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How Do Burglars Disable Alarms? Learn the Tricks from a Real Thief!

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April 3, 2012
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How Do Burglars Disable Alarms? Learn the Tricks from a Real Thief!

Frontpoint’s security professionals are experts in their field, but sometimes it's useful to engage a less conventional resource. And who better than a burglar to teach you about protecting your home from theft? KSAT, a San Antonio news station, interviewed a former thief, who dished professional burglar secrets, including how he would disable a home alarm from the outside.

KSAT reported, “He was a thief for over a decade, robbing houses for a quick payday. His first name is Mark, and he doesn’t want his last name known. Mark said he’s probably broken into more than 100 houses.”

The news station chose a random house and tasked Mark with figuring out “exactly how he would rob the home and show what the homeowner is doing right—and doing wrong.”

How a Thief Chooses Which Home to Target

Keeping up with the Joneses may seem like a harmless neighborhood competition, but burglars take note of home appearances. When Mark was assessing the home, he noted, “The first thing that they’re doing right is they’re showing a minimal amount in their front. Homes that show valuables, whether it be nice toys in the yard or expensive furniture on the porch, suggest nicer stuff inside.”

A person’s online presence can also tip off a thief. “Social media helps, too. Someone who writes that they’re on vacation makes their house an easy target,” Mark said. In fact, avoiding social media is our number-one tip for keeping your home safe while on vacation.

How Do Burglars Disable Alarms?

Next, Mark set out to disable the home’s security system. Since the family was using a traditional alarm system, which relies on a phone line, Mark explained that he would disable an alarm system like this by simply cutting the wire, rendering the system useless.

“I try to cut the main wires to the power supply, and after that, the telephone wires. Most alarm systems send a signal through phone lines when someone breaks in.”

If a thief cuts your phone lines and disables your alarm system from the outside, then “a crook is essentially alone” in your home.

Cellular Monitoring Is Best

How does a homeowner keep a burglar from breaking in? Go wireless. Choose a security system that uses a cellular signal to communicate, so there are no wires for a thief to tamper with.

KSAT followed up with security expert Joby Gray.

“Your average system, as of about two years ago, will be primarily 100 percent landline monitoring. But wireless [cellular] systems don’t need a landline to work. Instead, they send a signal out through the air to the alarm company if a home is broken into. It is without a doubt the most effective style of alarm system.”

Unfortunately, Gray noted that most people don’t know that wireless home security systems exist. Opting for a cellular monitoring system is useful for deterring thieves, and Gray added, “If you can make it a little difficult, and make them go somewhere else, that’s probably a good idea.”

Can Burglars Disable Wireless Home Alarms?

While a home invader can’t cut alarm wires to disable a wireless alarm system, there is a tactic called “crash and smash” whereby a thief could “crash” into your house via a window or door and “smash” your security system before the alarm company can be notified.

But with a smash-proof system like the Frontpoint Hub and Keypad, the alarm company will still be notified—even if the system has been completely destroyed. The Hub and Keypad also feature an encrypted connection, further bolstering your home’s privacy and protection.

Frontpoint tracks when your system is armed, and when your sensor-equipped doors open or close. If a door opens and the armed alarm is not activated, Frontpoint can tell that something has interfered with the system.

Another way criminals may try to defeat burglar alarms is through wireless alarm jammers. These very expensive devices are sometimes able to block cellular signals, such as the ones used in wireless home security systems. Due to the high cost of cell jammers, wire cutters are still the tool of choice for thieves.

Finally, a thief may be able to bypass your security system if the backup battery is dead. Control panels are typically plugged in, and have a backup battery in case of an electric outage. You don’t have to worry about your security system immediately dying each time a summer storm knocks the power out, though, since backup batteries can last for extended periods of time.

Other Home Security Tips from a Burglar

In the scenario with KSAT, the ex-thief was able to “break” into the home and take valuables.

Mark’s simulated break-in was easy after that. He went through the home and picked out what he would take. He pointed out TVs, jewelry, a surround-sound system and the refrigerator among other things. Personal documents are at risk, too. Any bank statements, social security cards and passports were all fair game, and Mark quickly found all three. “That’s identity theft. I could sell it to all kinds of people. I could forge documents, open up accounts, use up accounts, get out loans,” said Mark.

In addition to setting up a wireless home security system, there are more security tips that Mark shared.

“There’s a lot of simple things you can do to your home, even as simple as maybe providing a fence around your yard,” said Mark. Tips include putting a lock on your electrical box, keeping your valuables inside and your blinds shut, making sure your entryways are new and strong.

The overall point is to make it difficult for a thief. Crooks typically take the path of least resistance, and if you make your house a hard target, criminals will pass it up.

Yet another way to add a layer of protection to your home is keeping your master code secure. Setting up unique user codes for family, friends and service professionals gives you more control over your security system. It’s also important to make your master code memorable, but not easy to guess. If a burglar wants to disable your alarm system without signaling the monitoring center, their first guess might be 1-2-3-4, your house number, or something else simple and publicly accessible, like your date of birth.

Home intrusions can have long-standing impacts on our financial future and our peace of mind. That’s why it is important to choose a home alarm system with cellular monitoring.

