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.

 

 
 
 

12 Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe After School

School is starting up  –  is your child arriving home alone? If so, check out our home safety checklist!

Many kids stay by themselves after school; it’s important for parents to feel that their child is safe and secure when they are home alone. To help you and your child prepare so you can both feel better about it, we have compiled the following checklist. This comprehensive checklist has been compiled from many sources, including The Red Cross, Parent & Child Magazine, and Scholastic.com.

Being prepared is key to safety and feeling secure. Take the time to review and implement this plan with your child for a safer, happier school year!

Have an emergency plan. Practice an emergency plan with your child so they know what to do in case of fire, injury, or other emergencies. Write the plan down and make sure they know where it is. Even if you believe it to be common sense, review the sound of the alarm and what to do if it goes off. S/he should get out of the house immediately and then call 911 from a neighbor’s house. Review the emergency exits by drawing a map that outlines the best pathways to safety from each room in the house.

Post relevant phone numbers. Have numbers for a trusted neighbor, your cell and work number and other emergency numbers in a prominent location. If children have approved access to smart phones or tablets, download the free Red Cross First Aid App so they’ll have instant access to expert advice for everyday emergencies. 

Place flashlights in assessable locations. Let children know where the flashlights are. Make sure that the batteries are fresh, and that the child knows how to use them. 

Inspect your home thoroughly for any safety risks.

    • Make sure that all of the smoke detectors are functioning properly.
    • Remove or safely store in locked areas dangerous items like guns, knives, hand tools, power tools, razor blades, scissors, ammunition and other objects that can cause injury. 
    • Make sure potential poisons like detergents, polishes, pesticides, lighter fluid and lamp oils are stored in locked cabinets or out of the reach of children.
    • Make sure medicine is kept in a locked storage place or out of reach.
    • Install safety covers on all unused electrical outlets.

Always check in. Make it a rule that your child calls a parent (or another adult that you designate) or leaves you a message as soon as s/he gets home. This can be the first step in a daily routine that includes homework, a snack, and some downtime.
 

Make the phone (almost) off-limits. Your child shouldn’t answer the phone for just anyone, so set up guidelines. If you have a land line with caller ID, tell her not to answer the phone if she doesn’t recognize the name or number. If you don’t have caller ID, tell him that she should let every call go to voice mail. If you child is old enough to have her own cell phone, use the same guidelines.

Don’t leave the house. Your child should not leave the house unattended unless cleared with you first or there is an emergency such as a fire. Make sure that he is aware of the risks of leaving home.

Take the same way home. Have them take the same route to and from school every day. If your child walks, review each street that she uses. If she takes a school bus, make sure that she takes it every day, even if she is offered a ride from a friend. Knowing her route allows you to predict how long it will take her to arrive home, and to trace her steps if there is ever a problem.
 

Caution children:

    • Not to talk about being home alone in public or on social media.
    • Never tell someone on the telephone that the parents are not at home. Say something like “He or she is busy right now. Can I take a message?”
    • Lock the doors; if the home has an electronic security system, children should learn how to turn it on and have it on when home alone for extra protection.
    • Never open the door to delivery people or service representatives. Ask delivery people to leave the package at the door or tell them to come back at another time. Service representatives, such as a TV cable installer, should have an appointment when an adult is at home.

Lock the doors. If the home has an electronic security system, children should learn how to turn it on and have it on when home alone for extra protection. Security systems with remote access, like Honeywell Total Connect, allow parents to be notified and view activity in the interior or exterior of their home for extra peace of mind.

Keep them busy. Although a child needs some downtime to rest and rejuvenate, your child will be less likely to get into­ trouble if he’s occupied with homework, practicing music, and chores. Review what they have accomplished and give them feedback when you get home. Reinforcement is key to getting things done!

Practice first aid. Keep a first aid kit handy and review it with your child. Help her distinguish between a true emergency and a minor one that she can handle herself.

Consider enrolling older children in an online Red Cross babysitting course so they can learn first aid skills and how to care for younger family members. Babysitting Basics is geared towards children aged 11-15 while Advanced Child Care Training is well-suited for those aged 16 and up. 

 

We at Secur-Tek, Inc hope this checklist is helpful and wish you and your family a safe and productive school year. If you have any questions or needs concerning your home security or automation needs please give us a call!

 

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.

 

4 Amazing Security System Features You Should be Using

Home security systems are getting better all the time, and not just in keeping your home safe from burglars. Today’s security systems can also monitor many more things about your house, from water leaks to who’s at home.

Here are four features you’ll want to try:

Water Sensors – Remember that time you came home from vacation to find your laundry room flooded? What a mess. Avoid that situation from now on by installing environmental sensors in your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and basement. These detectors notify you when floods, leaks and extreme temperatures occur so you can take action and prevent serious wall or floor damage. Leaks also account for 10,000 gallons of water wasted annually — in one household.

