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Essential Safety Tips for Warm-Weather Work

Posted By Jennifer Arrison, Wednesday, July 10, 2019

from PropertyCasualty360.com

Dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill every year while working in extreme heat or humid conditions, according to OSHA. As June marks both the official start of summer and National Safety Month, now is a perfect time for employers to review emergency plans with outdoor workers and provide tips on how to beat the heat and stay safe during lightning storms.

Beating the heat

With temperatures quickly rising, employers should first understand the factors that can lead to heat susceptibility.

Heat susceptibility can be caused by:

  • A combination of high temperature, direct sun and humidity;
  • Intense physical labor during peak hours; or
  • Sudden hot days after cool weather conditions or workers who have not yet acclimated to the heat.

To prevent these factors from causing illness, employees must stay hydrated, drinking plenty of water to ensure fluids are replenished. Ideally, workers should drink water before beginning a job and re-hydrate often. Any caffeinated beverages should be avoided as they increase heat sensitivity.

Workers also should avoid waterproof or tight clothing that doesn’t breathe. To dress for the heat, workers should wear a wide-brimmed hat, light-colored clothes and sunscreen. Fabrics that pull moisture away from the body and provide a cooling effect also are recommended.

Proper attire and hydration can be a big help, but it’s still important to recognize the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Headache, dizziness, weakness, wet skin and fainting are indications that workers must get out of the heat immediately — or at least move to the shade. If an employee experiences confusion, slurred speech, excessive thirst, nausea or vomiting, it’s very possible he/she may be experiencing more severe heat stroke. Immediate medical attention should be sought in these cases.

Employers can also do their part in preventing heat-related illness with smart planning for outdoor work. This includes setting earlier schedules to avoid the hottest part of the day and arranging frequent rest periods and water breaks in shady, cooler areas. Project managers should also increase the number of workers for strenuous tasks on hot days and acclimate employees who haven’t worked in hot conditions lately by gradually increasing workloads and allowing more frequent breaks.

Staying safe when lightning strikes

The chance of being struck by lightning is only about 1 in 500,000, according to the CDC, but the risk increases in states that have frequent storm activity, like Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and Texas. Wherever employees may be doing outdoor work, encourage them not to tempt fate. They should be smart by following these CDC safety guidelines:

  • Look to the skies. If dark clouds form and the winds pick up, do not begin any task that cannot be stopped quickly. If lightning can be seen, follow the 30-30 rule. First, count to 30. If thunder sounds before 30, get inside. Suspend outdoor work or activities for at least 30 minutes after thunder ends.
  • Shelter indoors. Although the best place to be during a lightning storm is inside, indoor spaces aren’t lightning-proof. Avoid sinks and showers since lightning can travel through the building’s plumbing system. Do not use electronic equipment and corded phones. And, of course, stay away from windows and doors, even concrete as lightning can travel through metal bars in concrete walls or floors.
  • Go low. If caught out in the open, find a low spot — like a ditch — and crouch or squat down low so as little of the body is touching the ground as possible. Electrical currents from lightning can travel along the top of the ground.
  • Find refuge in a car. If a hard-topped truck or car is available, hop inside. Although most people think rubber tires are the grounding force, it’s the metal shell that dissipates the electricity and keeps you safe.

Thunderstorms may be thrilling, but lightning can kill. Remind employees to respect the power of nature and observe storms from a safe vantage point inside.

Each season comes with a new set of liabilities. Now that the risks of cold and icy conditions have passed, reeducate employees on how to protect their safety during summer months. It’s far easier to act now than in the heat of the moment.

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My Car Was Stolen. Now What?

Posted By Danielle Ling, Wednesday, July 10, 2019

from PropertyCasualty360.com

A vehicle was reported stolen every 40.9 seconds in the United States in 2017.

That year, 773,139 vehicles were stolen, costing roughly $6 billion nationally according to the FBI. The average dollar loss per theft was $7,708. Even with the peace of mind insurance provides, discovering your vehicle has been stolen can be an overwhelming and unsettling experience.

If you fall victim to an auto theft, here’s what you need to do.

