National Survey for Trusted Choice® Shows Many Unprepared to Deal with Holiday Theft

Posted on December 22, 2011. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , , |

Trusted Choice® urges families to take steps to protect their gifts, offers safety tips.

Turn the news on during the holiday season and unfortunately and inevitably, there are stories of how a “Grinch” stole someone’s gifts from a car or from under a Christmas tree. Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents and brokers recommend consumers have the proper insurance products in the event that prized possessions are stolen.

“People tend to let their guard down at home because that’s where they are most comfortable and feel safe,” says Rebecca Korach Woan, president and founder of Chartwell Insurance Services in Chicago. “But home is where you should be most vigilant. Thieves know that your most valuable possessions are there and will often prey on unprepared homeowners, especially during the busy holiday season.”

A new national survey by Trusted Choice and IIABA found that 44% of respondents, representing more than 100 million people in the United States, said they have been a victim of burglary, robbery or another form of theft. Of those who said they were victims, only 40% said their stolen property was insured.

“This research proves that no one is immune to theft and, sadly, shows that not enough people have adequate property insurance,” says Madelyn Flannagan, Big “I” vice president of agent development, education and research. “Especially during the holidays, it is very easy to be consumed by the hectic pace of the season, but everyone should take time and put family and home safety at the top of their holiday wish list.”

The survey also found that, of those whose stolen property was insured, about 58% believed they were fully compensated for their losses. This indicates that in most cases, people who are properly insured fare well in the event of a loss.

That figure could be significantly higher if more consumers elected to insure their personal property for replacement cost and not depreciated actual cash value. Doing so typically only adds 10% to 15% to their homeowners insurance premium.

“If you haven’t done it recently, at least make it your New Year’s resolution to meet with a Trusted Choice independent insurance agent to assess your risks and insure that your assets, including your new holiday gifts, are protected,” says Bob Rusbuldt, Big “I” president & CEO. “Independent insurance agents not only advise clients about insurance, but they’re risk and liability experts.”

Trusted Choice independent insurance agents urge consumers to consider these points to protect their assets and gifts during the holiday season in their homes, in their cars, while shopping or anywhere:

At Home

  • Break down boxes—especially for expensive electronics—into small pieces and discard them in non-clear trash bags.
  • Keep gifts hidden from view at outside windows.
  • Lock all doors and windows even when leaving the home for a short period of time.
  • Leave spare keys with a neighbor rather than hiding them outside, such as under doormats or in fake rocks. Burglars are not fooled by most hiding places.
  • Indoor and outdoor lights on an automatic timer should be used whenever possible.
  • When you’re away from your home for an extended period of time, have a neighbor or friend watch your house and pick up newspapers and mail.
  • Beware of strangers at your door. Criminals can pose as couriers delivering gifts or be soliciting donations for fake charitable causes. Ask for identification or information about a charity.
  • Many renters have no insurance to cover their personal belongings in case of fire or theft. Existing homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies should be reviewed to ensure adequate and up-to-date coverage limits of your home or possessions.
  • Valuable gifts such as jewelry, antiques and collectibles may have limited or no coverage under a standard homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy. It is often necessary to purchase an “endorsement” or separate coverage for these items.
  • Consider insuring your personal property on the same replacement cost basis as your home.

In the Car
  • Lock all doors and roll up all windows even when leaving the car for a short period of time.
  • Bring gifts into homes with you overnight rather than leaving them in your car.
  • When shopping, keep gifts in the trunk or hidden from view in the interior of the car.
  • Put all of your packages in the trunk before departing one parking lot and driving to another. Waiting until your next shopping destination allows others to see packages go into the trunk of your car and then you departing into the mall or store.
  • Avoid parking next to vans and large trucks that block your space from general vision of others.
  • Make a mental note or write down exactly where you park your car to avoid wandering around longer than necessary.
  • During the day, park away from buildings to reduce the chance of dings from car doors or shopping carts and the likelihood of vandalism.
  • At night, avoid secluded areas and park directly under lights whenever possible.
  • Look underneath your car before you reach it when returning from shopping; criminals have been known to lie underneath in wait.

While Shopping
  • Use a credit card in order to avoid thefts of large amounts of cash that cannot be replaced.
  • Shopping with a single credit card is preferable—it is easier to cancel one rather than several if your wallet or purse is stolen.
  • Keep purses zipped and in your possession close to your body rather than leaving them in your shopping cart where they are more susceptible to theft.
  • Be sure to keep a reference list of phone and account numbers for all of your credit cards in a safe place at home.
  • Try to carry keys, cash and credit cards separate from each other.
  • For freedom of motion and clear visibility, do not overload yourself with packages when leaving a store and returning to your car. You cannot defend yourself with your arms too full of bundles.
  • Use ATMs in well-populated, well-lighted locations. Do not throw ATM receipts away at the ATM location.
  • Remember there is increased safety in numbers. Avoid walking alone and leave malls and stores well before closing time to assure a more active parking lot.

Other Tips
  • The holiday season often includes images of cute puppies under a Christmas tree or a kitten with a sparkly ribbon around its neck. But before you do your holiday shopping at the pet shop, potential pet owners must understand that no matter what they paid for their pooch or any pet, most homeowners insurance policies exclude animals. So if your pet is stolen, it is not likely you will be able to claim it as a loss with your insurance company.
  • Conduct a home inventory after the holidays and make sure than any new items in the home are properly insured.

This survey was conducted for Trusted Choice® via telephone by International Communications Research (ICR), an independent research company in Media, Pa. Interviews of a nationally-representative sample of 1,018 households were conducted in November 2011. The survey has an overall margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

Margarita Tapia (margarita.tapia@iiaba.net) is Big “I” director of public affairs.

This article was reprinted with permission from Trusted Choice®.

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