By Marcus Leach

The festive season has become the theftive season as thieves increasingly target easy pickings over the Christmas and New Year holiday break warns the Association Of British Insurers (ABI).

Last Christmas insurers dealt with just over 10,000 burglary claims over the Christmas period paying out £15 million. Many of these resulted from thieves targeting homes unoccupied while the owners were away on holiday or visiting friends or family.

With the average family estimated to spend around £375 on presents for their immediate family this year, the ABI’s advice to ensure that thieves do not ruin your Christmas is:

- Do not draw attention to expensive presents you receive by leaving the packaging visible for the rubbish collection — crush it and bag it up.
- Even if quickly visiting a neighbour to delivery presents always lock your door and shut any windows as it can only take a few minutes for thieves to strike.
- Do not leave Christmas presents in full view in unattended vehicles. If you have to leave them, make sure they are in a locked boot.
- If going away over Christmas make sure your home is secure. Use light timers to give the impression that your home is occupied. Ask a trusted neighbour or friend to keep an eye on your home.
- In crowded shops during the New Year sales always keep your wallet or purse secure as pickpockets love crowds.

Check your home contents insurance as many will automatically temporarily increase your sum insured to take into account the increased value of presents over Christmas. Immediately after Christmas check the value of presents, such as electronic gadgets, to see if you may need to increase the value of your contents cover.

“There is no festive goodwill from thieves, who will not think twice about ruining someone’s Christmas," Nick Starling, ABI’s Director of General Insurance, said.

"Now, more than at any time of the year, burglars are looking for soft targets, so don t make it easy for them — taking a few common sense precautions will ensure you are not still paying for Christmas long into the New Year.”

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