What is on thieves' list of things to steal this Christmas and how can we thwart their plans? Comparison site Confused.com asked a security expert who knows the inside tips – because he used to be a burglar himself.
As the economic downturn deepens, more people turn to bag snatching, mugging, burglary and breaking into cars. What should you avoid?
"Well, people tend to love sharing their details via social networking sites about when they are out and where they live!" says security expert Michael Fraser. "Sharing this information could make you a target. Also someone who looks weak or maybe drunk is more likely to be a target for thieves.
"A burglar is likely to take anything that's wrapped up under the Christmas tree as it saves him having to buying his (or her) own gifts! People tend to rush when shopping for the Christmas break so we are not looking at what's going on around. This is where the thief will take advantage. If you put a bag down or open the boot of your car or put something on the roof of the car a thief could move in and take it."
The thief's wishlist this Christmas:
2. Watches, jewellery and precious metals: These are also coveted by burglars because they can be passed on quickly and be melted down for cash. It's a good idea to photograph your jewellery and watches, take note of the serial number and store them in a secure safe.
3. Smart phones, Blackberrys: These items can also be sold easily, especially on social networking sites. Make sure you set up a phone security lock and password so noone can get into your phone and don't leave them in plain sight. The same applies to all other valuables - don't leave them near a window or glass door where they can be seen.
4. Laptops, notebooks: Again it's a good idea to create a security login and keep the serial number in a safe place. Also, back up all your data on an external hard drive or through cloud computing.
5. Cameras, video cameras: Other black market items which can be sold on easily, so keep them hidden. And download your photos and videos on a regular basis.
6. Designer clothes and handbags: Thieves like to keep them for themselves or give to their friends and family as presents. Alternatively they can sell them on auction sites as clothes and bags are very hard to identify as a stolen item.
7. Plasmas, LCD flat screens: Flatscreen TVs are stolen to order so make sure they are not on public display. Also remember to note down the serial number and take photographs.
8. Credit & debit cards, ID: It is still easy to clone cards and make money from a stolen identity. Don't keep your PIN number in your wallet, purse or phone!
9. Stereo docking stations: Like other valuable high-tech gadgets they can be readily sold on due to high demand as people switch from traditional stereos to an mp3 players.
10. Antiques: Any really valuable items should be valued and covered by your home insurance policy. And keep them out of sight of opportunistic thieves if you are going away over Christmas.
Mark Gabriel, head of home insurance at Confused.com said: "Make sure you have told your insurer about any significant items you buy over Christmas as you may wish to name them on your policy or check that you have sufficient cover. Following some of the simple tips above will also help you to keep your own and your families' possessions safe over the Christmas holidays and all year round."
Gareth Kloet, head of car insurance at Confused.com added: "While the unlocked garage, garden shed or car boot might seem like a good temporary storage solution that keeps gifts hidden from little eyes, we'd all do well to remember to not compromise security for a quick storage solution in order to avoid a terrible surprise."