When we go on vacation, most of us know to cancel the news-paper and ensure that the house has a lived-in look. We do it so thieves don’t think they can plunder at their leisure while we’re snapping photos in Seville or gawking at the Grand Canyon. However, the Internet has provided would-be burglars a new tool for tracking our whereabouts and planning their nefarious deeds. These days it’s estimated that 40 per cent of travellers post their plans on social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, or via personal blogs. Bad idea.
“At the risk of stating the obvious, telling strangers about your travel plans on your social-media page is the modern equivalent of hanging a sign in your window that says, ‘Out of town for two weeks,’” states Diane Lennie, administration manager for AMA Insurance.
According to Statistics Canada, there were 23,000 break and enters in Alberta in 2008, of which about 60 per cent were residential. And while statistical data on how many homes have been robbed as a result of “over sharing” is impossible to correlate (burglars don’t usually leave a “Thanks for the tweet, twit” calling card), Lennie warns that thieves are constantly on the lookout for unoccupied premises so they can work undisturbed. “Hardening the target,” she says, must include denying them information about your whereabouts.
The new rules to travel by include being more circumspect about the amount of site-specific information you provide on the web and steering clear of “friending” people you don’t know. In particular, avoid mention of the dates you will be out of town, and resist the temptation to post trip photos until after you get home. Finally, delete any public “wall” messages from friends that allude to your trip while you’re away.
Of course, traditional holiday burglar-proofing staples shouldn’t be forgotten, either. Remember to cancel the newspapers and mail; lock all doors and windows (don’t forget attached garages); use timers and motion-sensor lights; and have a trusted individual check the home regularly. Leave an extra key with this person and ask him or her to keep the property clear of debris, including junk mail.
Before the Storm
A robbery isn’t the only thing that can spoil a vacation homecoming. Alberta is infamous for its severe weather, and many a vacationer has come home to find their castle whipsawed by wind, flooded or frozen. Insurance adjustors have seen it all, including homes that have had the roofing shingles torn off in a windstorm, only to have the rain pour in afterwards.
Again, ask a friend or neighbour to visit the property regularly. If you can’t prove you had someone checking in, your home may not be covered by your insurance plan. This individual should be especially vigilant during times of inclement weather or rapid snowmelt.
During these wet periods, take defensive measures. Adequate drainage is crucial, so keep floor drains clear and consider installing a sump pump. It’s also a good idea to install backflow valves or plugs for drains, toilets and other sewer connections to prevent outside water from entering through these conduits. Furnaces, hot water heaters and electrical panels should be elevated, and high-value possessions, including important documents and photographs, should be stored where water can’t get at them. If possible, avoid finishing areas of the home where flooding is most likely to occur.
Finally, it’s a good idea to turn off the water valve for any outside taps when vacationing to avoid water theft and soggy vandalism (yes, it happens). The precautions you take pre-trip will translate into a worry-free, relaxing getaway – and isn’t that what vacations are all about?
AMA provides home insurance so you’re protected whether on vacation or not. Members receive competitive rates and exclusive savings of up to 40% on AMA home insurance, including 10% on home and 10% on auto insurance, with our auto-and-home multi-policy discount. For more information about home, renter, condo or mobile-home insurance, or for a quote, stop by a service centre, call 1-800-615-5897 or visit AMAInsurance.ca
Reliance Protectron’s security systems include 24-hour monitoring to protect against intrusion, fire and other threats. AMA members can earn 50 CAA Dollars on services. protectron.com/ama
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