As we near the end of the year, it's always good to take time out and take stock of the risks that seem to arise during the holiday season.
During the hustle and bustle, home robberies tend to increase and more cyber criminals come out of the woodwork to take advantage of people who may not be paying as close attention to things as they usually do. On top of that, if you are hosting a holiday party you need to take steps to ensure that your guests don't have an accident as a result of “overindulgence”.
We recommend that you review your holiday plans, home and personal safety, and the coverages on your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy.
Online criminals and scam artists
More and more people are becoming victims of cyber criminals, who are getting craftier at duping unsuspecting online shoppers.
Some tips to avoid getting scammed include:
- Make sure the website name is spelled correctly. Cyber criminals will often set up a fake site with an alternative spelling to the intended site, but which looks exactly like it. They set up these sites in hopes that some people will misspell the website URL, and to phish for usernames, passwords and credit card information.
- Avoid any websites that do not end in .com or .org.
- Make sure the site protects data. Online store websites should start with "https," and not merely "http." The "s" denotes that the website has a secure socket layer, which uses encryption to protect your personal data.
- Don't click on shopping links in e-mails you receive. Cyber scammers have become adept at mimicking the look of e-mails from legitimate online retailers to phish for personal data.
Safeguard your home
The risk for home fires increases during the holiday season. Make sure to:
- Water live trees every few days to ensure they don't dry out and post a fire hazard.
- Keep artificial trees away from live candles.
- Don't leave burning candles unattended.
- Don't overload extension cords or power strips and avoid placing cords under rugs.
- When cooking, don't leave burners unattended, and keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. If a pan catches fire, put a lid on it to smother the fire and turn the heat off immediately. Don't douse it with water.
Also, home break-ins and burglaries along with porch-packet thefts surge during the holidays, so take precautions like:
- If you are going to travel for the holidays, put your inside and outside lights on timers. Also, ask your neighbors to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
- Lock all doors and windows before leaving your home.
- Never leave anything of value out in plain sight.
- Consider using a service that installs a delivery box near your porch that requires a key to retrieve the packages purchased online. Amazon customers also can add an Amazon Locker to their Amazon address book, which gives them a secure location to fetch their packages.
- When paying for your online shopping, check the "signature required" box. This is an option with all the major services, like UPS, FedEx, DHL and the USPS.
Play it safe when hosting a party
The other big risk is holiday parties. You face greater liability risk if you are serving alcohol and someone is injured at your home or is involved in a drunk-driving collision afterwards. Also, people can trip and fall on decorations or in poorly lit areas.
The Insurance Information Institute recommends that you:
- Keep an eye on guests and cut off anyone who seems intoxicated.
- Arrange for cabs or an Uber for guests who should not be driving.
- Keep areas well lit, especially if there is a pool or the property has water access.
- Make sure your decorations don't create tripping hazards.
A final note
Even if you take precautions, your home may still be burglarized or suffer fire damage.
If you don't have a home inventory, create one. If you do, make sure it's up to date. Take photos or videos of items like televisions, computers, jewelry and other expensive items.
If your home is burglarized or there's a fire, having a detailed list can help identify stolen or damaged objects and make claims easier to file.
Also, if you are hosting a party, you should call us to ensure your liability coverage limits are sufficient. We are here to help should you need it- in the meantime, we wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!