a glimpse into your home. Passwords should have both uppercase and lowercase numbers as well as numbers and symbols. Furthermore, you should change your password every 30 days to keep potential hackers guessing.

2. Never Transmit Sensitive Files or Personal Information Without Encryption

Everything that you either upload to the Internet or transmit over the Internet should be encrypted whenever possible. This reduces the odds that someone sees your social security number, a credit card number or any other information that could be used to steal your identity or put yourself or your family in danger. To tell if a website is securely encrypted, look for https: rather than http: in the URL.

3. Use Parental Controls to Limit What Your Kids Can Do

While you may understand that you don’t just share information online or have security settings set to your preferences, your kids may not appreciate or share your concern. They are likely more concerned with getting to their favorite website or social network to see what their friends are up to. Using parental controls will restrict what sites that they can access or what they can do to the device itself. Controls may even lock them out after a certain amount of screen time each day or during times when you can’t monitor what they are up to. Two examples of common parental control services include www.kiddle.co, a kid safe search engine provided by Google and Net Nanny, a paid software that provides customized, parent selected restrictions and monitoring.

4. Report Any Suspicious Activity to Your ISP

If you see a file that you didn’t download to your computer or believe that you have a virus that could be tracking your keystrokes or other activities, contact your ISP immediately. It may be possible to get a log of who accessed your computer or your network. If you do have a virus or a trojan loaded to your computer, it may be necessary to see a professional to have it removed immediately.

While you can’t guarantee that your devices or files will be 100 percent secure, there are steps that you can take to reduce the odds of a security breach. Strong passwords, knowing who is using a given device in your house and reporting suspicious activity can keep you and your devices safe from hackers and thieves. Being mindful of both physical and digital home security measures will help protect your family and home.

How to Conceal Your Valuables

by Cassie February 23, 2016

How to Conceal Your Valuables

How to Conceal Your Valuables

My Alarm Center understands how devastating a home break-in can be, and that’s why we strive to keep our customers aware of ways to keep valuables concealed and prevent themselves from falling victim to losing valuables. Protect your family with these easy home security steps:

Avoid the Usual Places

When a burglary occurs, the intruders are interested in getting in and out as quickly as possible. Therefore, they’ll be looking in the usual places to find easy-to-steal valuables such as expensive jewelry. This makes a jewelry box or dresser drawer a bad place to store these items. Avoid obvious hiding spots.

Control Viewing Possibilities

During the day, it’s difficult for people to see in your home. However, once the sun sets, anyone outside can easily see in your windows when your lights are on, and you can’t see them unless you peer out. One home security measure you can take is to hang dark curtains that can be closed during the evening. This prevents potential burglars from monitoring your activities and staking out the home in preparation for a quick burglary.

Don’t Keep Large Sums of Cash

We all need savings in the event of unexpected emergencies or expenses. However, that should never be in the form of large sums of cash in your home. Not only can it be easily stolen, but it can be difficult to prove to your insurance company and even harder to recover. Keep all your cash saved in your bank. They are insured, and you won’t have to worry about the allure the knowledge of cash savings creates if anyone were to find out.

Consider Your Passwords

In today’s highly technological world, thieves aren’t confined to traditional robberies. Today, they can achieve behind the screen of a computer or other device. It can be difficult to track down hackers, and, every year, they incur costs of more than $445 billion in our country alone. In order to ensure your virtual assets and information are protected:

  • Change your passwords regularly
  • Include numbers and special characters
  • Don’t use the same password or similar variations for all accounts

An Ounce of Prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this old adage certainly rings true when it comes to home security. Every year, an estimated 3.7 million household burglaries occur in our country. While we like to think it could never happen to us, if you fail to put up advanced safeguards, you increase your chances of becoming an unfortunate statistic. By following these convenient tips, in addition to arming your home security system, you can be on your way to giving your possessions the best protection against theft.

The My Alarm Center Resource Guide – All Our Guides & FAQs

by Cassie November 3, 2015

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For years, My Alarm Center has been in the business of keeping you, your family and your home safe. And over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two (or two-hundred) about home security.

We’ve been there done that. We’ve experienced just about every situation. We’ve responded to every type of emergency. Our years of helping local families have armed us with a depth of knowledge and foresight into every scenario. And we’ve leveraged this experience to build you the best, most responsive monitoring system from the best, most responsive technology. And we’ve created plenty of resources along the way.

