For as much as we like to think so, burglary might not be as random as you’ve been led to believe.

Sure, being a victim might be pure bad luck – with criminals picking your house or neighborhood to case out of all in the world – but the act of the burglary is usually a result of a “window of opportunity” spotted by those watching your home and your every movement.

One positive is that all it might take to dissuade a burglar from making their move is throwing them a curveball—something as simple as returning to the house when a criminal thought you’d be gone, or simply leaving a light on or showing your face, etc.

Meaning, in order to be able to throw a wrench in a robber’s plans, it goes beyond adding garage door theft protection—you need to also be in the know; you need to have a sense that something is amiss.

Here are some tips.

How to tell if a burglar is watching your house

1. Car or foot traffic is off-hours or heavier than usual.

We will start with the most obvious sign, but still one many people don’t spend enough time paying attention to.

A casing can be anything from an unfamiliar car slowly driving your neighborhood more regularly, or even one indiscreetly parked nearby. What’s the best way to monitor? While there are video doorbell pros and cons, along with advantages and drawbacks with most other automated security measures, having something in place is generally better than having nothing in place.

Even if you don’t see anyone sitting in that car when it’s parked, the criminal can easily be out on foot, walking up and down the block…either posing as a member of the neighborhood, perhaps with a dog, or maybe as a solicitor. Their windows can also be tinted, making it near impossible for you to truly see if someone is sitting inside or not.

So, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with passersby. Anyone who actually lives in the neighborhood should at least give the courtesy of saying hello. Hopefully you’d be able to steer the conversation towards where they live, how long they’ve been there, etc. The goal here is obviously keeping an eye and ear out for anything that seems off.

2. Door-to-door solicitation is a little more forced or awkward than usual.

Have you noticed an uptick in solar companies knocking on your door and trying to sell you something? How about those slinging magazine subscriptions or household products?

Sadly, these might not be legitimate companies at all, with these “salesmen” simply trying to see if you’re home or not at certain hours of the day, or if you have dogs who bark when they knock.

Some may even ask to enter the home, perhaps to check out your carpets so they can prove the product they’re pedaling can solve a problem. When inside, they may be taking inventory of what’s available should they come back and burglarize the home.

3. More printed marketing materials being littered about.

To go along with the above, any one of those flyers, pamphlets, brochures, or leaflets left on your door or porch could have been left by criminals “testing the water.”

Now, you’ll drive yourself crazy thinking every realtor or gutter cleaner is a criminal front…

So, if you’re not going to use this as a tip that a burglar is watching your house, at least make it a point to pick these marketing materials up when you see them. If you are in fact out on vacation, make sure the person looking over the house for you understands that collecting these handouts is just as important as taking in the mail or feeding the pets.

4. Something just seems off; as if someone has been poking around.

Isn’t it weird how you can usually tell when someone has been in your room? Whether it was a parent putting your laundry away or pesky sibling rummaging through your stuff when you were younger, your senses usually help you take notice when even the smallest of things is just slightly out of place.

Well, the same goes for your drive and walkways, front and backyards, etc. Criminals are as bold as they’ve ever been, leading some to simply walk up and down the driveway looking for a key box or extra key under a rock or stuck in another hiding place.

Follow your instincts, and don’t brush off anything that seems out of place. If you must keep an extra key outside, go to great lengths to ensure it is nowhere to be found, and don’t forget to rotate the hiding spot…especially if you suspect said hiding spot has been compromised.

5. Someone begging to enter your home, for one emergency or another.

While less common, some criminals pose as a person in need, knocking on your door and begging to enter for whatever reason. Perhaps it’s a medical emergency, or maybe they say they’re being followed and thus need to use your home. Some might even say it’s an “emergency” of a different kind and need to use the restroom.

Whatever the situation, your judgment will be tested…can you really deny someone who is being chased a safe haven in your home? I, of course, can’t give you advice on this one way or the other, but just know such situations are rare.

If it is in fact a criminal trying to gain entry into your home, they might not even choose to strike or steal at that time. As mentioned above, they may just be there for research purposes this time around.

6. Unusual requests by seemingly “confused” visitors.

This one follows the same pattern as a few tactics mentioned above, but it’s worth pointing out on its own.

Have you had anyone knock on your door looking for someone who didn’t live there? Or maybe they had a “package” for a name you didn’t recognize? Either way, it could be a criminal, again, attempting to build some knowledge on when your home is occupied throughout the day, or if you have guard pets or cameras.

The best tip? Common sense and awareness.

Unfortunately, we’ve reached a period in time where few can be trusted. Some of the nicest, quietest neighborhoods are being targeted, forcing many residents out of their comfort zone and into the mental headspace that yes, burglary is a real possibility.

And in the event of regular, power company-mandated power outages, there could be an increase in thieves targeting homes with downed alarm systems. (Do you know how long your house alarm battery lasts?)

Keep doors and windows secure, learn how a garage door lock works to protect you when you’re away and sleeping, and beyond all else, keep your eyes open, and don’t take chances.