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January 27, 2022

Where to hide valuables so a thief will never find them

Where to hide valuables so a thief will never find them

We’ve been looking at a pretty interesting trend amongst UK homeowners – it turns out almost 32.6% of you prefer to take your most precious possessions on holiday with you, rather than leave them unattended at home. And we’re not just talking MacBooks and iPads (although they did put in a solid showing). Many of you also told us you wouldn’t leave home without certain sentimental items – as opposed to those with high financial value – photo albums, favourite childhood toys, heirlooms, even the ashes of loved ones and beloved pets. Some of you reported flying with commemorative plates, clocks, vases or, apparently an entire safe full of documents (!).

But at Locket, we’re all about helping you protect the things you care about. And as such, it would be remiss of us not to point out that, as a rule, you’re much more likely to be robbed while on holiday than at home. In the UK, you have about a 1% chance of being burgled in an average year; in contrast, one study found that holiday-goers had about a 0.9% chance of being robbed per day. Somewhere between 17% and 20% of people have had valuables stolen from hotel rooms (and bear in mind, we spend a lot less time on holiday than we do at home – generally less than 10% of the year). Often thieves were able to enter the room by simply telling reception they had lost their key – in some cases, they were even able to talk staff into opening safes because they’d “forgotten the code”. Hotels, and travel in general, mean lots of anonymous, transient footfall; often mixed with alcohol consumption, tiredness, distraction… all of which create a target-rich environment for thieves.

Now, if you’re carrying items with sentimental value because it brings you comfort to hold them close, that’s perfectly valid and don’t let us stop you. But if you’re carrying them with you because you feel it will be safer, the data tells a different story and you may wish to reconsider.

So we got to thinking: say you took our advice and left those items at home instead. Where could you hide them to make sure a would-be thief would never find them? Let’s dive in.

Safe as houses

Ever seen a movie where someone moves aside a painting to reveal a hidden safe? Turns out that’s a real thing, and the real-life ones are even sneakier.

That’s right: you can get safes that are disguised as common household objects. Yes, they’re essentially impossible to detect with the naked eye. Yes, they do make you feel like an international super-spy every single time you use them.

Our favourite is the safe disguised as a standard power socket. It’s completely indistinguishable from a regular power socket – it even has functional, moving switches. That is, until you insert a key into the earth pin (the top one) and it swings open to reveal the 95cm2 metal safety deposit box hidden behind. It occupies the same footprint as a standard “two-gang” electrical socket, so if you’re handy you can cut a 60mm x 124mm hole in one of your internal walls and install it yourself. You’ll need 129 mm depth to install it too. Most walls in modern houses are 23-30cm thick nowadays – you can measure the thickness of yours easily at a door or window. If you’re at all unsure, though (for example – do you know how to make sure there isn’t a water pipe or an electrical cable where you’re about to cut?) then get a handyman or an electrician to install it for you.

This kind of safe is ideal for protecting smaller valuables like jewellery, cash, car keys or passports. There are also safes disguised as wall clocks – which double as a functional clock, so you won’t miss your flight – or safes hidden in books, complete with a realistic trim of paper pages. You can choose from classics like Alice in Wonderland, Les Miserables, Pride and Prejudice or (not quite as entertaining to read) the dictionary.

But we find the wall outlet the best, because there are many outlets already in your home to hide amongst; they’re below a searcher’s eyeline, very discreet and essentially invisible. Also, crucially, it’s fixed in place: even if someone discovers it, they can’t easily take it away to open at their leisure. All locks can be removed with time and tools; their main purpose is to introduce a delay deterrent.

If you’re looking for something for larger valuables like laptops, there are options – such as this safe disguised as an air vent. These work best if your home already has air vents of some kind (e.g. you have air conditioning) – otherwise there’s a chance it will stand out. For the strongest illusion, consider where a vent would logically be found – a kitchen or bathroom, for example.

Another option is an under-floor safe, which isn’t technically disguised as a household object but instead lives in a floor or ceiling cavity, ideally covered by a sofa or something. If you’re storing documents or money, consider putting them in a fire-proof document bag too. They usually protect your documents from water damage, rodents and insects, too.

Heinz Meanz Safez?

On that note, you can also get extremely realistic “stash cans” which look exactly like household objects but unscrew to reveal a hidden compartment. You can get cans of deodorant, air freshener, water bottles, Heinz beanz, or indeed Heinz tomato soup or spaghetti hoops. There are hairbrushes and plant pots and candles and hair scrunchies and even one that just looks like a big old rusty bolt that you can leave in your garage somewhere.

