Christmas is the time for good cheer and jollity, but for some people, it is the time for dealing with theft and break-ins.
December is a month when burglaries are rife because of all the extra goodies in the house. As a result, insurance claims rise accordingly. Most of us are out and about far more than usual over the coming few weeks. We’re visiting relatives, travelling around the country or simply enjoying a few drinks in the pub.
According to research from PhoneWatch, a quarter of homes are left unoccupied during December evenings, making them a perfect target for thieves.
Households typically contain gifts worth a total of €500, said managing director Eoin Dunne. “In the run up to Christmas, we can get carried away with the fun and excitement and forget some basic safety tips. “Homes are more likely to be empty, and contain lots of valuable gifts, so extra vigilance is required to make sure your home is safe and secure”.
So, what can you do to help protect your belongings?
A surprising 59pc of homes are not alarmed when unoccupied. We are so busy rushing about, kids coming and going, that it is easy to forget to switch on the alarm every time we go out. However, it is absolutely vital to do so. If you do not, it can cost you an insurance claim, especially if you have been given a premium discount based on having a monitored alarm. If you make a claim, the insurer will check the alarm was set, and triggered, or it can refuse to pay. So make sure everyone in the family remembers to turn it on if they are the last ones to leave the house.
Even though most of us have expensive gifts in the house at Christmas, particularly lightweight stuff burglars like such as phones and laptops, four in 10 of us take no additional security measures. We leave stuff lying around on mantelpieces, in bedrooms, or, most inviting of all, under the Christmas tree, providing a ready-wrapped gift for thieves. Any burglar worth his salt would find everything of value in just a few minutes.
People think they’re being clever at hiding items like jewellery and cash, but wardrobes are the favourite “hiding” place for people, with car boots coming a close second. Burglars know this. Try to think of somewhere a little less obvious. There are fake food cans you can buy that look real, but have a screw top lid for hiding valuables. Hiding them among your baked bean tins may be a good idea.
Put wrapped empty boxes under your tree if you want the illusion of gifts as a decoration, but hide the real ones elsewhere, and discard packaging. Leaving an empty iPad box on top of your recycling bin is a giveaway. Finally, do not keep lots of cash at home. Use your debit card for purchases over Christmas.
We love posting pictures of holiday locations on Facebook to make our friends and family jealous. But it’s an open invitation to a burglar canvassing the area, especially if you’re lazy about public pages, and location settings. So, if you are away from home over Christmas, keep it to yourself.
Fire hazards abound at Christmas. Who doesn’t love scented candles, fairy lights and open fires at this time of year? But safety must come first, especially when there are children around. Use pretty lanterns to put candles in, or place them in the fireplace, surrounded by wood with a fire-guard in front. Make sure your tinsel and other decorations have approved fire safety/CE marks. Christmas trees and outdoor lights should be switched off at night, preferably with the sockets switched off. Apart from anything else, it saves on your electricity bill.
Johnathan Hehir, MD of insuremyhouse.ie, said: “Some home insurance policies give an automatic uplift in contents cover, typically 10pc, at certain key times, such as weddings and Christmas”. So if your contents are insured for €25,000, it might typically go to €27,500 for a short period.
Also, if you are going away this Christmas, check the weather forecast. It might be worth leaving the heating on at a low level to avoid burst pipes.
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