The sad reality is that thousands of grinches steal thousands of Christmases, every single year. They always have, and they always will. It is very unfortunate when it happens to others, and devastating when it happens to you. I’m going to try to point out the ways I have personally seen this happen in my career as an insurance adjuster, and some ways you can either reduce the risk of this happening to you, or at least ways to minimize your losses should it happen despite your best efforts.
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From the mall, you can be followed home (or to your next destination) for another chance to abscond with the gifts before you get them in the home, or they can simply make note of the address and return another time. And since most homes have new purchases under the trees this time of year, it is not difficult to look in windows and see which homes make the best targets. Or, thieves can even wait until after Christmas, and drive around looking at all the empty boxes being left at the curb, too large for trash cans.
I have handled all kinds of these holiday theft claims over the years, and it is always sad when someone loses all their presents (or their family’s presents). And as an adjuster, I also know they are probably not getting the claim paid before the New Year, and not until long after their Christmas has been ruined.
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So what’s the best ways to stop these grinches from stealing your Christmas? Common sense, mostly. First, know that the threat is out there. That alone will make you more aware of your surroundings when you are walking around the mall, or in stores. Consider purchasing gifts with credit cards, especially those that offer theft insurance protection. You will not only document your purchase this way, but you may get reimbursed easier than going to your insurance company, and without as large a deductible.
If you need to drop off gifts at the car and go back for more, I recommend getting in the car after placing the gifts in the trunk, and then driving around to the other side of the mall, so it looks like you are just arriving to shop. When you are leaving the mall for home, beware of cars following you, and drive past your home and go around the block, then double back to see if anyone is following.
Once home, be aware of anyone watching you bring presents inside, and don’t leave the car unattended or out of sight for any length of time. Close your trunk and lock your doors every time you have to take a load of gifts into the house. In the home, be sure to lock all doors and windows, and use an alarm if you have one. Take pictures of the gifts before they are wrapped, and make copies of your receipts, just in case. After Christmas, don’t put empty gift boxes at the curb – take and dispose of them somewhere else, or cut them up so they can fit inside your garbage cans. All of these things can reduce the size of the target, and since not everyone will do this, people other than you will likely present an easier target for crooks looking for the surest victims.
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And if despite all your care, a grinch makes off with your Jing Tinglers, Flu Floopers, your Tar Tinkers and Who Hoovers, just know if you can document what you purchased, and that it was stolen, your insurance claim will go that much easier. Call the police right away, and give them a complete list of everything stolen (if they don’t get everything listed right away, be sure to provide them with a supplemental list that includes absolutely everything).
Adjusters hear stories every year of people using Christmas bonuses (cash, of course) to buy expensive items that are well above their means, with no proof of purchase whatsoever. Because of this, they expect people will throw in a few extra items from their “wish list”, even if they did really suffer a holiday theft, and they may be extra suspicious when it comes to paying these types of claims. Oftentimes these cynical and callous adjusters seem as cold-hearted as the grinch that actually stole the gifts. The better you can document your claim (receipts, invoices, credit card statements, photos, police report, etc.), the faster your claim should be settled, with as little hassle as possible.
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Like it or not, the grinches are out there, and we may not be able to stop them all by singing a heartwarming (and3-times heart-growing) rendition of The Who Song (Fahoo Fores, Dahoo Dores), but we can take a number of steps to reduce our chances of falling victim, and if it happens anyway, learn ways to make the recovery process go smoother. Welcome Christmas, one and all.
Mark Goldwich is president of Gold Star Adjusters, a group of public insurance adjusters dedicated to helping citizens get the maximum settlement for any insurance claim.