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Comments
Dilaney
April 3, 2012 at 9:01 PM
Sadly, this information just confirms the fact that criminals don't have to be the sharpest knives in the kitchen drawer in order to break into your home and attempt to disable your alarm system. “I try to cut the main wires to the power supply, and after that the telephone wires,” Mark (the former burglar) is quoted as saying "of his technique". Really? What does cutting the power lines to an alarm system which has a back up battery accomplish? Unless of course, you then wait several hours for the entire system to go completely dead. I guess Mark just got lucky in "figuring out" on his own that he should cut the telephone lines before entering homes that he intends to rob. Fortunately, an alarm system with wireless communication to the monitoring station will foil Mark and the obviously MUCH smarter criminals who actually do understand how security systems work.
Peter M. Rogers
April 3, 2012 at 9:18 PM
Dilaney - excellent point. The main issue is cutting the phone line or internet connection, since that is still how the great majority of alarm systems communicate to the monitoring center. As for the power, bear in mind that most alarm companies use the 4-hour battery that is all UL requires. It's not unusual for a burglar who cuts lines (phone and power) to try back in a few hours, by which time the system no longer functions. In the old days, many alarm companies programmed their system to send signals on loss of AC power or low battery - but that has changed, sadly. Now it's all about efficiency and having as little contact with the subscriber as possible. One of the reasons we like FrontPoint's combination is that the GE Security systems all have a 24-hour battery built-in, vs. the 4-hour battery used by default by ADT and others. Also, with our advanced interactive monitoring services, our subscribers get a text or email any time their FrontPoint system loses power - and when power comes back. That makes for much greater peace of mind. When you add Alarm.com's patented "Smash & Crash" protection, it's easy to see why we say our systems are virtually impossible to defeat. Thanks for your comment.
Dilaney
April 3, 2012 at 9:01 PM
Sadly, this information just confirms the fact that criminals don't have to be the sharpest knives in the kitchen drawer in order to break into your home and attempt to disable your alarm system. “I try to cut the main wires to the power supply, and after that the telephone wires,” Mark (the former burglar) is quoted as saying "of his technique". Really? What does cutting the power lines to an alarm system which has a back up battery accomplish? Unless of course, you then wait several hours for the entire system to go completely dead. I guess Mark just got lucky in "figuring out" on his own that he should cut the telephone lines before entering homes that he intends to rob. Fortunately, an alarm system with wireless communication to the monitoring station will foil Mark and the obviously MUCH smarter criminals who actually do understand how security systems work.
Peter M. Rogers
April 3, 2012 at 9:18 PM
Dilaney - excellent point. The main issue is cutting the phone line or internet connection, since that is still how the great majority of alarm systems communicate to the monitoring center. As for the power, bear in mind that most alarm companies use the 4-hour battery that is all UL requires. It's not unusual for a burglar who cuts lines (phone and power) to try back in a few hours, by which time the system no longer functions. In the old days, many alarm companies programmed their system to send signals on loss of AC power or low battery - but that has changed, sadly. Now it's all about efficiency and having as little contact with the subscriber as possible. One of the reasons we like FrontPoint's combination is that the GE Security systems all have a 24-hour battery built-in, vs. the 4-hour battery used by default by ADT and others. Also, with our advanced interactive monitoring services, our subscribers get a text or email any time their FrontPoint system loses power - and when power comes back. That makes for much greater peace of mind. When you add Alarm.com's patented "Smash & Crash" protection, it's easy to see why we say our systems are virtually impossible to defeat. Thanks for your comment.
Alan Draper
April 5, 2012 at 5:03 AM
Good and comments. Also, great tip to lock the power box coming into the house. I plan to look into that. I do like that my FP system gives power out and back up alerts. It is very valuable info while away. I also greatly appreciate the long standby time.
Peter M. Rogers
April 5, 2012 at 1:33 PM
Thanks, Alan. We like the fact that GE Security uses the 24-hour battery in every alarm control panel they make - one more reason why we use GE Security equipment. It happens that the National Fire Code (NFPA 72) requires the 24 hour-hour battery in any single or two-family home that has even one smoke or heat sensor included in the system. That's right: according to the National Fire Code, adding even one monitored fire detection device to an intrusion system makes it a fire alarm, technically speaking - and the requirement for the 24-hour battery comes into play. Want to take a wild guess how many residential alarm system have at least one smoke or heat sensor, but still use the 4-hour battery? I'd bet millions of home alarm systems are violating the National Fire Code right now - and they were installed by the biggest names in the business.
Alan Draper
April 5, 2012 at 5:03 AM
Good and comments. Also, great tip to lock the power box coming into the house. I plan to look into that. I do like that my FP system gives power out and back up alerts. It is very valuable info while away. I also greatly appreciate the long standby time.
Peter M. Rogers
April 5, 2012 at 1:33 PM
Thanks, Alan. We like the fact that GE Security uses the 24-hour battery in every alarm control panel they make - one more reason why we use GE Security equipment. It happens that the National Fire Code (NFPA 72) requires the 24 hour-hour battery in any single or two-family home that has even one smoke or heat sensor included in the system. That's right: according to the National Fire Code, adding even one monitored fire detection device to an intrusion system makes it a fire alarm, technically speaking - and the requirement for the 24-hour battery comes into play. Want to take a wild guess how many residential alarm system have at least one smoke or heat sensor, but still use the 4-hour battery? I'd bet millions of home alarm systems are violating the National Fire Code right now - and they were installed by the biggest names in the business.
Alan Draper
April 5, 2012 at 5:05 AM
Supposed to be "Good ARTICLE and comments"...
Peter M. Rogers
April 5, 2012 at 1:26 PM
Ah - thanks. I thought that was what you meant. Appreciate your comments here, as always.
Alan Draper
April 5, 2012 at 5:05 AM
Supposed to be "Good ARTICLE and comments"...
Peter M. Rogers
April 5, 2012 at 1:26 PM
Ah - thanks. I thought that was what you meant. Appreciate your comments here, as always.
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