Pick up the phone

The first thing you should do after you discover your call was stolen is call the police immediately and file a stolen vehicle report. The earlier you report a car stolen, the more likely it will be recovered. Having a police report on file will also be an important part of your insurance claim, so make sure you get a copy. Let the police know if your car has any kind of tracking device or GPS system, as this technology could help authorities track down and recover your stolen vehicle.

The next call you need to make is to your insurance carrier to report the car stolen. Next steps will depend on what kind of policy you have and what your state minimum requirements are. You will need a few critical pieces of information to provide to your insurance carrier when you file your report.

Information for your carrier

Firstly, provide a description of your vehicle, including mileage, options, service records and upgrades, along with information on the date, time and location of the theft, and the location of all keys to the vehicle before and after the theft. Make a list of names and contact information of anyone who had access to the vehicle. Let your carrier know if the car was leased or financed.

You’re also going to want to provide your carrier with a list of personal property stolen with your vehicle. Coverage for these items will vary from state to state, but your homeowners or renters insurance policy could provide additional coverage for these items.

If your stolen vehicle is leased or financed, the third call you need to make is to your leasing or finance company to report the vehicle stolen. They will work with your insurance carrier directly in this process.

Check your policy

After you file reports with the police and your insurance carrier, review both your auto and homeowners or renters insurance policies to see what’s covered and what’s not.

If your auto policy only covers the state minimum requirements, it likely won’t include reimbursement for a stolen vehicle, whereas comprehensive auto insurance does. Of course, the level of coverage will vary based on your insurer and your policy, and an agent can help run you through your coverage details.

If the vehicle is found, comprehensive coverage will pay to repair any damages or wear the thieves caused, but you will owe the deductible. Most carriers have a 30-day waiting period to recover a stolen vehicle before paying out the fair market value of your car. This number is somewhat negotiable so check multiple sources to ensure a fair valuation of your stolen vehicle.

What to expect

Adding to the aggravation, settling a stolen vehicle claim is a lengthy process, and there are a few routine but burdensome measures your carrier needs to take before you see a settlement check.

When a car is reported stolen, the owner is suspect number one. Carriers and police investigating the case will look at you first. Roughly $80 billion in fraudulent insurance claims are made every year, so expect to be interrogated.

Investigators will likely look into your financial history for any delinquent payments, phone records or suspicious social media posts. They will check to see if the car had recently been put up for sale or if it was over mileage on a lease. Not notifying the policy right away, or at all, is also a red flag.

The most important thing to do after you discover your vehicle is stolen is to notify the appropriate sources. Call the police and your insurance carrier immediately, and ask for the help you need.

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Uncovering Common Insurance Myths

Posted By Heather Turner, Wednesday, July 10, 2019

from PropertyCasualty360.com

How well does the average consumer really know insurance?

According to the Insurance Myths and Misconceptions report by insuranceQuotes.com, Americans have a thing or two to learn about insurance coverage and policies.

We have all heard the myth that red cars cost more to insure. But there are many other insurance myths ingrained in the minds of insurance customers that can have costly consequences.

“While we do our best to try to educate people on insurance, there are unfortunately still many pervasive myths and misconceptions that millions of American adults believe pertaining to different types of coverage, from auto and health coverage to homeowner’s and life insurance to even electric scooter coverage,” Jason Hargraves, managing editor of insuranceQuotes.com, said in a press release.

Across the board, more than a third of consumers surveyed incorrectly answered each question relating to different insurance coverage. From home insurance to life and health coverage, the report reveals a shocking gap in consumer knowledge, including:

  • 68% of respondents believe collision damage is covered by comprehensive auto coverage.
  • 35% believe a standard homeowner’s insurance policy covers flood damage; 34% believe it covers mold damage.
  • 46% did not know life insurers can factor in pre-existing medical conditions when calculating premiums.
  • 36% incorrectly think electric scooter riders are required to have liability insurance.
  • 66% are unaware that women, on average, pay higher health insurance premiums than men.

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Summer 2019 Travel Tips and Trends

Posted By Elana Ashanti Jefferson, Wednesday, June 12, 2019

from PropertyCasualty360.com

More than three out of five Americans plan to take a summer vacation this year despite having about 10% less money to spend on their travels, according to 19th annual Holiday Barometer from Generali Global Assistance.

