Oh, happy Friday!
It's been about a week and a half since our house was broken into and you know what? It still sucks! So, in an effort to maybe make some good come out of it, I figured I'd post some of the "coulda-woulda-shoulda" thoughts that we've had since this happened, so maybe someone out there in blog-landia could learn from us and hopefully avoid this happening to you.
I will say that one thing I've learned is that there's really nothing you can do to guarantee 100% that this isn't going to happen to you. You could easily spend a boat load of money buying various things to protect you and your possessions and you can worry yourself sick about it, but if someone really wants to get in, they'll find a way. That said, I still think it's smart to think about security and find ways that make sense for you to help protect you and your property, especially in this economy when people are desperate.
I know it's terribly cliche, but I didn't think this would happen to us and if it could happen to us, it could happen to you. And let me tell you: you really, really don't want someone out there with everything necessary to assume your identity. It's not a warm fuzzy kind of feeling. And it really sucks knowing that you got about half the money back from your insurance company as you should have because you didn't have the right insurance riders in place.
Okay, so here's my top five lessons learned:
1) Get an alarm system. I was never a believer and generally thought they were for paranoid people, but they make sense. I think there's a preventative value in having that little sign in the front of one's yard to let people know you have a security system. And if someone does choose to break in, at least you have a better shot of knowing about it before it's too late. However, if you do get an alarm, use it. They don't do much good if you don't...you know...arm it.
2) Protect your documents. We had a simple fire-proof safe that we kept our important documents in. Bonus points for us for thinking about it, but we didn't really think that someone would take the safe with them. So get a safe that you can bolt to the floor or get a wall safe. Or a safety deposit box at your bank (they can be free or at least very very inexpensive, depending on what kind of account you have). If you insist on having a small one, at least hide it (and putting it on the floor of a closet doesn't count--it's apparently EXACTLY where thieves think you're going to put it).
3) Get the right kind of door hardware. If you don't know what you need, ask around at the hardware store or call the police department. And be sure to get the extra long screws that will screw the hardware into the stud. Most hardware gets screwed into the trim only, which is easy enough to pop off with a crowbar, so make sure it's screwed into the stud.
4) Catalog your stuff. If your stuff gets stolen, you'll need to prove to your insurance company that you did indeed own said stuff and you're not making it all up just to make a quick buck. What constitutes proof of ownership? Check your homeowner's insurance policy to be sure, but generally photos, receipts, packaging, and owners manuals count. I'd suggest taking periodic photos of every room in your house and storing them on a site such as flickr, Shutterfly, Snapfish, or whatever. (You could do this when you set your clocks and check the batteries in your smoke detectors.) Take detailed photos of jewelry or other valuable items and/or scan the receipts. And for electronics, be sure to get the serial numbers. Obviously, you're not going to do this for every little thing you buy, but figure out what makes sense for you. We actually did really well in this department: we were able to prove almost ownership of almost everything that was taken, save for two bottles of perfume.
5) Get an insurance rider on your jewelry. I know. It's not a fun way to spend your money every month. But check your homeowner's insurance policy to see what they'll cover when it comes to jewelry. And don't forget to take into account that watches get included in this. Then figure out the approximate value of your watches and jewelry and see where you're at. It might make sense for you; it might not. But do the research to find out. Think about it: if all of it was gone tomorrow, it can add up quickly to replace it.
So, there you have it. Not exactly my funnest blog post ever, but I hope someone out there gets something out of it and can learn from our experience.