I’m 26 years old. I like to think that my parents prepared me to the best of their ability to send me off into the real world when I turned 18. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve used a lot of lessons that my parents have taught me, along with lessons I have learned on my own. These are things I’m glad I learned at a young age, or they’re things I wish I had known. I’m still learning a lot, and I’d like to share some of these lessons to hopefully help others. This month, I’m tackling how to protect yourself from a burglary.
I grew up in the tiny town of Long Beach, Wash. and then went to Bellingham when I was 18 to attend Western. I stayed in Bellingham for three years after I graduated until I moved to Kent in the fall of 2015. I’ve been fortunate enough to have never felt unsafe in my home or my surroundings. Long Beach and Bellingham have always felt safe, with a few exceptions. Like any other town, minor crimes happened. Even so, I never felt unsafe.
A few weeks ago, I came home with my roommate and two friends after a fun-filled afternoon of watching Finding Dory and getting dinner. The first thing we noticed was that our door was open. Everything was the same in our living room, but as we got into our bedrooms, we realize we had been burglarized.
If you have ever been burglarized, I am sorry. It is a terrible feeling. Whoever burglarized us went through all of our drawers and dumped everything out of them, looking for valuables or drugs (they should have known we were the wrong people to search for drugs, my room has glitter, pink and a Justin Timberlake poster on the wall, and I still take Flinstone Vitamins), we’re assuming. We felt so violated, knowing someone looked through our things, they know what we look like, where we work, who are friends are and the things we like. They got away with some cash, a backpack and my two laptops. One of them being a MacBook Air I’ve only had for two years. The worst part about it is that I had thousands of pictures on my laptop of vacations I’ll probably never go on again, pictures from my grandpa’s funeral, and so many memories I’ll never get back.
After going through all of this, I definitely came out learning a lot of lessons that many people should know to help them protect themselves and hopefully make a break in easier to deal with.
When my roommate and I moved into our apartment, they made us get renter’s insurance before we could move in. We were annoyed we had to get it because it was one more bill we did not want to pay. It was about $160 a year and it covers my roommate and (I think it’s a little bit extra to add extra people, but not much) in case of a break in, fire, flooding. I can’t stress this enough: if you’re renting, get renter’s insurance.
I wasn’t sure how filing a claim worked but I just answered a few questions about the situation, described what was stolen and gave them the case number I got from the police officer that helped us. With that information, they were able to assess how much money they could send us to replace our stolen items. After our $250 deductible, we received enough money to cover most of the stolen items.
My roommate and I feel very unsafe living in our apartment, so we are looking for a new place. Until then, we are doing as much as we can to protect ourselves. The first thing we did was get an alarm system. It was under $30 and it came with an alarm for three windows and one for the front door. If a window is opened, the loudest, most obnoxious alarm goes off. When the door is open, an alarm will sound if the correct code isn’t put in. So if we’re home and someone tries to break in, we will know. If we’re not home, our entire apartments will hear the alarm and hopefully call the police. The next tip is simple: get an alarm system.
We put a piece of wood in front of the door when my roommate and I are both home, the piece of wood is so strong that even if someone gets the door open, they won’t be able to push the door open. I put my whole weight on the door, and it wouldn’t budge. We also put a piece of wood in our window sills and sliding glass door for the same reason. When we are not home, we have the front office people make their rounds and I also have neighbors that keep their eye on our place. Here’s the next tip: put barriers in front of doors or windows, it takes less than a second to move them, and can help keep intruders out.
When I told my brother about the break in, he mentioned I needed to go through all of my accounts and change the passwords to everything I had saved on my laptop. Lucky for me, I never save any passwords to anything important. That is my next tip: never save your passwords. I know… it’s annoying having to put in your password every single time to accounts you use frequently, but I would rather take a second to put in a password than to have someone get into all of my important accounts. I never save passwords on any sort of electronic device for the very reason that I’m afraid of losing whatever it is, and having someone access my information. I do sometimes save them for accounts that aren’t too important, like my internet account. They can’t change anything on the account without them sending me an email or giving me a phone call. I also never save credit card information on accounts.
Speaking of saving things, here’s my next tip: backup all of your files onto an external hard drive. If I would have done that, I would still have all of my pictures. I know it takes some time to do these things, but I regret not doing that.
I hope that a break-in never happens to anyone. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely. I never thought it would happen to me, but it can happen to anyone. I hope many of you will take my advice and protect yourself, even if it seems like a lot of work. Like my brother always says, it’s better to have something and not need it, than to need something and not have it. Like renter’s insurance or an alarm system.
Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of the series “Before becoming an adult, I wish I knew…”. The goal is to publish more tips and tricks on various topics during the second week of every month. Stayed tuned for next month when she breaks down how credit cards work.
If you have ideas or suggestions you would like to see Ana Karen discuss, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.