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Sponsor: 5 safety tips for living by yourself

More people live alone now than at any other time in history. According to a recent New York Times study in major American cities — Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and Minneapolis — 40 percent or more of all households contain a single occupant. In Manhattan and in Washington, nearly one in two households is occupied by a single person.

Living alone comes with the perks of added freedom, privacy and healthy self-reliance. Living alone can also make it easier to engage in social activities, thus making it almost twice as likely that a single person will be out of their home on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, the benefits of a single occupancy also bring safety and security risks that are staggeringly more common than those who share occupancy. For example, did you know that 49.7 percent of break-ins happen to single people?

That's why our sponsor, SimpliSafe, wanted to share these five helpful tips so you won't need to worry.

1. Invest in technology to keep you safe

Install a home security system to alert you and authorities of suspicious or threatening activity, whether you're home or away. Rest assured that both you and your belongings are safe with 24/7 monitoring and remote management. Don't forget to arm your system and always lock your doors (including when you're home)! This is one of the best ways to deter intruders.

A home security system is a great deterrent to would-be burglars. In fact, the research out of the University of North Carolina, funded by the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation (AIREF), under the auspices of the Electronic Security Association (ESA), reveals 84 percent of burglars said if they were confronted with a home security system they would not attack the home. Even if you live in a low-crime area, you’ll rest easier at night knowing your abode is protected by a monitored home security system.

The solution is our sponsor SimpliSafe. It's an alarm system designed from the ground up to counter the problems with traditional alarms. Other alarm companies charge you more than $40 a month and make you sign a three-year contract. SimpliSafe costs $14.99 a month and has no annual contracts for monitoring. You only pay as long as you want and can cancel anytime.

Beyond monitoring, other alarm companies charge $100 to $500 to install the alarm system, and once it's installed it isn't going anywhere. With SimpliSafe, the only cost you pay is for the hardware, and you can build your own system that fits your needs and budget.

Even better, SimpliSafe can easily move with you from house to house, or even to an apartment. That's because SimpliSafe doesn't require any drilling or complicated installation.

Don't forget that installing an alarm system can save you up to 20 percent on your homeowners insurance, so you will get some of that money back. And if you buy SimpliSafe today, you get FREE shipping, plus a FREE keychain remote worth $25 when you use promo code KIM.

2. Fix possible security risks

Before you unpack the first moving box, walk around your new apartment or home and look for security risks. Does the deadbolt work? Are lights functioning inside and outside of your apartment, especially in parking lots or garages? Do doors and windows shut and lock properly? If you discover a possible security problem, insist the landlord fix it immediately.

If you’re a first-time homeowner, keep in mind that you no longer have a landlord to rely on; you have to take responsibility for your safety. Identify security threats and get them rectified immediately.

3. Don't promote that you're alone

Don't advertise that you live alone, especially when dealing with strangers. Burglars are known to drive through neighborhoods looking for signs that a house is unoccupied, such as an overstuffed mailbox, flyers on the front door, tall grass and garbage cans at the curb for days on end.

Also, if you’re going out of town, ask a friend or neighbor to care for your home and consider putting interior lights on timers. Specific tips include:

  • Use your last name and first initial in phonebook listings and on your mailbox.
  • Avoid using "I" in your answering machine message. "No one can come to the phone right now," leaving your living status ambiguous.
  • Be careful what you say on social media, don't advertise vacations, weekends away or nights out, as this screams "vacant house" to followers.
  • Invite a friend over if a stranger will be entering your home. Or if you expect deliveries, service calls, repair work, etc.

4. Research crime in your area

Living by yourself means you must be especially aware of your surroundings and trust your gut. If a person makes you feel uncomfortable or you witness a suspicious situation, don’t hesitate to call the police. You may also want to alert your neighbors and inform your landlord. One of the best ways to help protect yourself when living alone is by being aware of the types of crime happening in your neighborhood.

Call your local law enforcement agency and ask about crime trends, or use a crime mapping website such as CrimeReports. This site and similar ones will tell you what type of crime is reported in your area, give you the option of signing up for crime alerts, and more.

5. Use a personal security app

Whether you’re headed out to meet friends or simply walking from your apartment to your car, downloading a personal security app is a smart move for anyone who lives alone.

There are several personal security apps on the market, and a number of them are completely free. In addition to offering loud alarms, you can quickly activate it if you feel threatened, some apps also offer GPS tracking. Set the app to tracking mode and if you don’t get to your predetermined destination, your emergency contacts are alerted and notified of your location.

Whether you’re living solo in a city apartment complex or a house in the suburbs, use these smart tips to take a proactive approach to your personal security and remember: just because you live alone, doesn't mean you have to live in fear.

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