NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Peter Hart noticed something out of place stuck on the window of his Fresh Meadows, Queens, home: a piece of black electrical tape.

“The first initial (thought) was, What the heck is it?” Hart told CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco. “And then I said, ‘You know what? Tape. Could that be someone that’s marking the house?'”

Suspicious, Hart turned to the Internet and found that electrical tape can be a sneaky trick used by burglars to tell whether or not residents are home.

Burglars put a piece of electrical tape on your door or window. If they return and see the tape is gone, then they know you’re home. But if the tape is still there when they return, they’ll assume you’re not home and see that as an opportunity to break in.

Home security expert Dan Coleman said the trick is becoming more common, along with one very similar to it.

“They might put a UPS or a FedEx sticker on the door of a house and come back a day or two later to see if it’s been removed,” said Coleman of Creative Solutions Investigative Services.

Clever thieves are even trolling the social media sites Instagram and Twitter, searching for hashtags like “vacation” or information revealing people’s travel plans.

“People are constantly documenting what they’re doing and where they’re going. They’re in the airport, and they’re taking a picture of their family,” Coleman said.

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