“In the 19th annual Holiday Barometer, we have seen the consolidation of many of the positive trends we have recognized in recent years,” Chris Carnicelli, CEO of Generali Global Assistance, said in a press release. “While Americans have experienced a 10% reduction in their travel budgets, they are still the highest of those surveyed. As an assistance provider, we look to stay current with travel trends in order to accurately anticipate our customers’ needs. It’s part of our ‘you live we care’ motto that we look to fulfill every day.”

Roughly the same percentage of Brazilians (68%) plan to travel this summer while fewer Europeans (63%) intend to take a midyear trek.

Half of Americans plan to vacation domestically this summer with about equal numbers planning to go to a beach versus a city. Both Brazilians and Europeans overwhelming preferred beach vacations when surveyed by Generali Global Assistance.

Budget is the most impactful factor when it comes to determining summer travel plans. Both Brazilians and Europeans have a 3% higher travel budget this summer, according to Generali Global Assistance.

Some of the other factors that weigh into where Americans plan to travel this summer include:

  • Available leisure and cultural activities
  • Personal safety
  • Terrorism risk

But there is one caveat: “The number of travelers who indicated they were concerned about terrorism was down across the board with percentages for Europeans, Americans, and Brazilians all dropping by six to seven points from years prior,” according to Generali Global Assistance.

On average, Americans will take the shortest summer vacations. Researcher found that Americans plan to take off about a week and half while Europeans plan to vacation for nearly two weeks and Brazilians will likely holiday slightly more than two weeks.

For travelers who are still firming up their summer adventure plans, Generali Global Assistance compiled these six tips to help make warm-weather travel smooth and enjoyable:

No. 1: Protect your trip costs.

For a fraction of your overall trip cost, you can buy travel insurance to help protect your vacation investment from certain unexpected mishaps.

No 2: Use a travel agent to book a cruise.

 Travel agents are most likely going to be able to get you the best deals on cruises and they can offer a wealth of travel tips. Plus, if anything goes wrong, they will be able to use their connections to help you fix it.

No 3: Check for freebies.

If you don't mind playing things by ear, then ask for an upgrade upon arrival. Sometimes you get an upgraded hotel room or plane seat for free.

No 4: Cut out the middle man.

Search aggregate travel websites to look for travel deals on transportation and accommodations. But before you pay, be sure to check individual vendor sites as well. You might save money by buying direct.

No 5: Start saving a.s.a.p.

Get an estimate of how much your vacation is going to cost and start saving money early - even if it's a year or two out.

No 6: Use multiple research sources.

Before choosing your destination and accommodations, be sure to consult multiple travel websites or books. Doing your homework before you plan a trip will help you weed out anything suspicious.

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When Flooding Happens, Here Are Ways to Weather the Storm

Posted By Javonte Anderson, Tuesday, May 28, 2019

from chicagotribune.com

Floods, no matter the size, can have a devastating effect on people’s homes and property — and can endanger people who try to drive or walk through them. They can develop slowly or quickly, and flash floods can strike without warning.

Flooding typically occurs when prolonged rain falls over several days or when intense rains fall over a short time.

The most common cause of flooding, however, is rain or snowmelt that accumulates faster than soils can absorb it or faster than rivers can carry it away, according to the National Weather Service.

“We always tell communities anywhere it can rain, it can flood,” said Cassie Ringsdorf, a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman.

Here’s some information about flooding and ways to guard against flood dangers and damage:

Know the flooding risk in your area, be proactive and get insurance

Flooding isn’t typically covered in standard insurance policies, so homeowners should double-check to see if they need to purchase flood insurance, Ringsdorf said.

She urged homeowners and landlords to be aware of what could be done to mitigate any potential flooding damage. And if heavy rains are in the forecast, there are steps property owners can take to alleviate the damage and dangers, including:

  • Elevate critical utilities, such as a water heater or furnace, off the basement floor.
  • Ensure sump pump is working with a backup battery system.
  • Store valuable documents in a safe, dry place.
  • Charge your phones and put together an emergency kit in case power gets knocked out.
  • Subscribe to emergency weather alerts on your phone.

