Today's burglars are making away with high-tech gadgets such as iPods, plasma TVs, smartphones and laptops. Advances in technology have made it easier than ever for intruders to come away with rich pickings. As a result, the average cost of a burglary has shot up by £225 over the last two years.
An analysis of 20,000 home theft cases by The Co-operative Insurance shows that the cost of claims has risen dramatically over the past couple of years, while the number of burglaries has been steady.
Ten or so years ago electrical items were much more bulky and heavy - from desktop computers to CD, DVD and video players - which made them much harder to steal. Today the average home is cluttered with electronic gadgets like smartphones, iPods, iPads, games consoles and laptops - a treasure chest for intruders as these gadgets have a high sell-on value and are much easier to nick because of their size.
The cost of theft claims leapt by 8% in 2010 and then by a further 9% last year – the sharpest rise in the past decade. This means that the average burglary claim now costs £225 more than it did just two years ago. In the three years before (2007, 2008 and 2009) the cost of theft claims remained flat.
Lee Mooney, head of home insurance at the Co-op, said: "We've seen the average cost of a burglary rise dramatically over the past two years, which we believe is due to burglars stealing higher value items than they used to several years ago.
"Because most people do own many portable, high value items, it's important to make sure you have adequate home contents insurance in case of a burglary. Keeping a note of the model and serial number of any electronic equipment will make it easier in the event that you do have to claim. It's also a good idea to mark your valuables in ultra violet ink so they can be returned to you easily if found."
Burglars tend to go for things that are expensive and easy to steal, often when homes are unoccupied and they can gain get in easily without being seen. Contrary to common belief, most burglaries don't happen at night but during the day when no one is home. So what should you do?
How to protect yourself from burglary
• Use automatic timers on lights when you're away. If possible, always park your car in the garage with the door shut, so the burglar can't work out whether you are home or not. Ask someone to collect your mail to stop it piling up on your doorstep, and remember to cancel your milk and newspaper delivery when you go on holiday.
• If possible, keep your house free of bushes and shrubs. Or plant thorny bushes to put burglars off from hiding in them.
• Make sure you have the right locks on your windows and doors. Check with your home insurance provider what locks you should have, or they may not pay out if you get burgled.
• When you go on holiday, don't shout about it loudly on Facebook or Twitter. Make sure your children don't either.
• Keep your valuables out of sight. Keep jewellery, other small valuables and important documents in a safe deposit box if possible.
• Photograph all your valuables, mark them in ultra violet ink and note down serial numbers etc for electronic gadgets so they can be returned to you if they are stolen and the police tracks them down.
• Don't leave spare keys outside your home (give them to a trusted neighbour, or leave a spare set at work or with friends).
• Use common sense: Don't tell others about any valuables and don't invite strangers into your home (if you are having a party, lock your valuables away where possible). Always make sure your windows and doors are shut and locked when you leave the house.
• If you are really worried about your belongings, install a loud security alarm with flashing lights.