8 Tips for Package Theft Prevention

Will you be receiving packages this holiday season?

Packages left on the porch/mailbox are vulnerable at any time of year, but the holiday season usually means there are a few more parcels arriving at your doorstep. A study from InsuranceQuotes that examines holiday hazards  notes there were approximately 26 million thefts of deliveries from doorsteps and economic indicators show online shopping is up over 28% so far for this holiday season over last year.

Whether you’re ordering gifts online for family and friends, or receiving them from others, you’re more likely to have packages sitting vulnerable on your porch this time of the year.

To prevent your deliveries being stolen, check out these EightTips for Package Theft Prevention. 

  1. Customize delivery. If the ordering system allows you to choose the time of delivery, select a time you know you’ll be at home.
  2. Get a smart doorbell.Swap your current doorbell for a Skybell and enjoy a higher level of safety and security with remote monitoring and cloud recording features. When the delivery person rings the doorbell, you can see how and when packages are delivered. No more interruptions during family dinner or missing important packages while you’re gone! You can also check for unwanted visitors at your doorstep.
  3. Deliver decisively. If you’re not home much, consider having the package delivered to your office or a friend or neighbor’s house for safekeeping.
  4. Hold the post. If your package contains very valuable items – Have the post office or carrier hold the package. Request UPS, FedEx and the Postal Service to hold packages at their facility for you to pick up later. UPS has created a service called Access Point that enables you to choose an alternate delivery location in your neighborhood.
  5. Alert a neighbor. When you are expecting a package and won’t be home, you can ask a neighbor or friend to keep an eye out for it. If you use Nextdoor.com or a similar neighborhood app you can let neighbors know if something has been stolen from your porch so they can keep an eye out and report suspicious behavior.
  6. Talk to family and friends who may be mailing your holiday gifts. Ask them to let you know when they send packages so you can watch for them.
  7. Light it up. Install outdoor lights. Your package is more likely to be stolen during daylight hours, but night falls early this time of year. Outdoor lights with motion or light sensors are a good way to keep unwanted people away from your home in any season.
  8. Monitored home security A home security system can do a great deal. If there are visible security features like cameras or alarms, potential thieves will be more likely to move along to a less protected house rather than risk getting caught by a security system. And you can even tie in your Skybell with security and automation features for greater convenience, like letting in out of town guests that arrive when you’re out doing those last-minute errands.

If you are going out of town, check out our Security Checklist before you leave.

We hope you have a great holiday season. If you’d like a quote on Skybell or would like to learn about other home Security System options to increase your peace of mind, please contact us.

 Happy Holidays to You and Your Family!!

Frequently Asked Questions on Home Security Systems

FAQs on Home Security

Do you have questions about home security systems?  We asked our staff to answer some of our customer’s frequently asked questions – check the answers below.  

How often should I test my home security system?  We recommend you test your system once a month.

How do I test my monitored home security system? I don’t want to bother the police. We are glad you asked that!  First, call the 800 number on your sticker and tell the monitoring company to put your system on test, then activate your alarm and call monitoring company back to verify alarm signals were received.   

Who do I call for service on my Secur-Tek system? To set up a service call, please call our office at  919.387.1800. Secur-Tek stands by our products and the same reliable technicians install and service our systems.

Can Secur-Tek upgrade my system?  Yes, but it does depend on the type of system you have. If you have a Honeywell home security system, we can upgrade your system by adding remote monitoring, cameras, and gas, smoke and motion detectors. If you have another type of system, we still may be able to help you, just call for a consultation or contact us.

How many cameras are needed to have a complete home security system?  The number of cameras you may need to safeguard your home depends on your home design. We can add cameras to most security systems and offer a complimentary consultation where we take a look around your home and recommend how many cameras are needed and the locations to install them.

Should I have my home security system monitored?  Having and monitoring a home security system can increase your peace of mind, especially if you travel or have valuable items in your home. For more information, see our blog on monitoring.

