This time of year, everyone loves Christmas gifts: friends, family, loved ones and…thieves.
You read that correctly: holiday season is a time of giving, but unfortunately for some people, it’s also a time of taking. You could be the victim of the latter if you’re not careful.
That’s why you should always do your utmost to protect yourself, your vehicle and your home from getting Scrooged by the criminal element.
Here are some simple, common sense, home security and car security suggestions:
Vehicles: (Lock ‘Em Up)
“During this holiday season, lock your vehicles and your homes and keep any valuables out of sight,” says Constable Talya Natyshak of Windsor Police Service.
Another no-no: never leave a running vehicle unattended.
“Leaving their keys in the ignition is definitely an opportunity for a thief to take that vehicle,” she explains. “We see several of these incidents every year and it’s not only a nuisance for the person whose vehicle is taken, but a very dangerous situation for the community. People who steal these cars may not have a driver’s license. We often see these stolen vehicles involved in additional crimes. Keep those keys on you. “
Hide Your Valuables!
On a shopping trip and buying personalized gifts? Don’t leave them visible to temptation.
“These are crimes of opportunity,” Constable Natyshak asserts. “These would-be thieves may not have even been planning to commit a crime that day, but they see that item sitting in an unlocked vehicle and they decide to take it. We want to prevent that.
“If you have larger purchases, save those until the end of your shopping trip. If you have to put those purchases in your vehicle while you continue to shop, put them in the trunk. We would even recommend getting in your car and moving parking spots. Make it look as though you’re leaving the area.”
“If your wallet gets taken, thieves can run up quite an amount of money and purchases very quickly on your credit and debit cards,” notes Natyshak. “We’ve seen a card used at several different stores within a very short period of time.
“And your garage door definitely gives access to the criminal element, especially if your garage offers access into your house. Keep on them on your person.”
Home Alone: Enlist Thy Neighbour
Porch pirates are out in full force, so keep an eye out for any potential deliveries you may be expecting.
“Make sure that someone will be home when packages arrive or that someone is available to retrieve them for you,” Constable Natyshak advises. “Don’t leave them on your porch unattended for any length of time.”
The other option is to arrange a pick-up location for when you’re available to pick them up.
“This is a great preventative measure for theft,” says Natyshak.
A recent survey by FedEx found that one out of three online shoppers in Canada say they’ve had a package stolen off their doorstep, as reported by CTV News Toronto on December 9.
Each store or online seller may have different rules around this, so buyer beware – although, if you didn’t receive an item, you should be entitled to a full refund or replacement.
Install A Home Security System
Lauren Snyder-Gault, Care Consultant with Leamington-based SecurityONE, a locally owned and operator that offers 24-hour, 365-day-a-year monitoring of your home, office or medical alert of a loved one, says home alarm systems can also offer peace of mind as well as home security.
“It’s a break-in deterrent, “ says Snyder-Gault. “When someone has an alarm system, the security sticker on the door indicates that they have one and an intruder would avoid the home.
“The peace of mind that they’d have is that they could walk away from their house, lock the door and have the alarm system activated so that they know they’re secure. When they return home that night, their house will still be the same as they left it because the alarm system has protected them.”
Neighbourhood Watch: Recruiting Friendly Eyes
If you don’t have one, this might be a good time to start up a Neighbourhood Watch program.
Other programs to protect homes include Neighbourhood Watch.
“This is a great program,” Natyshak praises. “Nobody knows a neighbourhood better than its residents. People can get ahold of their local police services for tips.”
4 Security Safeguarding Tips:
- LOCK ALL DOORS AND WINDOWS: This month, the only point of entry you want open is your chimney in order to prep for Santa’s arrival. Deadbolts are highly recommended, as are security cameras.
- KEEP KEYS AND OTHER VALUABLES OUT OF SIGHT: You just never know who may be watching. Don’t make it easier for them.
- KEEP YOUR HOME WELL-LIT: If you’re out when it’s dark, make sure all your inside-and-outside lights are on, and your curtains are drawn. Set your internal lighting to a timer.
- PARK IN YOUR DRIVEWAY: Parking on the street sends a message that “this is public property.” A vehicle in the driveway signals that someone is home.
“If you are going out of town, have a trusted family member or neighbour keep an eye on your property, ”Natyshak suggests. “If it snows, have someone pull into your driveway to make tracks. Or have someone shovel your driveway while you’re gone.”
Amy Lynne Armstrong of A&A Insurance also has a great tip when it comes to Christmas-related purchases.
“If you get a new TV, don’t put the box out in the road with the rest of the trash day,” Armstrong says. “That lets the thieves know what’s in your house to steal. If you put a box on one of the new PS5s or X-boxes out on the road, it tweaks criminals as to what may be valuable in your house. You’re making it easier for them.”
If You’re Victimized.
The first step of course, is to call the authorities and file a report. Even if someone steals something off your porch, you are considered the owner.
“Once it’s dropped off, it’s considered delivered,” says A&A Insurance’s Armstrong. “That would be something that you technically have possession of.”
In terms of auto insurance or home insurance, however, you may want to hold back before you make a claim.
“If your vehicle is broken into and things are stolen, that’s actually two claims: One on your house and one on your car for the damage to your car,” Armstrong explains. “If both your insurances are with the same carrier, your highest deductible applies. Most home policies carry $1000 deductible – and usually the value you have in your vehicle is not enough to pay your deductible level. “
If you do decide to proceed with a claim regardless, there are certain down-the-road implications for your actions.
“It’s not going to be worthwhile to approach your insurance because not only do you have that $1000 deductible, but you’re going to lose your claims-free discount for a minimum of three years,” admits Armstrong. “If you have a second claim in five years for anything on your home, you’re now probably going to be non-renewed and will need to have a high-risk insurance.”
So, it’s probably best to ensure that you -as much as you can – prevent these crimes from happening.
Although crime overall in Windsor dropped 15% and there were fewer break-ins in 2019, according to The Windsor Star, you shouldn’t lower your guard.
“It is the little things that can make a big impact in preventing these incidents,” notes Constable Natyshak.
Happy holidays from A&A Insurance!