We’re not quite so persuaded by these as true hidden safes. For starters, they very rarely lock – meaning you’re purely relying on what security experts call “security through obscurity”. If someone finds them, the game is up; and there’s a non-zero chance of somebody picking up that can of coke in the fridge and wondering why it rattles. They’re typically very small and only really suitable for cash or jewellery. Some of them have off-brands on the label, like “Bepsi” or “Heims”, presumably to avoid being sued – but you don’t want details like that when you’re aiming to hide in plain sight. Overall, they’re not a terrible option… but if you’re going to store your valuables somewhere unlocked and not fixed, why not just use one of the DIY options below?

DIY (Disguise It Yourself)

If you’re satisfied with the “security through obscurity” approach and not concerned about backing it up with a lock, you can DIY a lot of these options to save money and avoid immersion-breaking details like off-brands. For example, you can use a standard wall outlet as a “wall outlet safe” by simply installing a sufficiently deep backbox behind it. To be clear: we’re not suggesting you open a LIVE electrical socket and store things behind it. Electricity is made of angry bees and can make you die. We’re suggesting you buy an extra-deep backbox like this 70mm one, slap a regular electrical socket over it, and simply don’t connect it to the mains. We’ve also seen a version where you cut the back out of the backbox and store items directly in the wall cavity (be sure you can reach to retrieve them!).

You can make any can into a “stash can” by cutting the top off with a can opener, then gluing a smaller container inside it – an empty salt shaker or vitamin bottle works well. Here’s a video of somebody doing just that with an empty coke can. If you’re doing a spot of painting, consider keeping one of the paint cans. Let it dry out for several days, and then you can keep it in your garage as a secret stash.

Your home is also already full of great hiding places. An average house has upward of 3,000 separate components, and that’s not counting furniture or personal possessions. Considering a burglar is typically only inside your home for 8-12 minutes (albeit, that’s data from outside the UK, but it gives us a yardstick), there’s just no way for them to search everywhere. You can hide valuables under the bag in a cereal box, or under the dust-bag in a vacuum cleaner (if you’ve still got the kind that takes them). Reformed burglars themselves say they’d hide their valuables in food packets (think like, car keys in the rice) and to forget drawers, dressers, or even inside pots and pans (apparently a common trick).

Larger items could be hidden behind the kickboards in your kitchen or bathroom. Kickboards, in case you didn’t know, are the boards that extend from your cabinets down to where they meet the floor. And they’re almost always removable, to allow you to do things like more easily replace the flexible hoses on your dishwasher and washing machine (which only last about five years, and are a very common cause of water damage in the home). The easiest way to remove your kickboards is with a suction lifter – one or more strong suction cups with handles, often with a bar between them. If you’ve ever seen a car windscreen replaced, it’s the tool they use to pick up the big sheet of glass.

It’ll be dusty back there, but give it a good sweep and find a plastic tray that fits – the kind that slide under your bed are usually just about perfect. Ideally it will have a lid to keep water and humidity out, and consider one of those fire-and-water-proof wallets in there as well. And hey presto – a pre-made, obscure hiding place, that typically requires a tool to open. The same trick works for the fascia on a bathtub. Who would think of looking there? Just take care when you remove it as they can crack if flexed excessively. While you’re at it, check for any signs the fixtures are starting to leak – both the fresh water and the wastewater side of things. If you can see any corrosion or a chalky build-up, it’s time to replace them (or get a plumber in). Statistically, a water leak is far more likely to ruin your holiday than a burglary!

Summing up…

Our goal with this article – as a sort of practical follow-up to our earlier research – was to illustrate that securing precious things within your home doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated or even visible. There are countless places you can hide something in your home with essentially no chance it will ever be discovered by a burglar – and many of them are free!

But the best home protection schemes revolve around implementing lots of small, easy-to-follow measures that add up to more than the sum of their parts. From here, we’d suggest checking out our guide on how to protect your home from burglary by “thinking like a thief”, which also includes many free and easy measures backed by science and the police. You could also read up on the changing nature of house fires and how to prevent them, or consider that a water leak is by far the most likely thing to damage your home while you’re away and see what you can do to avoid one.

You could also join Locket, the home insurance provider that helps you to actively protect your home with smart technology, and smart guides like this one. Happy travels!