You arrive home after a vacation, a dinner out with friends, even just from grocery shopping… and find that your home has been broken into. Here are the things to do—and not to do…

Do not go inside. Break-ins often are committed by desperate people with drug addictions and/or mental-health problems who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Back away, and use your cell or a neighbor’s phone to call 911. Wait in your vehicle or other safe place until the police arrive and secure the home.

Inventory your belongings. After the police have made sure the house is empty, walk through and write down missing items—electronics, cash, jewelry, keys, checkbooks, etc. Sometimes it’s days or weeks before people realize something is missing. That’s OK. Just file an update with the police in case your insurance company needs an official record.

Call your homeowner’s insurance to file a claim.

Mitigate identity-theft risk. Even if the criminals didn’t steal personal documents, they may have taken pictures of sensitive information. Freeze your credit. Purchase an identity-theft plan, such as one from my company, Protect Now Pro at

Look after your mental health. Break-ins are more traumatic than people would expect. Your sanctuary has been violated. It is not uncommon for a lingering, almost unnoticed malaise to develop into depression. Be on the lookout for a loss of morale or unusual irritability. If you’re struggling to come to grips with the crime, seek counseling.

Don’t let it happen again…

Replace the locks if they have been picked or opened with a key.

Invest in a home-security system or at least in some security-company signs.

Put up a “Beware of Dog” sign even if you don’t have a dog.

Purchase and install doorjamb reinforcements (look online for “door reinforcement technology”) to make it impossible to kick in your doors. Example: Door Devil (

Password-protect every device, even if it never leaves the house.

Invest in a fireproof safe that can be bolted to the floor for your valuables.

Take an inventory of your belongings. Periodically walk through your house with your phone’s video camera, then e-mail the video to yourself. That will make it easier for you and the insurance company to sort things out if the place is ever broken into again.

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