Don’t drive through the water

More people die each year from drowning than from any other thunderstorm-related cause, according to the weather service. About half of those drowning deaths happen when people try to drive through floodwaters, followed by deaths of people trying to wade through or near floodwaters.

A common cause of people getting stuck in their vehicles in railroad-heavy cities like Chicago is drivers trying to get through flooded underpasses — and having their cars stall out. On more open roads, smaller vehicles can get carried away by just a foot of moving water, while just 2 feet of water can carry off most larger passenger vehicles, according to the weather service.

Help keep streets clear by lowering water use

People concerned with flooding should use less water at home to make space available in local sewer lines, said Kari Steele, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District president..

“If everyone did that, that could be the little amount of water necessary for water to flow to us and not in your basement,” she said.

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10 Ways to Help Your Home Recover from Winter

Posted By Jayleen R. Heft, Wednesday, March 20, 2019

from PropertyCasualty360.com

Ah, spring has sprung! And now it’s time to see how rough winter was on your home. Once snow, ice, wind and freezing temperatures disappear, it’s a good time to check how your home withstood the season.

  1. Have your roof inspected.
  2. Fix any ceiling stains.
  3. Inspect windows and doors.
  4. Consider resealing your driveway.
  5. Seal your deck every few years.
  6. Check your fence(s).
  7. Clean gutters and downspouts.
  8. Check for ice dams.
  9. Apply caulk to leak-prone areas.
  10. Inspect outside faucets and hoses.

It’s also a good time for you to connect with your homeowners insurance agent to make sure you have the coverage you need for spring weather, wildfires and other sources of potential damage. For many people, their home is their biggest asset, so examining your current home insurance coverage is important as the severe spring weather season approaches.

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Is Your Agency Prepared for Tornado Season?

Posted By Danielle Ling, Wednesday, March 20, 2019

from PropertyCasualty360.com

Typically, tornado season reaches its peak between the months of March and June, but as we’ve already seen with February’s devastating tornado activity, disaster can strike when you least expect it.

Each year, 1,200 tornadoes with wind speeds as high as 300 mph touch down in the U.S. While tornadoes aren’t typically as catastrophic as other weather events, they occur much more frequently.

Luckily, meteorologists are equipped with radar technology to alert citizens of incoming tornado activity. With the right safety plan in place, residents and small business owners can better protect themselves and their property from injury or loss.

For agents and carriers in high-risk areas, it will be critical to have adequate resources and staff members to handle an influx of large claims and to provide insureds with the customer service and support they need in the face of catastrophic loss.

Be Prepared

1. Ensure your insureds create or update their home inventory appropriately, and to keep the inventories in a safe spot, whether a cloud-based drive or their phones (PIA members, see consumer-friendly info paper, "Creating a Home Inventory List").

2. Ahead of tornado season talk to your clients about their coverage. Are there any gaps?

3. Update the use of digital tools and AI resources at hand to access predictive analytics and create appropriate mitigation plans.

4. Consider hiring "gig workers" in the event of a large-scale weather event.

5. Reflect on tornado seasons of the past. What succeeded and what could have been improved?

Serving your customers

Greg Hanover, CEO of Liveops, says his team saw huge spikes of call activity during recent major weather-related events, and commented on the situation in Alabama last month, where he says many victims didn’t receive an adequate disaster response.

Being able to properly serve victims during extreme weather-related events is critical. However,  Hanover says many organizations that do their best to support in surge crisis moments, like what we saw with the Alabama tornadoes last month, let their members and customers down because they have a hard time scaling. He offers a solution: hiring ‘gig workers’ in times of immense claims.

“Those that have been quick to embrace new ‘gig work’ models are able to manage their intake volume and help more of those in need,” Hanover says. “We’re finding that our customers are starting to proactively strategize around expected weather conditions (big storms, hurricanes), and will ramp up service capacity (i.e., more agents), often increasing workforces by 300-400%.”

“They seem to have it down to a science,” he adds, “and can predict agent forecast needs as a means of managing the influx of calls.”