How much does monitoring cost?  We offer reliable, low-cost monthly monitoring. Our monitoring starts at $21.95 for standard monitoring and $31.95 for cellular.

Do you require a three-year contract?  No.

How long is the monitoring agreement?  Our monitoring contracts are just for 1 year. We don’t require long-term contracts.

Can I monitor my security system myself?  We don’t recommend it. Our monitoring goes to a company that provides monitoring 24/7 and will contact the police, fire and medical emergency agencies. They are always there to call the authorities.

What type of remote services work with your home security systems?  You can view and run your system from your smartphone or iPad with Honeywell Total Connect Services.  

What types of systems are compatible with Secur-Tek’s low-cost monitoring?  We can monitor many types of systems. To determine if your specific system can be monitored, please call your office.

We hope you found this helpful. If you live in our service area and have further questions, would like an estimate on upgrading or monitoring your security system, please give us a call at  919.387.1800

Secur-Tek, Inc. serves all of Central NC, including the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, Apex, Cary, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Pittsboro, Wake County, Chatham County, Durham County, Orange County, Harnett County.

Security Reminders for New Home Buyers

This is the time of year when families look into options for new homes and neighborhoods. This is a life-changingdecision – you and your family want to live somewhere comfortable, convenient and safe. With all the things to think about when considering a move, safety and security arenear the top of the priority list. Below we have outlined a few items to consider when assessing whether a neighborhood and home is the right fit for you and your family.

Thoroughly check out the neighborhood:

The feel and safety of the neighborhood is a key consideration when buying a home. You can always change and adjust the security features of the home itself, but you can’t control or change the neighborhood environment. Take the time to find out local area crime rates – info on the most recent crime activity and break-insisassessable online. Sex offender registry and public/police records are also easily accessed. Noting the proximity to Fire, Police and Rescue stations helps in figuring response times.

It can often be interesting and enlightening to stop by or call the local Police station to get additional information on the particular area you are considering.

In addition, an area with friendly neighbors who get to know each other and take pride in their neighborhood offers a sense of security. If you are seriously considering a home, knock on a potential neighbor’s door, introduce yourself and get their perspective on the safety, friendliness and police presence in the area. Neighbors can have a strong influence on the happiness and well-being of your family.

Take special note of the lighting and landscaping:

Often times we look at a property during the day or early evening. Take time to check outthe streets and the home you are considering late at night or early morning and notice if there isadequate street and sidewalk lighting. Check to see how well the entry, walkways and window areas are lit. Some of these things you can fix quite easily (like adding motion sensor lighting) but some are much more of a challenge.

Landscaping can really enhance the image of your home; it also affects the safety of the home. Overgrown or poorly placed bushes can block out lighting and give potential burglars a perfect cover from being noticed, especially when located near doors or windows.

Check doors and windows:

This may seem obvious, but the doors to the exterior need to be carefully inspected. They should be built out of metal or with solid wood cores and have deadbolts. Sometimes the most aestheticallypleasing decorator doors offer the least amount of safety from intrusion. Glass panels in or next to the doors offer burglar’s easy access.  Replacing the external doors is doable but take the cost of replacement into consideration when thinking through your offer as this is a fairly expensive item. Note, replacing security sub-par doors should be done before occupancy for ease of mind and convenience.

Mechanical systems and appliances:

These items directly impact the safety of the home and should be thoroughly inspected before deciding on purchasing a home. A faulty electrical system puts your home at risk for fires. Gas appliances or fireplaces that don’t function properly increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Get a home inspection to verify that all mechanical systems meet current building codes and function properly.

Home and property security system:

Having a home and property security system can help give you peace of mind when moving to a new area and home. If a system is already installed, you can have it upgraded and activated as soon as you move in. Make sure to check out the window and door sensors for proper functioning. Test the location of the motion sensors to ensurethey are properly aimed and positioned for maximum benefit. Security systems are an economical and effective method for ensuring your new residence will offer you the safety and security your family deserves.

