The holidays are almost here… a time of fun and celebration with friends and family. Everyone is busy with parties, food, presents, good cheer, and travel. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year for stress and increased risk. Stores and restaurants are overcrowded, thieves have a greater opportunity to target your valuables and personal information, and your home may be empty if you’re traveling. We’ve put together a list of simple tips to help you limit your vulnerabilities and have a safe and enjoyable holiday season.
- Don’t turn on appliances as you leave for vacation: It’s easy to do and we’ve all done it…fill up the dishwasher and turn it on, or put that last load in the dryer and start it up as you leave the house. You’re putting your home at risk for a flood or a fire. No one wants to return home to find a catastrophe. In addition, turn off the water to your washing machine and unplug appliances like toasters, microwaves, coffee makers, and electronics. Never turn your heat off completely. It’s best to lower the setting to 55 degrees to protect your pipes.
- Close, lock, and set alarms: Whenever leaving the house, whether for vacation or just to go shopping, make sure that all doors and windows are locked and if you have one, your burglar alarm is set.
- Make sure your home looks “lived in”: Everyone looks forward to vacations and that includes burglars. Empty houses are a prime target. Leave some lights on inside your home. Even better, put lights, even holiday lights, on automatic timers, to go on and off at random times, to give the appearance of being home. Stop the paper and mail, and ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your property. Nothing says I’m away more than a full mailbox or several day’s- worth of uncollected newspapers on your driveway.
- Don’t advertise your plans: Social media is fun, but don’t post your holiday plans on social media sites. Your friends may not be the only ones monitoring your comings and goings. Thieves are known to track social media to see who’s at home and who’s away. You can always catch friends up on your travels with posts and pictures after you get home.
- Watch out for “porch pirates”: As more and more people are shopping online, theft of packages from front porches and stoops has increased exponentially. Be conscious of delivery schedules and take advantage of electronic alerts and other delivery protections so that you know when packages will arrive and are home to accept them, if possible.
- Keep packages hidden and cars locked: This is a busy shopping season both for you and for thieves. Stores and parking lots are very crowded, especially during nights and weekends. When shopping, try to park in a well-lighted area as close to stores as possible. Never leave bags on the back seat. Hide packages out of site or put them in the trunk, and always make sure your car is locked. Thieves roam parking lots stealing valuables from unlocked cars. Make sure you hold onto your packages and bags while in stores shopping. Never put them down as you look at merchandise. Thieves are known pick up bags sitting on the floor, and walk on by.
- Protect your identity in stores and online: Many of us are now doing our holiday shopping online. It’s fast, easy, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your home and fight the crowds at the mall. Make sure you only buy from secure websites and always log off from the site after completing your purchases. Keep an eye on your bank accounts and credit card activity to make sure your information hasn’t been stolen and used by someone else. Contact your bank immediately if you see something that wasn’t purchased by you. When shopping in stores, make sure you bring only what you’ll need to pay for your purchases. Leave your social security card, passport, checkbook, and the credit cards you won’t be using at home. The less you carry, the better. If your wallet or purse is stolen, you don’t want thieves to have access to personal information.
- Travel safely when driving: This is a very busy time of year with lots of drivers on the roads. Plan your route, stops for food and bathroom breaks, and lodging ahead of time and share it with the people at your destination so that they know when to expect you. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Remember, it gets dark early, road conditions may change and become hazardous, and many drivers may be in unfamiliar areas. Make sure your car has a good navigation system and car phone chargers.
The insurance professionals at Foundation Insurance Group, located in Falls Church, Virginia and St. Matthews, Kentucky wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season. We are here if you need us. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have questions about your auto or homeowners insurance needs.