Pet Friendly Sensors – People with pets at home often worry about their alarm system going off when Fido jumps onto the couch. While that used to be a problem, today’s motion sensors can be set to detect the difference between an intruder and your furry family member. Animals up to 100 pounds can move around your home without tripping the alarm. Plus, home security systems can help you keep an eye on our four-legged friends, alerting you to smoke, carbon monoxide, or other problems. Systems can even tell you if outdoor gates or kitchen cabinets are open.

Video – Video is becoming very popular and it’s easy to see why: you have eyes on your home 24/7. You can see who is at the door, when your kids get home, and keep an eye on babysitters or other in-home employees. For pet owners, a live video feed gives you the chance to check on Fluffy from your desk or phone. You can even get a text message, email or video alert when your dog walker or pet sitter arrives or if they didn’t show up.

Light Controls – Your home security system offers a way to program lights for different situations, including an off-and-on scenario while you’re away to make the home appear lived in. Forgot to turn off a light when you left? No problem. What’s also fun about this control is the ability to instantly turn off or on indoor and outdoor lights from your office computer or smartphone. You’ll never have to arrive at a dark house again.

Check out many more fantastic features of our home security systems or contact us to learn more about setting up your home automation.

Business Security Systems Need to Protect Inside and Out

Business owners all strive to keep their businesses safe. Installing security systems, cameras, and access tracking are all part of burglar prevention for your business.

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But what about protecting your company from inside threats? According to a recent study, 20 percent of employees would sell their work passwords to a competitor.

“The research by identity management company Sailpoint, found that of those who would sell their passwords, 44 percent would do it for less than $1,000, and some for less than $100. This is made worse by the fact that 65 percent admit to using a single password among applications and 32 percent share passwords with their co-workers.”

Less than $100. That could be all that’s standing between you and a hacker who takes down your business. While we all want to believe the people we hire are good, moral employees who would not do something like that, we simply do not know what people have been through, what life situations may drive their behavior.

Business security systems that keep intruders out are important, but just as vital are your internal security procedures. Take a look at this checklist of things to review to keep your data safe:

  • Employee access – Secur-Tek can help you control access to the business itself, and to certain rooms. But what about who has access to your important data? Of course employees need to have a certain level of access to data, and programs to do their jobs. Maybe you already track who has access to what while they are employed with you. But what happens after that employee leaves? The above survey found that more than two in five employees still have corporate account access after they leave their job. Do you have security procedures in place to revoke access or change passwords?
  • Uploads to the cloud – Well-meaning employees may be uploading data to the cloud using various storage programs. While it’s useful to backup information in case of a crash, be sure to confirm which information is uploaded where. If you don’t have a secure server set up, your data may be at risk.
  • Downloads – In large companies, employees are supposed to check with the IT department before downloading any software or installing anything. Studies show this does not always happen. Employees get impatient with the extra layer of process. As a small business owner, you may not have an IT department, or may not have oversight of what your team downloads. But one wrong program means a virus or malware or spyware, putting your business at risk. Make a list of approved programs and check all the computers in the office on a monthly basis. While this sounds big brother, your employee is not the one whose business is at risk.

Secur-Tek works to keep your business secure from the outside. Be sure to consider what security measures you take inside your company to keep it safe.

7 Ways to Tighten Your Home Security for the Holidays

Every year at this time you’ll read stories about the increase in home burglaries while homeowners are away. Studies show that increase is not always fact. Instead, many factors affect burglaries in different communities and when they occur.

21908228_sStill, it’s smart to play it safe with home security around the holidays. After all, you may have extra valuables inside after buying all of your gifts, and you may be absent more often as you attend holiday parties or head to grandmother’s house.

According to FBI data, in 2010, there were an estimated 2.1 million burglaries in the U.S. Victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.6 billion in lost property, an average dollar loss of $2,119 each. In the Raleigh-Cary area, including Franklin, Johnston, and Wake counties, there were 628 burglaries per 100,000 residents in 2010.