 

If you have moved into a new home or will be moving into one soon, give us a call at 919-387-1800 to evaluate your home security and give you a quote on installing, upgrading or monitoring.

 

 

To Monitor or Not Monitor – That is the Question

 

People often ask: If I have a security system with an alarm, why should I pay to have it monitored? There are many things to consider when determining if you need a security system and if it should be monitored. Taking the time to clarify your security situation and needs is essential for making an informed decision.

These variables should be considered when determining your security needs:

  • Do you have valuables such as jewelry, paintings, or irreplaceable family heirlooms in your home?
  • How about children, seniors or pets that are left alone during the day?
  • Do you travel frequently – for how long – is your workplace more than a 30 minute commute?
  • What are the physical properties of your home – do you have lots of bushes and trees or high visibility?
  • Are you near high traffic areas; do you have police patrolling?
  • Do you have a pool, fireplace or fire pit?

What monitoring does – While keeping burglars or prowlers out of your house and off your property is critical, minimizing loss through quick response time, fire detection, heat sensors, air quality and other features is also a great benefit.

How monitoring actually works – Basically, when your alarm is triggered, it sends a coded signal to the monitoring center. The security company will call your agreed upon pre-set number and ask for the password you have set – if they get no answer or the person doesn’t know the password, the police are immediately contacted. If a fire, flooding or air poisoning is detected the same routine is followed.

So why monitor your home if you have an alarm already installed?

The typical system will have a siren go off for approximately five minutes after it is tripped. If monitored and there is no emergency in progress, the alarm can be cancelled by giving the monitoring station your password. If a burglar or prowler trips the alarm, they usually leave the premise quickly. In many cases, the intruder will then hide and watch to see if there is any activity in the home, or if police/people arrive. If so, they typically will leave quickly to focus their efforts on an easier target — a non-monitored home

Low-voltage smoke detectors connected to your monitored alarm system give quicker response to smoke in your home than a neighbor seeing the flames shooting thru your roof — when it is too late to save your property or maybe someone’s life.

Tip: If you are away and unable to respond to an alarm, it is a good idea to have a relative, trusted neighbor, or friend know the code and meet the emergency responders if the alarm is tripped. They can let the police in and check to make sure nothing is missing; but are not to enter before the authorities arrive for their safety.

While there is a monthly cost to monitor your home or business, only monitored systems have professionals to help respond to emergencies 24/7. Once you assess your lifestyle, property parameters and situation, you may see that monitoring is the right choice for you.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your security system needs, please don’t hesitate to call us!

Beware of Porch Pirates!

This is the time of year that can be lots of fun — bringing joy and opportunities to visit with family and friends. Unfortunately, it is also a time when there is an increase in burglaries, break-ins and property damage. This could be because the nights are longer and people are out at holiday parties, visiting family or shopping, leaving their homes unattended. Highly visible deliveries such as Fed Ex, UPS and other packages. compound the opportunity for theft.

Here are our suggestions to help you and your families have a safe, secure and worry-free holiday season. If you would like a free consultation and discussion with one of our experts, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 919-387-1800.

Get lit! One of the best ways to make your home look active is lights. When you set up holiday lights outside it makes your home look festive and eliminates shadows a burglar could hide in. Lights inside also make it look like someone is home. Timers on your lights are a great idea; set them on random schedules in different rooms to resemble activity in your home. Another highly effective strategy is to invest in a smart automated system that allows you to control your lights remotely with your phone or tablet.

Keep it Clean! A home will look unoccupied if leaves, snow or newspapers have accumulated. If you’re going to be gone, hire a neighborhood kid to take care of your yard — they will appreciate the holiday cash and your place will look lived in and much nicer when you arrive home.

Hold it! UPS, FedEx, and USPS all will hold your mail while you’re away. Keeping packages and mail from piling up is critical, so register with them to hold all your deliveries. Not only are these items valuable targets, they also let everyone know your not home!

Track it! Major carriers offer online tracking of your orders and give you a close approximation of when your packages are to be delivered. That way you can arrange to ask someone to pick them up and off your porch until you get home.