Additionally, Hanover notes it’s important to also remember that if the average commuter can’t get to work because of weather conditions your brick and mortar call center agent can’t either, and says he has seen major ramp-up needs in that respect for available and qualified agents.

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Smart Home Risks Can be Alarming

Posted By Tamara Dietrich, Wednesday, January 9, 2019

from InsuranceJournal.com

Say you’re on your laptop at Starbucks, minding your own business, when an acquaintance of yours across the room isn’t minding his.

Unbeknownst to you, he’s using the same store Wi-Fi as you to conduct a virtual invasion of your smart home: accessing your light switch app and using it to disable your home’s security camera so real thieves can break in – or walk in, if he’s disabling the smart lock, too.

And you’re none the wiser – until you get home and discover your home’s been hacked. And burgled.

This is just one scenario demonstrating one of many inherent flaws that computer scientists at the College of William and Mary discovered in internet-connected smart home devices during tests they conducted over the summer.

This particular flaw allows hackers to attack a smart home’s low-security device – a light switch or thermostat, for instance – and use that access to attack a high-security device they could not otherwise access.

It’s one example of what’s called lateral privilege escalation, and experts warn that such smart home hacks are easier than you might think. They can lead to all kinds of potential mischief, if not outright harm, from switching off your security system to cranking up your smart oven until it overheats and burns the house down.

“The possibilities are limitless,” said Adwait Nadkarni, lead investigator and assistant professor of computer science. “There are so many devices in the home that affect your security, affect the integrity of your home.”

Experts say that in just two years there will be 20 billion smart home products in use.

“You can imagine the possible combinations of these kinds of attacks will obviously increase as we’ll have more interconnected devices,” said associate professor Denys Poshyvanyk. “At this point, it’s hard for us to imagine what else people will do.”

Nadkarni and Poshyvanyk co-authored a paper on their work that they’ll present at the 9th annual ACM Conference on Data and Application Security and Privacy in Dallas in March. Student co-authors include Kaushal Kafle and Sunil Manandhar and post-doctoral fellow Kevin Moran.

In the paper, they lay out the potential misuses of the computer routines or portions of code that control smart home products and offer 10 key findings with “serious security implications.”

“The diversity of these products is staggering,” the paper states, “ranging from small physical devices with embedded computers such as smart locks and light bulbs to full-fledged appliances such as refrigerators and HVAC systems.”

And the risks, it states, can be rather alarming.

“Because many of these products are tied to the user’s security or privacy (e.g., door locks, cameras), it is important to understand the attack surface of such devices and platforms in order build practical defenses without sacrificing utility.”

For their research, Nadkarni and Poshyvanyk focused on two of the most popular smart home platforms – Google Nest and Philips Hue – that implement home automation “routines.”

Routines are the interactions between smart home devices and the apps that control them. They are becoming the heart of seamless home automation.

Two Routines

According to the paper, there are two broad categories of routines: one that allows users to “chain together” a variety of devices using a third-party app interface, and one that uses a “centralized data store” as a sort of switchboard where devices and apps can communicate with each other over the internet.

Both are intended to make smart home automation more seamless for the user, and both were found to be vulnerable, giving hackers the ability to attack all the internet-connected devices in the home.

For the centralized data store platform, for instance, when you use your mobile app to communicate with a low-security device – say, a light switch – the device accesses your smart home using an authorization token.

“Anybody can steal that access token,” Nadkarni said, and use it to, say, make your smart home think you’re inside and turn off the security camera.

The scientists insist it’s not that hard. “You don’t need any specialized education,” said Poshyvanyk. ‘You just need to know how to run certain programs. Even a high schooler could do that.”

They blame the vulnerabilities on consumer demand and the headlong rush to meet it. “Manufacturers race to release these systems without having a good understanding of how they will be used in the wild,” Poshyvanyk said.

After the researchers identified the security flaws, they contacted platform vendors Google and Philips and app developer and manufacturer TP Link to report what they found.

TP Link fixed the flaw in its latest Kasa Switch light dimmer app, which prevents the type of theoretical lateral attack outlined earlier. Philips is expected to roll out a fix to its platform and Google is working to address vulnerabilities.

