Although Christmas burglary figures suggest things are now better than ever before, statistics show that you should still be extra vigilant this time of year. If the worst happens and you do come home to find that you have had a break in, you may well depend on your insurance to rescue your happy holiday. However, coverage varies greatly, so do you know whether your home contents policy includes your gifts for Christmas Day?
With only a matter of days of shopping left until the big day, the majority of homes are now filling up with gifts wrapped and ready for loved ones. Obviously, the seasoned burglar knows this only too well, but with increased security and better awareness, you are now as much as three times less likely to fall victim, than you were 20 years ago. But the Grinch is out there, so it still happens. At this time of year, homes are more frequently left empty in the flurry of shopping trips, social events and visits to friends and family. The extended break also allows many of us to take holidays, leaving properties unattended for prolonged periods. Not only that, the potential haul is easy to target; conveniently left in a single place, which for burglars makes it like... well ... Christmas.
Some thieves manage to ruin the family's Christmas without even entering the home. Bikes or bigger presents are often hidden away in the garden shed (or similar) to keep them a surprise. This makes these often poorly secured outbuildings a popular target.
Unfortunately, no property is immune from the threat of intruders. Many of those who’ve experienced a burglary have been forced to admit to themselves (in retrospect), that there was more they could have done to ensure their yuletide was still full of comfort and joy. We don’t all have Macaulay Culkin to hold the fort, so wouldn’t it make sense to adopt the following sensible practices?
Don’t leave gifts on show
It’s always nice to see presents under the tree, but if the tree is near a window, the gifts offer a tempting invite. Try to keep them out of sight. Leaving something on show in a branded bag, or gift wrapped, can give a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘window shopping’.
Leave a light on
In the bleak mid-winter, it gets dark earlier, allowing thieves more time to target homes. Keeping lights on when you’re out makes it harder for thieves to identify which properties are empty. Keeping radio or a TV switched on, makes it even harder still. If you want to go the whole hog, draw the curtains and set a timer for your lights, so that they go on and off in different rooms (using energy saving bulbs of course), to suggest that someone’s at home.
Lock your windows
Outdoor Christmas lights are often powered from a source inside the house and then fed out through a window. Always double check that doors and windows are locked before leaving the house and don’t forget about those windows that have wires running out of them. Failure to do this could not only leave you vulnerable to burglary, but invalidate your insurance policy.
Online shopping is now more commonplace – according to Royal Mail, two billion items were delivered over the Christmas period last year. Never give permission for deliveries to be left outside in a visible place, as it provides a clear signal to would-be burglars that nobody’s at home. Wherever possible, have them delivered somewhere you know they’ll be safe, such as a neighbour, relative or workplace.
Don’t leave discarded boxes of expensive items (e.g. TVs, iPads, desktop computers) outside the house. They simply advertise what’s been added to your home contents and enable burglars to work out where they should focus their attention.
Although you might be in the Christmas spirit, be just as wary as you normally would of any callers you don’t know. A Christmas carol singer might have the voice of an angel, but could be a bogus caller, taking the opportunity to scope out your security.
If you are going away, don't publicise it on Facebook or Twitter. Criminals are now just as social media savvy as the next person, so you should be careful what you announce on these sites. Even if you consider your page to be ‘private’, this information can easily become public knowledge if a ‘friend’ that comments does not protect their privacy as fiercely as you do.
Get a Dog
Apparently, the two things that burglars hate the most are noisy dogs and nosy neighbours. Get both if you can, but if you decide to get a dog, do get them housetrained or they may well cause more damage than the burglar!
And lastly…it’s not just the home
Just as you wouldn’t leave a handbag on display in your vehicle, don’t advertise that you’ve left shopping in the car either. Lock it securely in the boot and, if you can, aim to park in well-lit areas and secure car parks.
With an average of nearly 50 claims made each day over the Christmas period, it is worth checking your home insurance policy. Some providers, such as the Halifax, automatically increase home contents cover by an extra £3,000 over the Christmas period, while others have similar offers. For instance, Aviva, the Post Office and Santander all increase the contents sum insured by 10 per cent automatically during December and the run-up to Christmas.
The small print in your policy can make all the difference to your Christmas, should the worst actually happen. It was reported that one homeowner, who walked downstairs on the morning of 24th December, confident they had everything under control, unfortunately found they had been broken into. All of the presents were gone, including gifts for the children and grandchildren. After they’d called the police, they called their insurance provider, who wasted no time in helping their client. They immediately paid a cash compensation amount into their bank account, which allowed the insured to replace all of the stolen presents, before the shops closed on Christmas Eve. The broken window was quickly repaired and the house returned to normal by 25th December, enabling the family to enjoy a relatively normal Christmas, despite the trauma of the break-in. Without adequate cover, the impact on the victims would, no doubt, have been far worse.
We sincerely hope that you do not have the need to contact your insurer on this matter over the Christmas period. Indeed, everyone here at Aston Charles wishes you a Happy Holiday and a fantastic new year!