Inform us! Let your alarm company know your going out of town and provide a phone number where you can be contacted.

Conceal your valuables. Keep valuable items out of sight. Don’t keep spare keys in obvious places such as under a flower pot or fake rock. Remove valuable items from  your car, if parked outside.

Keep it on the down low until after you get back! Resist the urge to update your status on social media annoucing you’re away from home. Share when you get back! 

Do some heavy duty “Jam’n”! If you have a wood doorjamb, the lock strike plate is the weakest point in your door. Upgrade to a heavy-duty strike plate and use four 3-inch screws to secure it to the doorframe.

Get a smart doorbell. Swap your current doorbell for a Skybell and enjoy a higher level of safety and security with remote monitoring and cloud recording features. Data suggests that burglars ring your doorbell to find out if you’re home. When the delivery person rings the doorbell, you can see how and when packages are delivered. No more interruptions during family dinner; missing important packages while you’re gone; or unwanted visitors at your doorstep.

Monitored home security A home security system can do a great deal. If there are visible security features like cameras or alarms, potential thieves will be more likely to move along to a less protected house rather than risk getting caught by a security system.

 

If you are going out of town, check out our Security Checklist before you leave: https://www.secur-tek.com/leaving-on-vacation-heres-your-handy-home-security-checklist/

Please contact us for information on Skybell or the Security System that is right for you!

Happy Holidays to You and Your Family!!

 
 
 
 
 

DARK, COLD DAYS OF WINTER – BRIGHTENED BY HONEYWELL’S TOTAL CONNECT

When the days get shorter, do you dread pulling into the driveway of a dark, cold home? Have you ever thought about how nice it would be if your cheery, warm bright home welcomed you instead?
It’s possible – you can experience increased convenience and safety without wasting energy — with a Honeywell Total Connect “smart home”.
As we move into fall and push our clocks back, it seems that getting home in the dark is the norm. Wouldn’t it be nice to turn select indoor and outdoor lights on or off automatically every time you arm or disarm your security system? You can do that with Honeywell Total Connect! Even better, you can tell your system to turn a set of lights on 30 minutes before you get home from work and another off an hour after you’ve gone to bed. You can program schedules for ambience, or security, and control your lights from any remote location.
If you are on the go, a “smart home” enables you to stay connected to your family, pets and property 24/7. You can receive real-time alerts (e-mails, text messages or video alerts) of important events such as a child arriving home from school, a pet leaving the house, a parent taking their medications or any recent system or sensor activity. It’s like having mobile control of your home in the palm of your hand!
And your system can help avoid some of life’s hassles and mishaps. Like when you’re at work and your kids or parents forget their house keys, or maybe you need a neighbor to pick up an important package and take it inside so it’s not on your porch for hours? Imaging unlocking the door from the comfort of your office with your smartphone or PC. As an enhanced security option, you can view camera feeds from your Skybell Video Doorbell on touchscreens, televisions, tablets, smartphones or PCs and keep an eye on your kids, pets, screen visitors at your entranceway and view activity occurring around the interior or exterior of your home whenever and wherever you want.
Finally, when your home enjoying a movie and you notice your child is out with the car and it is getting late, calm your worries with Honeywell Total Connect Tracking Services. This puts you in the driver’s seat – letting you know where your vehicles are and where they’ve been 24/7 – anytime, anywhere, from any web-enabled smart device! You’ll have real-time GPS location information at your fingertips – a great way to keep tabs on teenage drivers, elderly loved ones, or even assist in recovering missing vehicles and monitor or recover lost or stolen valuables. You can even get email or text alerts when vehicles exceed speed limits or predetermined geographic boundaries.
When your life is demanding, our Honeywell Total Connect system can help ease your mind and reduce the stress and worry of everyday life!
Call or contact the experts at Secur-Tek for more information or an estimate on a Honeywell Total Connect system for your home.

