As Christmas quickly approaches, we are all gearing up for the inevitable spending spree which accompanies the festive season. With Irish shoppers expected to spend in excess of €4 billion during the 2015 holidays, Christmas is undoubtedly a bumper season for retailers. However, with people away from their homes more than usual, longer and darker nights and plenty of expensive gifts for the taking; Christmas can also present some irresistible opportunities to criminals.
Our top tips below will help you to keep your home and its contents safe and secure over the holiday season so you can enjoy spending time with friends and family instead of making a claim on your home insurance.
The Christmas period is the highlight of the social calendar for many people. Visiting friends and family, carol concerts and office parties can all mean that we spend more time away from home than usual. Burglars will often survey an area and look for homes which appear unoccupied before they strike. There are some simple precautions you can make before you leave home to ensure that your house doesn’t become a target.
As we enter the depths of winter and the days become shorter, a house in complete darkness is a good sign that a house is unoccupied. Leaving interior lights on or setting a timer can help give the impression that someone is home and deter burglars. Exterior security lighting can also be helpful as this will instantly draw attention to anybody trying to access your property. Drawing curtains or blinds can also help by preventing burglars from easily identifying that there is nobody home.
It is also a good idea to talk to your neighbours if you plan to be out of the home for a long period of time. Once they know that no one is home, they can treat any activity on your property as suspicious. And of course the basics of home security remain the same even during the Christmas period. Secure and lock all doors and windows and set the burglar alarm if you have one.
No doubt you will be excited to put up the Christmas tree and decorate it as the festive season approaches. And probably the most popular way to decorate the tree is with a stack of nicely wrapped presents nestled at its foot in anticipation of the big day. However, just as children can’t resist shaking the box to get a clue as to what is inside, burglars can’t resist the temptation to help themselves to all those expensive gifts.
Ideally you should place your tree in an area of the house which is not easily visible from outside. Keep all curtains or blinds closed at night to prevent potential burglars from appraising your home’s contents. You may also consider keeping expensive gifts stored in a locked room in the lead up to Christmas and only placing them under the tree closer to the big day and when the house is occupied.
After the gifts have been opened and it’s time to dispose of the packaging, there are a few simple precautions you should take. A box from a new laptop or gift wrapping from an expensive jewellery store on the top of your trash is an advertisement to burglars. Before disposing of these items, rip all packaging into smaller pieces if possible and place them at the bottom of the trash where they are out of sight. You may also want to wait for the day that your trash is collected before placing these items outside.
As we continue to do more and more of our spending online, it will come as no surprise that the Christmas period will see a spike in online shopping. In fact, an estimated 82% of all Irish consumers made purchases online during Christmas 2014. Of course, all of this online shopping means a lot of deliveries. There are a few precautions you can take to ensure that your purchases end up under your tree and not in the hands of criminals.
If you make a purchase online, try to get an accurate estimate of your expected delivery date and time. If the online retailer offers a parcel tracking service, use this to identify exactly when your package is likely to arrive. Make sure you are home for the delivery or have the parcel delivered to a neighbour if this is not possible. Otherwise an opportunistic thief could attempt to intercept your delivery. Never leave a note for a delivery person to tell them that you are not home as burglars will often look for signs that a house is unoccupied before breaking in.
If you decide to take the car while Christmas shopping, there are a few simple safety tips you should keep in mind. Immediately unload your car on your return home. Never use your car to store gifts or other expensive items. If you must leave valuables in the car, never leave them in plain sight on a seat or parcel shelf. Opportunistic thieves can very quickly access your car and steal your belongings.
Further, always lock your car door before you carry your items into the house and close the front door behind you. If you need to make more than one trip, never leave both doors opened and unlocked in an effort to save time. Burglars will often lie in wait for an opportunity to strike, and the few seconds you are busy unloading your car is more than enough time for them to access your house.
There is no substitute for keeping your eyes and ears open. Be vigilant and on the lookout for any suspicious activity in your area such as strangers loitering or an increase in unwanted doorstep callers. Speak to your neighbours and if you do notice anything suspicious, pass the information on to your local Garda station or neighbourhood watch group if you have one.
Finally, make sure that both your home insurance and contents insurance are up to date and valued appropriately. Our home insurance packages offer a lot of great benefits at an affordable price and help ease your mind over the festive period.