Security Guides

Experience has taught us that a big part of the safety equation is arming you with the knowledge and know-how to keep your family and home protected. With that in mind, here’s an overview of our safety guides:

  • Flood and water damage: Flooding happens, be it from a natural disaster or a burst pipe. Then mold happens. Then, there’s months of cleanup and financial stress and other concerns. Here’s how to prevent floods, and what to do if the worst occurs.
  • Home automation: Home automation is nifty, but it’s infinitely more enjoyable once you understand how to customize your system exactly as you’d like.
  • Fire & carbon monoxide safety: Undetected fires and CO leaks claim too many lives and homes every year.
  • Cellular monitoring: Cellular monitoring is your ultimate line of defense against burglars, power outages, telephone line problems, and other common issues that plague landline systems.
  • False alarm prevention: An incredible 99% of smoke and burglar alarms are false, and many false positives are preventable.
  • How to keep your pets safe: Pets are family members and we love them dearly. Unfortunately, they can’t rescue themselves: it’s up to you.
  • Testing your home security system: Do you know if your system is communicating with our central station? Or if your motion detectors are really detecting?

FAQs

Our massive FAQ list will answer most of your questions, including:

  • Vacation safety tips: The last thing you want to do is worry about burglars while you’re on vacation. These simple vacation-preparation tips help ensure your getaway ends on a high note.
  • Prevent home invasion: Home invasions are terrifying, and unfortunately can happen anywhere, any time and in any neighborhood. This guide gives you the low-down on how to keep criminals out of your home.
  • Possession records: Important documents, like deeds, financial records, insurance information, and wills, must be kept safe and secure. Here’s how.
  • Smoke detectors: You know that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are absolute must-haves, but do you know exactly where and how to place them? Now you will.
  • Furnaces/space heaters: As temperatures plummet, the risk increases for home fires. Take appropriate precautions to reduce the threat.
  • Fireplaces: Even more than furnaces and space heaters, fireplaces represent a serious fire hazard during winter months. If you’re going to light the flame, keep these safety tips in mind.
  • Electrical hazards: Electrical fires are fast, furious and extremely dangerous. Here’s how to keep your family safe.
  • Create an exit plan: The best thing you can do for your family is prepare for any eventuality. Learn how to create an exit plan, then practice it regularly.

 

 

Lazy Home Security Is More Than Just Owning A Dog, It’s Having A Company Provide 24/7 Monitoring

by Cassie September 30, 2015

Home Automation From My Alarm Center

Um, hi. We have a teeny, tiny confession to make.

We love being lazy. Like really, really love it. We love breakfast in bed and weekends with nary an item on the calendar. We love skipping our chores (once in awhile) in favor of reading a book or taking a stroll. We love ordering in for dinner – and eating it with our honey while watching our favorite show.

There is something very, very comforting about indulging in lazy behavior. About not worrying. About checking our adult responsibilities and the door and saying, “here, you do it!”

So when you think about lazy, no-worries, no-thought-needed security, trust us when we say it’s NOT having a dog. A dog needs to be walked. A dog needs shots and vet checks and deworming. A dog needs food and water. And a dog deserves toys and exercise, not to mention lots and lots of love and care. And the most important point: a dog is a member of the family, not a security system. Definitely not a lazy security system.

24/7 Monitored Security Allows You to be Lazy
You want to know what does count as lazy home security? Hiring a monitoring company. (We feel qualified to say this because hey, we are a monitoring company. We know what’s involved.)

Put it this way: In life, laziness is always an exchange of some sort. Sometimes you exchange money for laziness, as in the aforementioned $-for-pizza exchange. Sometimes you swap what-should-be for what-you-want, like foregoing doing the laundry (you know you need clean clothes) in order to finish your book.

With 24/7 monitoring, you exchange a monthly sum for constant, all-day-everyday, forever-and-ever peace of mind. Let’s quantify that (if that’s how you like to justify you’re laziness, we’re all about enabling you!): in exchange for a monthly fee, you don’t have to buy dog food (easily $20+ per month), you don’t have to pay vet bills ($hundreds a year), and you won’t spend 30+ minutes a day – often, 30 scorching hot or frigidly cold minutes, by the way – walking your pup, giving him proper exercise. (Again with the numbers: 30 minutes a day x 30 days a month x $10/hour for a dog walker is way more than $35 a month.)