 

 
 
 

Can Your Devices Spy on You? Tips for Stronger Security and Privacy

Smartphones, apps, and devices such as Amazon’s Alexa/Echo and Google’s Home are all making our lives easier (or at least more fun). After all, you can play games, check the weather, see what your friends are up to, and go shopping, track packages, and set reminders — all with the click of a button or a voice command.

But the more devices we allow into our lives, the more we increase our security risk. Many of our home security customers are asking about security and privacy. Here are some ways to protect yourself:

Smartphones
Some people don’t mind digital eavesdropping. Others would prefer Facebook not to listen in all the time, which it does. If this bothers you, the best thing to do is uninstall the app completely. However, you can also disable any app’s use of your microphone using the following steps:

iPhones/Apple:
● Go to “settings”
● Choose the app you want to change
● Turn off the microphone

Android
● Go to “settings” and select “personal”
● Choose “privacy”
● Then choose “permissions”
● Finally, choose “microphone” and turn it off

Home Devices
Home devices such as Google’s Home or Amazon’s Alexa/Echo record conversations after you activate them with the code words, “Ok Google” or “Hey Alexa.” They listen for your voice query, then upload it to servers, where it is analyzed so the appropriate response can be delivered. While the data passed between the device and the servers is encrypted, there are some other security concerns, including:

● The microphones are always listening unless you mute them.
● The devices don’t differentiate between people, meaning someone else can use your voice device to make changes to your security system if you have that set up.
● The recorded voice queries are stored on cloud servers. That data is used to create more targeted advertising.
● Your device’s location is shared.
● Data may be shared with third parties.

Using these devices means sharing your information. But you can make some small adjustments to make them slightly more private:

● Mute them when not in use. On the Echo, a physical mute button is located at the top of the device. On Google Home, use the touch panel on top to mute.
● Delete old recordings. For Echo, you do this through your Amazon account. Click “Manage my device” to delete your history. Note: Amazon warns this will result in a lower-quality experience. For Google, go to the My Activity dashboard to manage everything.
● Don’t connect sensitive accounts to home devices.

Home security questions? Contact us to learn how we can make your home more secure.

VOIP AND DIGITAL PHONE SERVICE MAY INTERFERE WITH YOUR SECURITY/LIFE SAFETY SYSTEM

13767649_sWe would like to inform you about the potential impact that new types of phone services may have on your security/life safety system.  Commonly referred to as “VoIP” (Voice over Internet Protocol) and “digital telephone service,” these new phone options are rapidly growing in popularity.  These technologies allow you to make telephone calls via a broadband connection instead of using a traditional, “landline” phone service.  The benefits include enhanced features and lower costs compared to the traditional service. Typically, these new types of phone services replace your landline service.

It is important that you are aware that these new services can adversely affect your electronic security/life safety system.

In almost all cases, your security/life safety system relies on proper operation of the telephone line, and its associated special security wiring, to reliably communicate alarm signals to the central station. There are several important things to consider before making the decision to use VoIP or digital telephone service:

  • With a self-installed VoIP service, such as Vonage or AT&T’s CallVantage, your alarm system may lose its connection to the telephone service, rendering the system unable to send alarm signals to the central station.  VoIP technology may also cause your alarm signals to get scrambled as they are sent to the central station.
  • With digital telephone phone services offered by your cable provider, your system may be unable to consistently and reliably send alarm signals to the central station.  This technology may also cause your alarm signals to get scrambled as they are sent to the central station.
  • In addition to the security system’s battery back-up equipment, VoIP and digital phone services may need additional battery back-up equipment to maintain communications in the event of a power failure.

Either way, there is significant risk that your security/life safety system will not be able to communicate an emergency signal to the central station.

We encourage you to check with Secur-Tek, Inc. before making any changes to your existing telephone service. If you have already made the decision to switch to VoIP or digital phone service, it is extremely important that you contact us after you have the new phone service installed and Secur-Tek, Inc. will arrange a service call to properly test your system and check the wiring.

