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What to do if you get burgled

Stay calm. Here’s what you do next.

Burglar breaking in

It’s no surprise that being burgled could be a traumatic experience.

According to the Office of National Statistics, the most common reactions to being burgled are anger (58%) annoyance (57%) shock (52%) and fear (40%)*.

Around a third of burglary victims had difficulty sleeping, and almost three in 10 suffered from anxiety or panic attacks.

So, the emotional toil a burglary can take shouldn’t be underestimated.

But help is at hand.

Here’s what you do if someone has broken into your house

1. Phone the police and report the burglary

Do this straight away – the sooner you report a crime, the greater chance the crime might be solved. 

If you suspect that the burglar is still inside, don’t go in! Instead, call the police from outside your property, preferably from the safety of your car or a neighbour’s home

If the burglary has already happened and there’s no clear danger, call the non-emergency line on 101. The police should give you a crime reference number. You’ll need this if you decide to make a home insurance claim for any theft or damage.

If you’re in your home and someone breaks in, it’s important to stay calm and not let adrenaline cloud your judgement.

So long as it’s safe to do so, leave the house as quickly as you can. Avoid confronting the burglar – nothing that they could take is worth more than risking your life.

If you can’t escape safely, find somewhere secure to hide – preferably where you can lock yourself in.

Call 999 and explain the situation as calmly as you can.

If you’re afraid that speaking might alert the burglar, you can call 999 and then press 55. This will open the Silent Solutions line.

Here, the police will be aware that you’re in an emergency but aren’t able to speak.

2. Don’t touch anything!

You might feel that you need to clean or tidy away anything disturbed by the burglar to make things feel right again.

As much as you can, please rein this feeling in. A burglar might have left forensic evidence at the scene of the crime that could be vital to catching and prosecuting them.

Scene of Crime Officers will need to look for fingerprints, footprints, tool marks, torn fabric etc.

For your best chance of catching the burglar or recovering your stolen goods, it's best not to disturb anything inside or outside of the property.

3. Inform your bank

If any debit cards or credit cards are missing, inform your bank or credit card company straight away.

They should put an immediate block on your cards being used and then issue replacements.

You might also need to do this if any digital storage device (computer, USB, mobile phone etc.) has been stolen that contains your financial data.

If your passport or driving licence are missing, tell the relevant authority as soon as possible.

4. Take note of any stolen or damaged property

Go through your property room by room and make a comprehensive list of everything that has been damaged or stolen.

Note down as much detail as you can about them - this includes serial numbers and any identifying marks if possible. Don’t forget to list any digital media e.g. eBooks, downloaded video games and films.

It might be worth checking if any of these commonly stolen items are missing**:

Item % of burglary victims that said this item was stolen
Garden/outdoor items
Sentimental items

Take photos of any damage, and find any receipts that might help prove ownership.

Both the police and your home insurance provider might need these details. It could help speed up any home insurance claims you make.

5. Contact your home insurance company

Assuming you have a home insurance policy, you should be able to claim for stolen or damaged items (contents insurance) or property damage (buildings insurance).

Contact your insurer as soon as possible and let them know what’s happened. They’ll be able to guide you through the process and complete their claim form.

This is when you’ll need the list of stolen/damaged property and the crime reference number.

Dig out any receipts for the stolen times you might have and damaged items as a loss adjuster might want to see them.

For more information, check out our guide on how to claim on your home insurance policy.

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6. Secure your home

Doors or windows damaged during the break-in should be fixed immediately.

Also, police attending your burglary should point out any obvious weaknesses in your home security. If not, it’s worth asking them.

Consider this as an opportunity to upgrade your home fortifications to make it harder for a repeat visit from a burglar.

Some security upgrades you could make include:

  • Upgrading your door locks to five-lever mortice deadlocks. Go for the ones that comply with British Standard (BS) 3621. These are considered among the most secure by home insurance companies.

  • Make sure your patio door locks and window locks get a similar upgrade. Burglars might use any point of entry to get into your house.

  • Install or upgrade your burglar alarm to act as a deterrent.

8. Replace your possessions

Your home insurance payout (minus any excess) usually should be one of the following:

  • New for old. This is where the insurance company covers the full cost of replacing any item that’s stolen.

  • Wear and tear. This is where age and condition are considered. You might not get the full value to buy a new version of a stolen item.

If you’re replacing something of particularly high value, like a laptop or bicycle, it might be worth looking into getting specific security upgrades for those.

9. Get the support you need

As burglary can be a traumatic event, the police might refer your case to Victim Support, or you can contact them yourself.

Victim Support’s volunteers offer free counselling, help and advice to victims of crime.

Even if you think you’re fine after the incident, it could be worth getting in touch with them anyway. Here’s where you can reach them:

10. Claim victim compensation

The police will inform you if they catch the burglar.

If an arrest results in a conviction, the court could order the offender to pay victim compensation to cover loss or damage. 

But you must tell the police in advance if you wish to claim for this. For more information, chat to the officer in charge of your case.

If the court sends the burglar to prison, they won’t normally order them to pay compensation.

How can I deter burglars?

Prevention is better than cure, as they say. Making your home a burglar no-go zone should help reduce your risk of a break-in.

Here are some things you could consider:

  • Invest in smart home security

  • Keep your doors and windows locked – even when you’re home

  • Be mindful of what’s on display outside your house or through your window

  • Avoid telling people you don’t trust well that you’re going on holiday - or on social media

  • Secure important and hard to replace items.

For more tips, check out our guide on how to protect yourself from burglary.

*ONS statistics April 2019 – March 2020

**Figures taken from omnibus research carried out by One Poll on behalf of Confused.com. This was an online poll of 2,000 UK homeowners and renters (nationally representative sample). The research was conducted between 4 and 6 May 2021.