Keep your holiday gifts and your home safe this season with a few simple measures:

  • Light your home. The strings of Christmas lights may bring good cheer, but they don’t keep burglars out. Mount exterior lights on your home, out of reach. These can be put on a timer or used as motion detectors. Put indoor lights on timers.
  • Burglars don’t want to spend all day trying to break in. Keep your doors and windows locked and install deadbolts on exterior doors, making it tougher to gain entry.
  • Check your doors. Your lock might be amazing, but if your door is weak, a strong kick will give a burglar easy access. Make sure your door is solid wood or has a solid wood core. You can also consider a fiberglass or metal door.
  • Trim the shrubbery. Don’t make it easy for burglars to hide behind bushes as they work to open a window. Keep the landscaping trimmed so it’s easier for a neighbor to spot the suspicious person standing outside your home.
  • Install a home alarm system. More than 90 percent of burglars say they would avoid a home with an alarm, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Effective alarms don’t just make noise, but alert emergency services. Many insurance companies offer a discount on homeowners insurance if you have an alarm.
  • Hide and lock your valuables. Once inside, a burglar doesn’t want to take too long. He or she knows to check the desk and the bedroom for important documents and jewelry. Put your important papers and expensive items in other locations and hide them well.
  • Heading out of town? Be sure to:
    • Have your mail held, or have a neighbor pick it up.
    • Schedule deliveries. Packages are at risk this time of year sitting on your front porch. Try to time deliveries so that they don’t arrive when you are out of town.
    • Leave blinds in their usual positions so it appears you are home.
    • Ask trustworthy neighbors to keep an eye on your home. Letting a few people know you are gone will help keep them on alert for something amiss.

Questions about home security? Give us a call: (919) 387-1800.

5 Technology Upgrades to Home Security

Control4 Door locks

Home security has come a long way since the invention of chain link fences and guard dogs. Today, technology has made it possible to keep an eye on your home 24/7. Whether you’re looking for the latest cool tools in home security or just want an easier way to keep your home safe, here are 5 technology upgrades to consider:

  1. Door locks – Forget to lock the door? If you have an electronic door lock, it’s no problem. You can remotely lock it from anywhere. Electronic door locks work with your entire home security system. In addition to locking the door from your smartphone or tablet, electronic door locks track the history of opening and closing and can send you text message alerts if you want. You can also give visitors an access code that only works during certain times of day, making it easier to keep your home secure when working with household staff. Plus, no more digging around for your keys!
  1. Remote monitoring – Keep an eye on your home from anywhere with videos and photos of what’s going on. Home security systems now offer streaming security camera feeds, the ability to arm and disarm from anywhere, send alerts, and more.
  1. Cameras – Speaking of streaming, home security cameras are no longer for the super-rich mansion owner. Cameras are inexpensive and easy to install. If you don’t want to check the life feed, you can save it for later if you need to — a nice option if your home is burglarized or if you need to check up on working crews.
  1. Home Sensors – Your home is so smart, it knows you’re coming. Home sensors can open and close the door for you. They also work as part of your home security, for motion sensing when you’re away. They’re smart enough to work off of winks or waving and can be controlled from your smartphone or tablet.
  1. Garage systems – Some people may recall the large, brown button to open the garage door. These days, many people use a button in their car to open the garage. The latest systems not only open the door when you want, but give you remote control from your smart device, allowing you to let people to enter when you are not home. It can also track how long the door has been open. Systems today also have motion sensors to protect those jetting through the door as it’s closing.

Secur-Tek can help you install a Control4 Home Automation System to help with these areas and more, including lighting, sound, intercom and more. Contact us today to find out more.

5 Tips to Avoid Home Security Scams

Home security is an important part of your peace of mind. That’s why scammers will often prey on people with fear tactics.

39670032_sHome security telemarketing calls were the second most common telephone scam in 2014 — second only to credit card scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers will call someone and offer a free home security system. The caller will also mention several burglaries in the area, hoping to push the resident into action.

Don’t fall into the home security scam trap. Follow these five tips to find a legitimate home security company to protect your most important asset:

  1. First, if you ever receive such a call, don’t agree to anything right away. This gives you time to make an informed decision.
  2. Keep your guard up. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No business can afford to offer you free home security. To get the free alarm, you may have to sign a long-term and expensive contract for system monitoring.
  3. Research a company before making a large purchase. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the company has any complaints against it. Ask friends and family for recommendations, and it’s OK to ask the company for references.
  4. Choose local. Triangle, North Carolina residents have many local options when it comes to home security. Choosing a local company makes it easier for you to check them out. Local business owners know they have a reputation to uphold within the community.
  5. Read any fine print before agreeing to anything. Most home security companies have contracts. Be sure you know what you are signing.

Other Security Scams

Some home security companies will send salespeople door to door. If you already have home security, they may tell you they are there to upgrade your current system or that your security company has gone out of business. Secur-Tek and other legitimate North Carolina security companies will not send another company to your door. Your home security company will inform you by mail if something has changed with your current system.

  • It’s best not to invite salespeople inside your home; it is much harder to get them to leave once inside.
  • Never let such a person into your home without checking his or her identification.
  • If you feel uncomfortable and the person will not leave, call the police.

Questions about home security? Contact us and we’ll be happy to help!