But the issue is bigger than one company – it’s the industry overall that needs to get smarter.  “We’re basically arguing that we need a systemic effort in terms of properly designing these systems with security in mind,” Poshyvanyk said.

“Because these problems will get worse with time. More devices will be added. (If) they’re not thinking about designing in security in the first place, we’re going to be having even bigger problems down the road.”

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Keeping Holiday Parties Merry & Bright

Posted By Ana Robic, Wednesday, December 12, 2018

from PropertyCasualty360.com

According to a recent Chubb survey, 50% of homeowners will host a winter holiday party in their homes. These parties are a time for joy and merriment with family and friends.

Too often, however, homeowners overlook the holiday party-related risks that can put a damper on the festivities.

Here are a few things to discuss with clients to ensure their holiday parties go off without a hitch.

Deck the halls, carefully

The right ambiance can make or break a holiday party, so it’s understandable that clients want to go all-out on decorations. String lights and candles are often popular choices.

Yet, poor placement of such lights and candles can quickly cause a fire. The National Fire Prevention Association reports that from 2011-2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 840 home structure fires that began with decorations each year. Of these fires, candles were the leading cause (36%). Additionally, decorations that were too close to a heat source caused two of every five fires (42%). Unsurprisingly, such decoration-related fires peaked in December.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways clients can safely turn their holiday party décor visions into reality. It starts with one basic rule: Avoid candles with flames. Battery-operated candles will provide the same illusion at significantly less risk. Additionally:

  • Consider how many people are invited to the party, and where they are most likely to congregate. Knowing where there will be increased foot traffic means clients can adjust their decorating plans accordingly.
  • Carefully tend to live plants including garlands and Christmas trees so that they don’t dry out and become a fire hazard.
  • Don’t overload extension cords or try to hide them under rugs. Not only can they fray and be pinched by heavy furniture, but they can also create a trip-and-fall hazard.
  • Test smoke detectors and replace batteries, if necessary.

Hire the right help

The best hosts make throwing a party look easy, but appearances can be deceiving. There is often significant back-end coordination to ensure a party runs seamlessly. This includes coordinating with vendors, caterers, bartenders and valets.

Unfortunately, many clients sign a contract for hired help without first reviewing the details. It’s important to advise clients to read the fine print before signing, specifically looking to see whether the vendor is licensed, bonded and insured. Clients should ask their agent about the appropriate limits of insurance needed in order to best manage their risk when using service providers in their home.

Additionally, clients should determine whether the vendor has workers’ compensation insurance for any staff that will be on-site before, during and after the party. Failure to verify this coverage in the event a staff member is injured on the job could mean clients are held liable for damages.

There are additional safeguards agents and brokers should suggest to clients based on vendors’ specific roles and functions. Bartenders should be TIPS-certified and directed to avoid serving alcohol to minors, even if it is a family member or close friend.

Valets also require special safeguards. Clients need to ensure they’re protected against claims of both property damage and theft. Additionally, valets can’t park cars just anywhere. Rather, they need a parking plan that complies with local ordinances and necessary permits. Once guests turn over their keys, ensure clients’ driveways and walkways are well lit, especially in areas with high snowfall or that are prone to ice.

Extra duties for regular help

It’s also important that clients don’t overlook any assistance they regularly have in the home, including nannies, housekeepers and gardeners.

If clients will be asking these employees to perform additional tasks over and above their day-to-day responsibilities to prepare for the party, this could increase their liability exposures. Imagine, for instance, what would happen if a gardener fell off a ladder while hanging lights outside.

Therefore, it’s critical that agents and brokers work with clients ahead of the holiday season to ensure they have sufficient coverage in their employment practices liability policies.

Watch out for ‘uninvited guests’

Clients have likely put significant thought into their holiday party guest lists, but it’s possible they could end up with a few unwelcomed guests — and they might never know it!

In many cases, these guests take the form of cyber bad actors who capitalize on hosts’ poor cybersecurity practices. Consider that, according to Chubb’s recent cybersecurity survey, 41% of homeowners don’t have a password set on their Wi-Fi network. That means anyone can gain entry.