Dogs are a responsibility. (Lovable, fluffy, family member responsibilities.) 24/7 monitored security is total peace-of-mind laziness.

So What Does a Monitoring Company Do?
A monitored security system can “lazify” your life in many ways:

• Never again worry about your security. We monitor your alarm 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If there’s a break-in, we’ll notify the police in an average 60 seconds.
• Never again worry about your family’s safety. Again, if there’s a break-in you’ll know police are on their way immediately. But we also offer flood, fire and carbon monoxide monitoring, and will send firefighters and EMTs your way, if necessary.
• With our personal emergency monitoring, we’ll assure 24/7 safety of the seniors in your life. We’re always on call to help.
• And what’s more, we make life easy with home automation. Turn off the lights from the comfort of your couch. Adjust the thermostat from the warmth of your bed. Lock the doors from the bathtub. Seriously easy, seriously lazy.

So go on, then. Get lazy.

A Safety in Football is only 2 points, but Safety to us is Immeasurable!

by Cassie September 3, 2015

Football & Safety

 

 

Ba-dum-ching! (You see what we did there?)

Okay, okay, all punning – or would that be punting?! – aside, it’s fall and that means one thing: football season! And that in turn means we’re looking forward to a season’s worth of Sunday and Monday evenings, rooting for our two home teams, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks. Who’s with us?

So here’s the thing: We can’t all play pro football, but we can emulate our favorite players. And since we’re all about safeties – okay, no more punning, we promise! – we want to highlight a few ways we can take our cues from the pros about personal health and safety at home.

Stretch Like a Pro

We bet you’ve never stretched before raking leaves, but you should! Scientists are still undecided on whether stretching prevents injury, but stretching definitely helps warm up your muscles and has been shown to reduce soreness after unfamiliar exercise. And as we get older and creakier, new activity – like a-few-times-a-year intense raking – is guaranteed to hurt the next day. And the next and the next, if we’re unlucky.

Do yourself a favor and copy the pros: stretch your arms, legs, hips and especially your back before you bend, squat, and scoop up leaves. Or prep the garden for winter, or do a massive fall cleaning, or start any other major physical activity that will challenge your muscles.

Get Active

Fall is such a great time to get active: temperatures are cooling but there’s still plenty of sunlight; kids are back in school so you can create solid routines; and the air has that delicious crispness that makes you want to spend all your time outside, inhaling the sweet, sweet scent.

It’s a great time to get physical (just ask the pros) – to improve your health through safe, fun outdoor activity. So toss a ball around the backyard, or go big and organize a neighborhood pickup game. (There’s no shame in flag football.) Celebrate the season with a barbecue and old-fashioned backyard games, like horseshoes, bean toss, and croquet. Whatever gets you moving is good in our book.

Teamwork is Where it’s At

Fall isn’t all fun and games: like spring, there’s something about the transition of season that urges organization and deep-cleaning. So whether you’re planning to overhaul the garage, tackle the attic, or weatherproof the basement, you probably have some Major Task on your fall to-do list.

Here’s the football advice: do as the pros do, and don’t go it alone. The best efforts are coordinated, so enlist the help of your family or friends. At the very least, laborious tasks aren’t quite as boring with company; at the most, you’ll have an extra hand to help reach high, lift heavy, or steady a ladder – all things that will keep you safe and make your tasks immeasurably easier.

It’s That Time Again! 6 Back to School Safety Tips

by Cassie August 26, 2015

Be Safe Going Back to School

We know. We know! It’s already August, and that means your family focus has honed in on one thing: it’s back to school time.

The start of school is exciting. It’s a flurry of activity – school supply shopping, clothes to buy, and there may be a new backpack in store. There are decisions to be made, perhaps a new bus stop to investigate, and a school lunch menu to pore over.

And of course, there are new safety concerns: street crossings on the way to the bus stop or school, heavy backpacks, and after-school hours home alone. Take some of the anxiety out of your preparations with our back to school safety tips:

1. Practice Walking Safety
Depending on their age – and provided your kids are conscientious about street safety – walking to the bus stop (or school) is a great way for them to learn personal responsibility. If you’re ready to let your children walk alone, be sure to practice the walking route a few times before school starts. Make sure they know the route well, including being familiar with potential danger areas. If you can, encourage your kids to walk with a friend or other children from the neighborhood.

