If your home is going to be full of the latest gadgets this Christmas, whether it's an e-book reader, an all-singing tablet, or a snazzy smartphone, make sure you are protected. The festive period is a lucrative one for thieves: last December there were 23,000 burglaries, leading to claims totalling £35m, according to the Association of British Insurers.
"A pre-Christmas explosion of e-readers and tablets, such as the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, the iPad mini and the Google Nexus 7, as well as a glut of top-of-the-range smartphones, means that even more of us will be carrying around hi-tech gadgets worth hundreds of pounds come January," says Stephen Ebbett, the director of Protect Your Bubble.
With Christmas so close, now is the time to review your home insurance policy and ensure you're fully covered. Many insurers will automatically increase cover over the festive period, but this will vary by provider, so if you don't know, ask. Aviva, for example, tops up cover by an extra £3,000, while the Post Office offers a 10 per cent increase in contents cover during December 2012, as does Lloyds, subject to a maximum £3,000.
"If this isn't included then you should contact your insurer and inform them of the increase in valuable items in your home. It's also essential that any exceptionally expensive items, such as a piece of jewellery, are covered individually," Michael Ossei, a personal finance expert at uSwitch.com.
Even if you do have a temporary boost in cover find out how long this period lasts and then speak to your provider as soon as possible after Christmas to update the value of your household contents.
Home insurance premiums are based on the level of cover and the value of your contents, but if you're undercovered insurers will only pay out a percentage of the actual value if you make a claim.
Several providers and comparison sites have helpful online contents calculators to help you estimate the value accurately. Check the small print of your policy carefully. You need to know what could prevent you from making a claim. For example, you could have a claim turned down if you don't take steps to make your property secure.
Any temporary Christmas boost to cover is only applicable to items at home, so before you take your new gadget outside ensure you have additional protection. A standard contents insurance policy with accidental damage will only cover items at home, so you need "away-from-home cover" or "personal possessions cover" to protect items elsewhere. This should only add around £35 to your annual premium, however, you do need to check a few things. First of all, if you have any new valuables worth over £1,000 you will usually need to inform your insurer so they can list this individually on your policy.
Check whether you have a new-for-old policy, under which your items are replaced, or repaired as new, or a wear-and-tear policy, which will still pay out to replace or repair your items but with a reduction for depreciation. There is usually an excess to pay with both, the amount you pay towards each claim, which can be hundreds of pounds.
You also need to consider the potential impact of losing your no-claims bonus as portable items such as gadgets are more likely to be stolen or damaged, and if you make a claim, you could see your premium shoot up. If you're potentially paying a high excess and losing a generous discount, it may not be an effective way to insure specific items. You can insure items with standalone gadget insurance, which can be fairly cheap.
Insurance2go offers policies for tablets from £2.99 a month which covers theft, accidental damage, water damage, fire damage at home and abroad. The excess payable is £50 for accidental damage and £75 for theft and loss. With Protect Your Bubble you pay from £2.19 for e-readers and tablets (excess of £25, or £50 for iPads).
"Make sure your gadget insurance protects you worldwide against theft, accidental damage, liquid damage and mechanical breakdown outside the manufacturer's warranty," says Mr Ebbett. "To protect data – including e-books, music, photos and other files – back it up. Data back-up options range from online, cloud-based storage services, to USB drives or external hard drives."
Before paying out, however, check you aren't already protected. With smartphones you may be already paying for cover. For example, the Co-operative's Privilege account has perks including mobile insurance.
Protect your presents
Social media If you are going away this Christmas, don't advertise this to burglars on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media site.
Locks Double-check that all doors, windows, sheds and garages are locked securely before you leave the house for a Christmas or New Year's Eve party.
Keys Keep spare keys out of sight to prevent burglar's using a hook and wire through your letter box.
Hide gifts Put Christmas presents out of sight, preferably in an attic or loft, instead of under the tree where they are an easy target for burglars.
Rubbish bins Don't leave packaging for your shiny new TV by the rubbish bins - it will only highlight that you something worth stealing.
Photos Take photos and keep serial numbers and receipts of expensive items, putting these safely away as proof of purchase to insurers.
Based on £30,000 contents cover, no children
£134 Legal & General
£149 EndsleighReuse content