Protect your perfect Christmas

BurglarPA

None of us particularly enjoy Christmas shopping. However, some people have their own cunning solution. They wait for you to go to all the bother of dreaming up the perfect gift ideas, slogging to the shops, and wrapping an endless pile of goodies - then they just break into your house and steal them all.

Once we have the presents piled high, we are easy prey for burglars. So how can we protect ourselves?

Protection

Step one is to make sure we are insured for these presents. You may have contents cover in place, but you will need to be covered for the fact you have all this extra value in your home for a while. If not, you won't get a full payout. Peter Harrison, insurance spokesperson at MoneySupermarket.com says: "For example, if you have £45,000 worth of contents in your home but are only insured for £30,000, your insurer might only pay two thirds of a claim, even if it is for less than £30,000. High value single items such as jewellery may need to be listed individually on a policy as insurers often have limits of £1,000 or £2,000 for single expensive items."

The good news, according to Moneysupermarket, is that most insurers automatically boost the value of your contents cover at this time of year. However, it's worth checking the small print to see how much extra cover you receive.

For example, Direct Line automatically increases the value of contents cover by 5% of the sums insured for several weeks, while Lloyds TSB gives up to £3,000 increase one month before and after Christmas, and Esure ramps up the sum insured by 15% in the three weeks before Christmas.

Home security

Of course, while insurance is essential, in an ideal world we wouldn't need to call on it - which is where the website's handy guide to protecting your home at Christmas comes into its own.

It starts with making sure you have the right security equipment installed. Ideally you need a good burglar alarm - those that link directly to the local police station are best. You also need to regularly check the state of your locks, and where necessary replace older, weaker ones with new locks. Five-lever mortise locks are recommended for external doors while windows should ideally have two bolt locks.

It's also a wise idea to install security lighting - illuminate your visitors for their safety as well as your own. Unwelcome visitors are less likely to loiter if they're 'in the spotlight'.

If you are going away, there are some useful steps you can take. Put a timer on your light switches to give the impression that you are at home and remember to cancel newspaper and milk deliveries and ask someone you can trust to open and close the curtains and collect mail.

Organisation

Unfortunately, being organised is an absolute must. This means locking valuable items away safely rather than leaving them lying around, and putting things away out of sight of windows.

Don't leave keys in obvious places such as under a doormat. Also beware of 'hook n crook' thefts - where keys are left so close to a door that a burglar can simply hook them through a letterbox and open the door.

At the very least make sure you lock all windows and doors before leaving the house.

This latter point may seem obvious, but you would be shocked at what can be achieved in a short space of time. My downstairs neighbour once went out, leaving a window open for 10 minutes. In that time, the burglars broke in, broke through the wall between the flats, and robbed us both.

It's hard to think of everything, especially during the festive period where we're trying to stay on top of the shopping, the planning and the essential partying. However, it pays to stay on top of your home security too, or your perfect Christmas could be ruined by a moment of inattention.
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