2. Practice Bike Safety
If your kids ride bikes to school, our walking guidelines still apply; for example, be sure to practice the route in advance. Additionally, make sure your kids know to ride single file, on the right-hand side of the road. They should always come to a full stop before crossing the street, and should walk their bike through all crossings. Be sure they wear a helmet at all times.

3. Practice Bus Safety
If your kiddo rides the bus, much of their safety is taken care of but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few tips to impart: teach them to stand far from the curb – at least three steps is a good rule of thumb – and to always, always cross the street in front of the bus, at least 10 feet from the front windshield. And even though cars should be stopped both ways, your kids should always look left-right-left before crossing.

4. Stranger Danger
Even older kids may need a reminder: Always be aware of your surroundings, especially when walking alone. Remind walkers that if they ever suspect they’re being followed, or if a stranger ever approaches them on the street, that they should state aloud, “You’re not my mom/dad!” and immediately seek out a trusted adult or neighbor, or even a nearby business, library, police station or other public safety zone.

5. Backpack Wisely
What with binders, folders, notebooks and multiple subjects’ worth of textbooks, your kids’ backpacks bulk up fast. Keep their backs safe with an ergonomic model (yes, really! they exist), which will help distribute the weight. Also, keep backpacks to less than 20% of a child’s body weight, e.g. no more than 20 pounds for a 100-pound student.

6. Home Alone Precautions
We’re not talking comedic, movie-worth booby traps; we’re focused more on simple things you can do when your kids get home before you do. Precautions can be as simple as asking your kids to text when they get home, to notifying any stay-at-home-neighbors that your kids will be home alone for a few hours everyday (and letting your kids know that they can always contact said neighbors for help).

Also consider the advantages of smart home safety. New technology makes it possible for your locks to auto-text you when your kids walk in the door, or your camera security system to send you a video of your kids doing their homework. You can even set smart appliances to have a warm, nutritious after-school snack ready and waiting.

What’s the WORST Home Security Advice You’ve Ever Heard?

by Cassie August 12, 2015

The Worst Home Security Advice

There’s a lot of bad advice in this world, but in most cases, bad advice doesn’t result in awful consequences. Bad advice in the kitchen may mean hard-as-a-rock cake; bad fashion advice can make you look the fool; and bad movie advice means $15 and a few hours wasted.

Bad security advice? Well, that’s a whole other ball of wax. Bad home security advice can mean thousands in stolen goods, broken windows, and the loss of impossible-to-replace jewelry, antiques or heirlooms. Bad home security advice can mean breached WiFi networks and stolen passwords. And in the most tragic cases, bad home security advice can mean injury to your loved ones.

When it comes to home security, bad advice isn’t just bad – it’s disastrous. Here’s some of the worst home security advice we’ve ever heard:

1. A self monitored system is just as good as a monitored system.
Here’s the deal: DIY systems – and by that, we’re talking about mostly low-cost, wireless systems that notify you (or other phones) when an alarm is triggered – can be great as a basic system. But that does not mean they’re as good as a monitored home security system.

A monitored alarm system is directly connected to your security company, which will notify the police, the fire department, and the paramedics in case of emergency. Police notification can mean the difference between stolen goods and thieves behind bars – not to mention, monitored homes are about 15 times less likely to be burgled in the first place – but more importantly fire and ambulance notification can save the lives of loved ones. There’s no compare.

2. Change your password, and your smart home network is secure.
Most smart home devices – say, smart locks and smart appliances – are designed with ease-of-use, not network security in mind. But as the Internet of Things and home security become intertwined, it’s incredibly important to secure your smart home against hackers – hackers who could find their way into your network via your smart fridge.

To secure your home, first secure your wireless network, preferably via Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) protocol and a complex password. Give your network an unidentifiable name: think “UFO Space Station,” not “The Joneses.” And always, always change each device’s manufacturer password to a unique (as in, not shared with any other device) password.

3. Home Security – One & Done!
This one needs a bit of explanation. First, yes, sticking with one monitoring company for whatever you can – example: burglary, flood, and fire prevention – is a great idea. You’ll get a better package price, and won’t have to keep up with multiple companies.