When inviting people over, it’s understandable that hosts want to give visitors and guests access to their password-enabled networks (which 34% of homeowners do), but the safest decision would be to create a separate guest Wi-Fi network, something just 18% of homeowners have in place.

Why the extra precaution? Because hackers are always looking for the next victim. Your clients could practice safe cybersecurity measures, but if their friends don’t adhere to the same practices, allowing them access to your clients’ primary networks could inadvertently expose your clients’ information.

The holidays are a special time of the year. Spread good tidings by helping your clients throw the best — and safest — parties.

Happy holidays!

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12 Ways to Prevent Theft at the Holidays

Posted By Karen L. Sorrell, CPCU, Wednesday, December 5, 2018

from PropertyCasualty360.com

It's the most wonderful time of the year....for thieves too.

They’re making a list and checking it twice — and we don’t mean Santa and his elves. Burglars know the holiday season is a prime time for them to stock up on some goodies of their own. They plan ahead to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals who may be more focused on merrymaking than keeping safe from theft and fraud.

Thefts and break-ins typically skyrocket during the holiday season because thieves know that many families leave their homes and cars unattended and sometimes even unlocked.
Insurance might cover these thefts, but it won’t alleviate the victim’s violation of privacy concerns or restore their confidence of being safe and secure. Further, some items have more sentimental value than monetary.

All said, the after-effects of theft linger long after the item or its monetary value has been recouped.

Here are 12 steps that you, your clients, and your friends and family can take to ward off holiday theft.

No. 12: Mind your package deliveries.

It takes just a few minutes for a thief to drive through an area and see if packages are sitting on porches or stoops. Packages left sitting overnight are almost sure to be gone by morning, having been stolen by so-called ‘porch pirates.’

If deliveries are expected at your residence, make sure you will be there to get them inside as quickly as possible. If there is a possibility that no one will be home or a neighbor can’t store the package, then use alternative delivery options, such as having the items delivered to a store for pick-up, ship to an alternate location, such as the address of a trusted neighbor or friend, or perhaps your workplace.

Several options from delivery sources are available. FedEx offers a service called Delivery Manager, and UPS features a My Choice option that gives you some control over when and where packages arrive. On the other hand, you and your neighbors might agree to collect packages for each other if you see boxes left on each other’s doorsteps.

In some more densely populated areas of the country there are secure or parcel lockers available where customers may pick up packages at their convenience. UPS allows customers to pick up packages from a holding area at businesses, such as a local dry cleaner or convenience store, using UPS Access Point Network. Another example of a self-service parcel delivery is Amazon Locker. You find an Amazon Locker near you and add it to your address book. When ordering use it as your location when you check out. When the package is delivered, you will be emailed a 6-digit code with which to open the locker. Use of the locker is free and you have three days to collect your package.  Another option for Amazon prime members is to use Amazon Key, which gives customers the option of allowing Amazon to deliver packages just inside your front door. Access can also be granted to other people you trust, such as family members, friends, or even the dog walker or house cleaner.  A new product called Package Guard is a disc that is a connected package portal that sends an alert to your phone whenever a delivery arrives so you can have it stored elsewhere right away.

No. 11: Secure all entries.

Not all thieves enter your home through the front door.

It’s a good idea to keep all doors and windows locked when not in use, whether you are home or traveling. While a thief is less likely to enter a home when occupied, it does occasionally happen. When traveling, make sure any alarm system or security cameras are enabled and working properly. If you don’t have an alarm system, ask a neighbor or friend to keep an eye out for you until you return home. It’s also a good idea to alert the local police that the house is unoccupied. If neighbors are familiar with each other, they can help each other keep their residences secure while they are away from home. Or, you can download the NextDoor app, which offers a private social network focusing on connecting neighbors for various activities, including the posting of information on suspicious activity.

No. 10: Light it up.

When traveling, keep the home’s exterior lights on, and use a timer to turn indoor lights on and off. Empty houses and apartments are prime targets for thieves. By keeping the lights on and setting decorations and lights on an automatic timer, the thief may be fooled into thinking you are home.

