(ARA) - The winter holiday season is traditionally a time of giving and receiving. Unfortunately, it can also be a season for increased theft and burglary.
Keep your presents under the tree and out of the wrong hands this holiday season by following several pointers from insurance experts Jonathan Farris of General Casualty and John Blodnick of Unigard.
Not everyone is shopping for that perfect gift for little Billy. Some shoppers may be in the market for a new identity -- yours. Guard information carefully that could be used to steal your identity, such as credit cards numbers, bank account PINs and other personal information like your Social Security or driver's license number.
To keep personal identification information safe, Blodnick recommends:
* When making purchases shield credit cards and PINs from "shoulder surfers" who memorize and steal the numbers.
* Keep receipts in your wallet or purse instead of shopping bags. Tear or shred documents containing account numbers before throwing them away.
* If shopping online, buy from reputable and secure Web sites only. If the site is secure, the address should begin with "https."
* Watch your bank and credit card accounts carefully for suspicious activity and report it to the respective financial institutions.
Your identity isn't the only thing at risk while shopping. If buying many gifts at once, combine purchases into one or two bags so you're a less appealing target for thieves. Keep purchases in your vehicle's trunk or covered in the back seat instead of in sight where they can tempt burglars. Be sure to lock your car at all times.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Increased travel and spending over the holidays can also mean an increase in theft and burglaries.
To combat this, keep unwrapped gifts out of the sight of both curious family members and thieves by storing them in a closet or cabinet. After opening gifts don't leave them where they are visible through a window or door, especially if you'll be away for an extended period of time.
"If you're leaving home for several days or weeks, don't advertise to potential burglars that you're not home," said Farris. "Stop your mail or newspaper service or ask a neighbor to pick them up and help with other outdoor chores. Install variable timers on your interior and exterior lights. If your home looks lived in while you're away, you decrease the chances of a break in."
Reduce the chances of becoming the victim of identity theft or hacking by filing personal documents and turning off or disabling your computer while away too.
Insuring Big-Ticket Purchases
If expensive jewelry, collectibles or other big-ticket items are on your holiday shopping list this year, be sure extra insurance protection is too. Review your household insurance policy and make sure it has adequate coverage. Many homeowners and renters insurance policies limit or exclude coverage for items such as jewelry, furs and precious stones, notes Blodnick. You may need to purchase additional coverage for these items through an endorsement or floater so they are protected if lost, damaged or stolen.
Contact your independent insurance agent for more information about property and identity theft coverages and to learn what other precautions you can take to protect your belongings and make your holiday season happier. Courtesy of ARA Content
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