15 Ways to Keep Your Personal Belongings Safe

With the news that students take an average of £6000 worth of possessions to university, it’s no surprise that criminals will have their eyes on your belongings.  On your person, or in your room, it pays to be careful.

Apparently, the most crime-ridden uni town is Nottingham.  For the least crime, it’s Canterbury.  But wherever you are and however safe you feel, there’s no beating a sensible approach to your prized possessions.

Whether you’re about to embark upon a house-share with mates, or if you’re off to uni for the first time after summer, here are a few ways to keep your possessions firmly in YOUR POSSESSION:

c a m (photo by fishmonk)

c a m (photo by fishmonk)

  1. Don’t leave items on show ANYWHERE – Not on show in the car, not on an exposed windowsill, not in a shared kitchen, not in a room you THINK is secure.  If it’s visible to others, it’s a temptation for thieves.
  2. Mark your belongings – Computers, iPods and expensive electrical equipment is best off marked with your postcode, or similar personal identifier.  Do it with a marker, or with an invisible UV pen.  You could even go as far as customising your stuff with a personal branding or logo.  Don’t be too pretentious though! 😉
  3. Log your mobile phone’s IMEI number – Still not done widely enough, an extra layer of protection for mobile phones is to note your IMEI number so the phone can be switched off when thieves try to use it.  You can find your IMEI number by typing *#06# on your phone.
  4. Make notes and inventory – Keep a list of the items you have.  If you’ve got the time, go the whole hog and take photos of everything too.
  5. Don’t just think of thieves, think of backup protection too – If your hard drive crashes on your computer or laptop, how would you cope?  What about your digital photos and music files?  Make backups of your electronic files so you don’t have to start literally from scratch again.
  6. Lock doors, even if you’re only going away for a few moments – People don’t always see the point in locking up unless they’re going out for a specific longer-term purpose.  But I’ve seen people who go out and don’t come back for hours (they get caught up in something else) and I’ve heard stories where a door was left open for about two minutes while the student went to the communal area of the house, but valuable items were stolen in that time (possibly a ‘friend’ who couldn’t resist the grab, or a visitor who spotted an opportunity…?).  If you’re leaving the area, keep it secure!
  7. Password protect computers, laptops, USB sticks, etc. – Yes, even USB sticks.  If you don’t secure them with password details, they could fall into the wrong hands and your personal data, passwords, and important documents could be compromised.
  8. Insure your belongings – Don’t chance it.  If you’re going to have most of your possessions with you at uni, you’d be daft not to open a contents insurance policy.  Even if the worst does happen, at least you’d be due a payout.  Without insurance, you’re left with absolutely nothing.  A bad move.
  9. Check the safety of properties you may rent – Just how secure is that house your mates want to move in to?  It may have a lot of space and facilities, but if the landlord is lax on security and you can see a number of easy access points, would you really want to keep your personal and expensive belongings in an unsecure area?
  10. Don’t carry (and certainly don’t show off) large amounts of money – You’re an easy target if someone spots you wielding loads of cash.
  11. If you need money for a night out, get it before the event – Sometimes you can’t avoid having a wodge of cash on your person.  If that’s the case, don’t make a habit of going to the cashpoint at the last minute, when everyone knows you’ve suddenly got money on you.  Be a bit more discreet and nobody around you will think about it, or carelessly mention it to anyone else…
  12. Report crimes immediately – Don’t wait to report a crime.  The longer you leave it, the worse things can get for you.  Mobile phones, for instance, are not the only thing you need to worry about.  It’s the fact that thieves can start making expensive calls from the phone.  The later you leave things, the more time thieves get to call.  All calls made before you report a phone stolen will still result in you being charged for the calls.
  13. Secure your items when you go away – Christmas, Easter, and all the long breaks away from your student home are fabulous times for criminals to linger.  If you’re planning a lengthy time away, either take the valuable items with you, or make sure they are stored as securely as possible.  Just locking your door and forgetting about it will not provide enough of a deterrent for a criminal who wants your goods!
  14. Don’t let people follow through in secured areas – In many secure communal areas, you will need a key, swipecard, or passcode to get through.  However, it’s commonplace for people to make their way in, only to be followed by another person and let in without a thought.  If you want to keep your belongings as safe as you can, don’t let anyone in just because they happen to be behind you.  It’s bad enough when people you don’t know are visiting others within the communal area, but at least you won’t add to the problem by blindly letting anyone in off the street.
  15. Don’t leave bikes and outdoor equipment outdoors! – A chain may be the start of securing your items, but your best protection from thieves is to bring your outdoor equipment indoors, if that’s possible.  Out of sight is a much better deterrent than a chain or a lock.

These are just a few ideas.  The main thing is to be alert, take it seriously and don’t let ease trump security.

Keys (photo by victures)

Keys (photo by victures)


  1. Ground floor windows proved the biggest problem when I was in halls of residence. Quite often a laptop or other valuables were nicked in broad daylight. The occupant may have left the room just to go to the kitchen, to come back and find something gone. So I would recommend shutting ground floor windows, when you leave your room, even for 5 mins.

  2. Very good point, Martyn. I’ve heard similar stories at various unis around the country. I didn’t think to list this, so many thanks for mentioning the tip.

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