For the utmost reliability, there are new security communications solutions available that use digital wireless transmission or the Internet to reliably send alarm signals to the central station. These services allow you to take maximum advantage of cost savings from VoIP or digital telephone services while maintaining, and even improving, the reliability of your security/life safety system.  We would be happy to discuss these options with you.

If you have any questions, we encourage you to contact Secur-Tek, Inc. at 919-387-1800.

 

Is Your Wireless Security System Safe?

54163030 - information security online privacy protection conceptWireless has made life easier in many ways. You can print something from your living room using your wireless printer. Your wireless phone means you don’t have to buy a 30-foot curly cord and drag it around the house. (Remember that?)

Security systems are wireless, too. While wireless has made life easier, it also makes our homes and devices more vulnerable and not all security systems are created equal. Here is what you need to know to keep your family and valuables safe.

How Wireless Works

Wireless security systems use radio frequency signals sent from your door or window sensors. Those sensors trigger an alarm if breached. According to a study done by two researchers, most systems do not encrypt or authenticate the signals sent from those sensors. That means a hacker could trigger false alarms or even block the signal, preventing the alarm from sounding and preventing the system from alerting fire or police officials. Some alarms come with anti-jamming measures, but hackers have found ways around those, too.

How to Protect Your Home

You really do get what you pay for in security. Inexpensive, DIY systems are vulnerable to hacking. Lyric Systems by Honeywell offers 128-bit encryption. It’s more expensive, but more secure. Any system you choose needs to have encrypted signals. Some alarm systems broadcast on multiple channels, making them tougher to jam. Ask your security team about these options. 

Another option is to install a wired system. Some security experts point out that thieves can cut the wires, but in some residences, the wires are difficult to access, making this a more useful approach.

Don’t buy a used system or used cameras. The previous owners may be thieves who retain access to those devices.

Change usernames and passwords. Anytime you buy an out-of-the box system, a new wireless router, or anything, you MUST change the username and password from the default. While this won’t necessarily prevent all hackers, you might as well make it a little tougher for them. As Forbes found, one security company mailed systems to people with the default login of username “admin” and password “admin.” Because those businesses never changed their login information, it was easy to guess and access their system.

If you have something to protect, such as valuable jewelry, electronics, or art, invest in a good security system installed by Secur-Tek. Our team can recommend a system that fits your security needs. 

Save Lives by Checking Smoke Alarms this Month

49370576 - replacing battery in domestic smoke alarmIf a fire broke out in your home, when do you think that would happen? If you guessed “at night,” you’re right. In fact, half of all fire deaths are reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep.

Three out of five home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. In other words, smoke alarms save lives.

The second week of October is Fire Prevention Week, and it’s a good time to check your smoke alarm. When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead. When was the last time you checked your alarm?

Maybe you removed the battery to quiet the alarm last time your oven started smoking while you cooked dinner. Although smoke alarms can be annoying sometimes, that’s the point — you want it to wake you up in an emergency.

Here are three important steps to take to make sure your alarm is ready to save your family:

1. Change the battery. Many people have heard to change the batteries each time we spring forward or fall back for Daylight Saving Time. That’s coming up Nov. 6, so head to the store to buy some new batteries.

2. Check the date. While you’re on the ladder or stepstool changing the battery, be sure to also check the date on the alarm. Many people don’t know that smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. If you have lived in your home fewer than 10 years, you may not know how old the device is. To find out, pull the alarm off the ceiling and look at the back. You’ll see a date of manufacture. If your alarm was manufactured before October 2006, it’s time for a new one.

3. Test the alarm. Once you have fresh batteries and have confirmed the alarm is still within the 10-year mark, it’s time to test it. To test, press and hold the test button. It can take a few seconds to begin, but the loud noise should screech out from the smoke detector while the button is pressed. If there is no sound or the sound is weak and you just put in new batteries, replace the device immediately.

Once you’ve finished checking your smoke alarm, be sure to test your security system, which can also help alert authorities in case of fire. For more information on how to do that, check out our recent blog post on the topic.