No. 9: Hold the mail.

Nothing screams Empty Home! like a stack of newspapers outside and a full mailbox. When traveling, you might ask the neighbor to check your mail periodically throughout the week, or go to the post office and have them hold your mail. Stop delivery of the newspapers for the period of time you’ll be gone or have a friend or neighbor pick them up daily. This will give potential intruders the illusion that someone is home.

No. 8: Avoid dropping hints about high-ticket gifts.

One precautionary step to take is to carefully dispose of boxes that contained expensive items such as large-screen HDTVs and computers. The boxes could be a tip-off to a thief that such items are inside the home to steal. Also, having gifts or valuable items in view from a window could make a home an easy target for theft. Keeping them out of view of people passing by is a safe strategy. You might also consider writing down the serial number of high-value items and engraving them with your driver’s license number. In event of a theft, that information could help law enforcement officials locate the items and prosecute the thief.

No. 7: Hide any shopping bags that are inside your car.

With all the hustle and bustle of shopping and running errands, it can be easy to leave your bags, packages, and gifts in the backseat of your car, in plain sight of thieves. It is not uncommon for thieves to walk or drive through mall parking lots checking for unlocked doors, open windows and packages in full view. Be sure to always lock the doors, roll up the windows, and hide your purchases or put them in the trunk of your car so you don’t become an easy target for theft. For small items, make use of interior storage compartments in the vehicle.

When making multiple purchases, consider taking a break from shopping and return home to unload the packages. If that isn’t practical, then you may want to relocate the vehicle to another part of the parking lot to throw off a potential thief who might be tracking your vehicle or purchases.

No. 6: Protect the cash.

Many purses are stolen from shopping carts as customers are perusing store items. If you must use the shopping cart for your purse, hook the handle through your arm and make sure the purse is zipped or closed so that wallets cannot be easily retrieved.

Avoid openly displaying large amounts of cash, and consider removing most of your debit or credit cards from your purse or wallet prior to shopping. That way, if your wallet or purse is stolen, you will still have a form of payment available. Keep on hand a written copy of the phone numbers to the credit card company or bank so you can report the cards stolen, or store the contacts in your phone for easy access.

No. 5: Take a moment.

When leaving the car unattended, even for just a few minutes, do not leave the car running or unlocked. Experienced thieves are always on the lookout for an easy target and know that in our haste we often don’t take the precautions we should to protect our valuables. Our hasty desire to enjoy a latte on the run could result in a thief enjoying a whole lotta our stuff.

No. 4: Be aware of your surroundings.

When parking your vehicle, take note of the surrounding area and people. Watch for suspicious activity or for anyone who may be following you. If possible, park in areas that are patrolled such as on city streets or mall parking lots, rather than on side streets or at the outer edge of the shopping center. When shopping at night always park in well-lit areas. Install a car alarm or panic alarm on your vehicle or phone.

No. 3: Shop smart online.

When shopping online, stick with retailers known for their customer service, just in case of one of your orders fails to arrive or disappears.

No. 2: Track packages.

Most online retailers provide a tracking number in the confirmation email, so keep track of details like when items should arrive so you’ll know if a package has gone missing. Mobile apps like Slice can also help keep track of deliveries from multiple retailers by scanning your emails and aggregating your order information into a single feed.

If your tracking information shows that a package has been delivered but you haven’t received it, contact the retailer.  Sometimes the carrier will deliver to the wrong address or leave a package in the wrong mailbox and they can often be retrieved or replaced if the retailer is made aware the item is missing.

If the retailer is uncooperative, you may be able to file a claim with the credit card issuer. Before ordering, check your card policy to find out if your card offers purchase security that will replace or reimburse cardholders for stolen items purchased with the credit card.

Depending on the value of the item and other specifics of the situation, you may also need to file a police report and contact the merchant.

No. 1: Purchase peace of mind.

Regardless of the precautionary steps we take, it is still possible that a theft will occur. However, by investing in homeowners insurance, renters insurance, or car insurance, you can guarantee yourself peace of mind in the event that a theft during the holiday season does occur.

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