However! The best home security is like an onion: it offers layer after layer after layer of security – layers guaranteed to make would-be burglars cry in frustration. Your best bet is to purchase the best home security system you can afford, and then layer on third-party extras like outdoor security cameras, Wi-Fi enabled doorbells, and even low-tech extras including interior door hinges (can’t be easily removed), strong window locks, and metal bars for your sliding door tracks.

Your turn: What is the worst security advice you’ve ever received?

Home Security Cameras and What Has Been Caught on Tape

by Cassie July 30, 2015

Today’s home security cameras are pretty amazing. They can see hundreds of feet. They can pan and rotate. They’re motion activated. They have night vision. They can connect to WiFi, upload to the cloud, and text you with alerts.

And they can capture some pretty amazing video, too.

You guys, we just can’t even. These videos are hilarious, terrifying and awe-inspiring. And what’s even more incredible is that they were all caught by security cameras. Here are 6 of our favorites:

1. A Thief, Caught in the Act

Just try not to laugh. A man’s home security system catches a woman stealing an Amazon delivery right off his porch. Don’t worry; he gets his revenge.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWO3zKqm_KI

2. Wind, Rain or Shine… or Hurricane

We may huddle inside during a serious storm, but security cameras are always on duty. This incredible footage captured a boat in North Carolina, torn from its moorings – and then flung skyward – during Hurricane Irene.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUFh9XtJoDM

3. A Cacophonous Lightening Strike

And speaking of storms, CCTV cameras once again prove to be fearless. This time, a camera catches lightening in the act. Turn down your volume, folks – this one’s going to be loud.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98w55RAleZ0

4. Delivery Gone Wrong

We’ll bet you’ve already seen this classic video, which details a UPS deliveryman stealing an iPad. Makes you think about all those items lost in the mail, doesn’t it?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqCzxTB5xto

5. Poor Criminal

This one’s funny enough to almost make you feel bad for the would-be burglar. Almost. Watch as a man not only fails at robbing a building society, but can’t find his way back out to escape. Oops.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgstON22SbY

6. Skirting the Law

A peculiarly skilled criminal in Costa Rica casually walks away with a TV… up her skirt. Despite her slick moves, this security footage was instrumental in catching the thief and her accomplice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_FSZFC4I1c

7. Doing What They Do Best

A North Carolina couple originally installed their cameras to check on their pets, but what they caught on video during a holiday vacation was something else entirely: three thieves, who weren’t aware that their faces had been caught on candid camera.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mxx8YZRhVz4

 

Communities That Work Together, Stay Safe Together: Focus on Philadelphia and Seattle

by Cassie June 25, 2015

 

Since My Alarm Center serves both Philadelphia, PA & Seattle, WA we wanted to have a post where residents in one city can learn something about the other city and vice versa so here you go, enjoy!

Social programs do far more than offer help when help is needed: they inspire hope, they extend a helping hand, they prevent violence, they offer refuge. Social outreach saves lives, but it also saves communities: assistance offered when it is most needed, can encourage children to take pride in their communities, can steer youths away from the path of violence, can encourage adults to contribute and better their neighborhoods.

And it’s not just the recipients who benefit: volunteers and other program participants learn about their communities, befriend their neighbors, and are gifted the incredible opportunity to change lives. It’s no surprise, then, that social programs help reduce crime. Here’s a few examples of two cities that are doing it right:

Philadelphia

  • LEAP Program: Philadelphia Public Libraries do their part by offering free, accessible after-school help to any school-age child who wants it.
  • City Heroes Program: There’s nothing like a bit of community pride to instill faith in oneself. Philly’s City Heroes program matches high school students with various projects around the city, giving them the chance to effect change in their communities.
  • Communities In Schools of Philadelphia: Children represent such monumental possibility, but their chances are often squashed before they even have a chance to try. Communities in Schools works to change that, by offering individualized educational help – tutoring, a mentor, or just a healthy meal to fuel a child’s studies – to the city’s youth.
  • Healing Hurt People (HHP): A hospital-based program and the cornerstone of Drexel’s Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice, this community-focused program works to teach youth (ages 8-30) how to resolve conflict, reduce reinjury, and prevent retaliation.
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Community Programs: There are a lot of awesome cultural programs for Philly youth, but the Museum of Art has some of our favorites. Not only are they free, but these programs introduce kids to some of art’s greatest masters – an incredible opportunity for all young Philadelphians.  (And oh yeah, the arts play a proven role in crime prevention.)
  • Project HOME: Talk about a killer tagline: none of us is home until all of us are home. Philly’s Project HOME is all about offering assistance – something as simple as a warm meal, to something as life-changing as housing, medical care, work and education – to the city’s underprivileged.

