Brits are being warned to keep their wits about them in the final run-up to Christmas with experts keen to remind people that the next week is one of the prime times of the year for burglary, street crime and shop lifting across the UK - and perhaps when we're most likely to lose our recent purchases.
With millions being spent on gadgets, jewellery and other expensive presents over this time, many homes are packed to the rafters with goodies; while shoppers are walking the streets with hundreds of pounds worth of items at any given time. And if you’re rushing around stressed, or a little bit too merry thanks to festive celebrations then you could be ripe for the picking from thieves or at greater risk of losing or damaging your raft of presents.
New research released today shows that almost half of us believe that at this time of year, we are more vulnerable to having things stolen or damaged.
The average value of our handbags, wallets and pockets is £150, however at Christmas many of us far exceed this figure. Despite that, just over a quarter of us are guilty of walking around with our bag open or unzipped, while almost a third of us often walk in public places talking on our mobile phones, or listening to music, which are two of the easiest ways to attract pickpockets and thieves.
According to the study by Endsleigh Insurance, almost 3.5 million of us have had a phone stolen, 526,000 an iPad and just under half a million an iPod.
This year millions of us are set to receive gadgets for Christmas; however the fun won’t last long for some of us, with more than 300,000 saying they’ve had a gadget stolen within a fortnight of receiving it.
The top five places to have things stolen, broken or damaged according to the research are the home, the street, in the pub, in a public car park/from the car and in the office.
So, what can you do to keep yourself and your possessions safe over the next week?
1. Don’t advertise
Be aware of how easy it is to know what tech you are carrying. It’s more discreet to run your earphone cables under your coat but it also makes it more difficult for thieves to “fish” your smartphone or mp3 player out of your pocket if both the wire and the device are difficult to access.
When carrying larger devices, try to use bags that serve other purposes in addition to protecting your gear. Backpacks with laptop pockets are better than a laptop case with a shoulder strap. The former blends in and could contain anything, while the latter is definitely carrying something of value to a crook. I avoid carrying cases that declare the nature of the contents. I even buy camera bags that are specifically designed to look like something else.
3. Back everything up
Assess the cost of losing your gadget. It’s not just about the money. What kind of data does it contain? Have you backed everything up on a regular basis? Other than the device itself, what would you lose if it went missing?
Perform regular syncs to make sure that you can always recover the contents of a lost device.
4. Password protect
Data devices are lost and stolen every day. Think about the personal information contained on your smart phone, laptop or tablet.
If it does fall into the wrong hands, will they be able to access your email, your photographs or any sensitive data? A strong password will give you some peace of mind should the worst happen.
5. Keep it hidden
Consider how easy it is to physically access your device. Whether walking down the street, sitting in a restaurant or travelling, if your device is in a simple-to-predict and easy-to-reach place for you, it’s just as easy for a thief. Inside pockets are better than outside and be especially careful with bags that can be quietly opened when slung over your shoulder.
6. Be a thief
Not really, but for a few minutes look at yourself through the eyes of a crook. If you wanted to rip yourself off - how would you do it?
Could you easily take something of value? If the answer is yes, take steps to make it more trouble than it’s worth. Remember, most thieves go for the easy target.
7. Don’t be distracted
One of the most effective ways to steal someone’s property is to divert their attention. Out of sight, out of mind and out of pocket! Place your phone on the table in a public place and you might attract professional thieves holding a map, magazine or sales card, which they use to cover your phone and steal it from right under your nose. If you hang your expensive camera over your shoulder, it might be very difficult for a thief to steal but can they take the expensive lens with a simple push and a twist?
8. Don't be careless
As the Christmas season fills many of us with seasonal merriment, we often become careless. Always ensure that you place valuable gadgets out of harm’s way. For instance, make sure your prized iPad isn’t resting on your bed side table near a glass of water after a Christmas party night out; and always ensure your phone is stowed away in a secure pocket – making it unlikely to fall out and smash or get lost in the back of a taxi.
Always ensure that you have right insurance for all of your gadgets.