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Ensuring Your Clients’ Holidays Stay Merry and Bright

The holiday season is a joyful time of year, but it can also be filled with unintended consequences.

Criminals tend to strike more often, preying on people who let down their guard — burglaries and thefts of opportunity rise. And, while people enjoy the spirit of the season, they forget to practice common-sense safety or take measures to keep themselves from becoming a victim. As a risk manager, protecting your clients is your priority. Now is the time to discuss their holiday plans and review their coverages to ensure that they’re protected if the worst-case scenario does happen.

Scammers and cybercriminals 

According to an Internet Retailer and Bizrate Insights survey, 60% of consumers surveyed planned to purchase from online marketplaces during the holiday season. Unsuspecting shoppers can become targets. It is easier than ever for scammers to present themselves as legitimate businesses online and steal financial and personal information. Remind clients that vigilance is key to avoid becoming a victim. Before buying online, encourage them to check for the following:

  • Website names should be spelled correctly and should not include domains other than dot-com or dot-org.
  • Shopping sites should include the “S” (the lock) in “Https.” Domains without “Https” can use unsecured connections or have weak encryption of personal data.
  • Sites that ask for credit card information in return for “coupons” or to win “free” merchandise are almost always scams.

Coverage for valuables

While many families travel or take a vacation this time of year, criminals do not. Are your clients adequately protected? Do they have the proper coverage to travel with valuable jewelry or heirlooms?

A May 2019 survey conducted by Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group found 20% of travelers reported missing jewelry while on vacation. That percentage doubled since 2015. Take the time to talk with them about their vacation plans. Review their coverage and make sure the policy extends worldwide if they plan to travel abroad. Other tips:

  • Encourage them to avoid packing anything in their checked bag that they can’t permanently part with, or that has a high monetary value.
  • Ask them to have valuable jewelry appraised and make sure that it’s properly insured for the current value.
  • Remind them to keep money, credit cards and passports on them at all times. If they do choose to travel with jewelry, advise them to choose the pieces they take wisely and either wear them or place them in a carry-on that they keep in their possession at all times.
  • Ensure that they document everything and make a list and take photos of every piece of jewelry going on a trip. While they’re in a hotel, they should use a safe or a safe deposit box, and when leaving the hotel, never leave items out in the open.

Safeguarding homes 

Holiday decorating is the hallmark of many family traditions. For most families, it involves Christmas trees, lights, extension cords, candles and tons of cooking. Talk to your clients about decorating do’s and don’ts.

Between 2013 – 2017, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires per year that started with Christmas trees. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 25% of those Christmas tree fires were caused by heat sources, such as a candle or a piece of equipment that were too close to the tree.

In addition to protecting homes from fires, families must take precautions to protect their homes from theft, particularly if they plan to leave their homes unattended. Experts say criminals drive through neighborhoods looking for empty houses to burglarize. Clients should do the following:

  • Keep travel plans off of social media. When leaving home, keep the television or music on and set indoor and outdoor lights on an automatic timer.
  • Avoid placing boxes from expensive items out at the curb.
  • Update or create a home inventory list. Take photos or videos of items like televisions, computers, jewelry and power tools. If your home is burglarized, having a detailed list can help identify stolen objects and make claims easier to file.
  • Schedule someone to stop by the home and check to make sure everything is in order and all systems (AC/heat/alarm) are working as planned. Undetected system failures can result in burst pipes and other disasters.

Playing it safe when hosting a party

Holiday parties give us all a chance to take a break and enjoy the season with friends and family. Despite the fun, they also present risks, such as theft and liability. Take this time to review your clients’ coverage to ensure that high-end art, jewelry, heirlooms or any collections are properly insured for theft and accidents.

If a client plans to host a party and serve alcohol, proper coverage is essential to reduce their liquor liability. According to the Insurance Information Institute, homeowners can be held legally responsible for guests’ actions after they leave the party.

Homeowners should consider the following:

  • Hire a bartender who is trained to identify intoxicated guests.
  • Host a party at a venue other than their home to minimize liquor liability.
  • 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.
  • Offer guests access to a WIFI system that is different from the one they use for personal and financial matters.
  • Lock away personal valuables when traffic is higher in and out of the home. For example, before and after a party, they may have caterers and other vendors in their home setting up or cleaning. All valuables should be kept out of sight.

The holidays can be filled with celebrations and joy as long as precautions are taken. One can never be too aware, too prepared or too careful. Engaging in open and honest dialogue with your clients now can go a long way in safeguarding their future.

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