There are dozens of other community programs in Philadelphia, dedicated to reducing violence, supporting the family, leveling the educational playing field, and more.

Seattle

  • Community Arts Create: The community that creates together, stays safe together. This Seattle arts program builds community through one creative experience at a time, hosting community projects and events to involve anyone interested in the arts.
  • Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA): This multi-ethnic organization supports and protects Seattle’s immigrant and refugee women and their families, offering a selection of events, campaigns, volunteer opportunities and much-needed services.
  • SafeYouthSeattle: Seattle may have a lower rate of youth violence than other cities, but SafeYouthSeattle knows that even one injured child is too many. This local organization works with at-risk youth to connect them with services – educational, extracurricular, family mediation, and more – they need.
  • Seattle Social Development Project: The goal of this community organization: healthy, safe children who succeed in school. The services: health education, instructional support, parental education, and youth development – anything needed to get kids and families back on the right track.
  • Seattle Community Justice Program: Designed as a vehicle for youth leadership and social change, this community outreach organization seeks to end racial disparities in the criminal justice system by encouraging community involvement, education on social and racial issues, and extending “healing justice” to the incarcerated.

Seattle’s social programs extend far beyond this list, offering a helping hand to any child or adult, at-risk youth or hungry mouth.

Living on Your Own – 5 Ways To Keep Yourself Safe

by Cassie May 12, 2015

Home Security Tips While Living Alone

Moving into your own place is one of life’s single greatest moments. Yes, it entails a lot of responsibility. Yes, it’s more expensive than that two-bedroom you shared with three friends in college. And yes, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself for the growing pile of dirty dishes and un-swept floors.

But it’s your own place. Yours! A very you, very grown-up place where you’ll put your mark. For the very first time. Congratulations!

So here’s the deal, newly minted grownups: your first place is a learning experience. Here, you’ll probably learn to balance a checkbook, decorate walls with more than posters, and cook a meal impressive enough to woo your date. You’ll also learn a thing or two about personal safety, since living alone is very different than living in the dorm with roommates, or at home surrounded by family.

Without further ado, here’s our list of first apartment safety tips:

1) Before You Move In, Research

If you’re new in town (and really, even if you aren’t), do some basic recognizance before choosing a place to live: Ask friends and coworkers for safe neighborhood recommendations. Drive around candidate areas, both by day and by night. And speak with police or check out crime mapping websites, such as CrimeReports, to determine neighborhood crime statistics.

2) Double-Check for Security

Before you sign on the dotted line, review your new digs for safety. All door and window locks, including deadbolts, should be strong, secure and in working order. You shouldn’t have to jiggle, wiggle, push, prod or wrangle your doors or windows in any way. Peep through the keyhole to check the viewing area. Make sure that balcony doors are secure, and that you have access to the fire escape, if your building has one. Verify (don’t just ask) how entry works: do your neighbors just buzz anyone in, or do you have to have a key to get in?

3) Meet the Neighbors

As soon as you sign the lease, get knocking on your neighbors’ doors. (Bonus points if you take cookies.) You don’t need to be best friends, but you should get acquainted if you’re going to share walls, ceilings, lawns or fences. After all, it never hurts to have an extra set of eyes and ears on you and your apartment, especially when you’re on you own for the first time.

That said, don’t give out too much personal information to the neighbors, at least not until you’ve gotten to know each other.

4) Alarm Your Apartment

Think you can’t have an alarm, just because you rent? Wrong. Today, many home security systems, both monitored and unmonitored, are wireless, which means you don’t need to drill holes or forfeit your security deposit. Even better, you’ll be able to take your system with you when you move to a new place.

5) Exercise Caution

Being careful is not a sign of paranoia. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t walk through unknown neighborhoods with your earphones blasting or your cell to your ear. Hang an emergency whistle and mini flashlight on your keychain. Install a personal security alarm on your phone. Call for help if you feel unsafe. Remember, better safe than sorry.

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