There are plenty of risks associated with the holiday season, and chances are you’ve heard of some of them. Around this time of year, you may see a lot of tips about fire prevention and how to keep your home safe, from keeping Christmas trees well-watered, to making sure you don’t overload electrical sockets. But there are a lot of concerns that you may not be aware of, and our members have tips to make sure you and your loved ones can celebrate the season safely.
Aside from fire hazards, holiday decorations can pose many risks, particularly if there will be pets or small children in your home at any point. Practice care when decorating your house by following these tips from Central Insurance Companies:
- Beware of toxic decorations. Mistletoe and holly berries may be poisonous if more than a few are swallowed. Old tinsel may contain lead so discard it if you are not sure of its composition. Fire salts (which produce a multi-colored effect when thrown on burning wood) contain heavy metals, which if swallowed may cause serious gastrointestinal problems and vomiting.
- Place all ornaments and candles out of reach of small children and pets. Small or breakable ornaments can be easily knocked down, which can result in cuts or choking. Curious children and playful pets can topple a tree in seconds causing serious injury.
Read the full article by Central Insurance Companies here.
In addition, GEICO reminds, “Whether on your tree or in your home, use care with decorations that look like candy; small children may be tempted to take a bite. This raises the possibility of cuts, poisoning or choking hazards. This caution also applies to small ‘button’ batteries.” Read more from GEICO here.
Often times, people will use the holidays as a reason to buy more lavish gifts for their loved ones. There are also sales going on that allow people to buy things they may have otherwise not been able to afford. Whatever your situation is, if you decide to gift something a little extra fancy, The Cincinnati Insurance Companies recommends insuring them:
- Consider taking advantage of a store or manufacturer’s warranties or guarantees, but don’t mistake them for insurance. For example, some major jewelry chains offer limited guarantees on gemstone and diamond replacement or repairs. This is a wonderful perk so long as the store is in business and you comply with regular inspections and the terms of the guarantee agreement. But in the event that your jewelry is lost or stolen, it is unlikely that the store will be able to help you. Talk with your insurance agent about your valuables and the best options to protect them.
- Be sure to insure your expensive purchases to value, not just what you paid for them. Door buster specials during the holiday season may enable you to get a remarkable price on an item, but if you only insure for the price paid, you may not be able to get that same deal if you have to replace it later. The value of precious metals and gemstones fluctuates, so getting an appraisal can help you and your agent determine the appropriate amount of insurance. (And, don’t hesitate to ask your jeweler to provide an appraisal gratis as a way to close the deal. It never hurts to ask, and the cost of an appraisal may be worth it to the jeweler to make the sale.)- Take a photo of new, valuable items, and have it ready – along with any copies of the receipt, serial number, appraisal or certificate – when you talk to your agent about the right coverage for your items.
Read the full post from the Cincinnati Insurance Companies here.
Protecting Your Bank Account
During the holiday season, people can become more susceptible to identity theft and credit card fraud. The chaos of a busy store around the holidays means people can be caught off guard, making it easier for someone to grab your wallet or purse. You could also fall victim to fraudulent emails that link you to fake websites for some of your favorite stores. OII member Grange Insurance offers plenty of tips on how to keep your finances safe this season:
- Be aware. During the hustle and bustle of the holidays remain aware of your surroundings and your belongings. About 43% of identity theft cases involve a lost or stolen wallet, checkbook, computer or phone. Never leave your purse, wallet, laptop or smart phone unattended while in a public place. If you’re staying in the hotel, you should assume that other people have access to your hotel room. Keep your valuables and personal information locked inside your hotel room’s safe. If you’re traveling, only take a few credit cards with you and call the credit card companies to tell them where you’re traveling, when you’ll be there and how they can get ahold of you if they notice suspicious charges.
- Limit access. Do not use your debit card to purchase holiday gifts. Debit cards are more risky because you’re using your own money and providing direct access into your checking account. Consider using gift cards or single-use credit cards to pay for all of your holiday purchases. Another great option is pre-paid credit cards or virtual credit cards. Some banks offer virtual credit cards that are good for only one transaction. If you still choose to use a credit or debit card this holiday season, check the activity on your card at least once a day for anything suspicious.
- Go direct. You might receive emails that display amazing deals at websites of stores you typically shop at, but don’t click on the link in the email. Instead, go directly to the store’s website. Identity thieves may create clones of store websites and use an email to bring unaware online shoppers to the fake site so they can steal personal information if the person buys anything. Also, be cautious of less popular or unfamiliar online shopping sites that have deals that seem way too good to be true. It’s possible these are scam sites, too.
You can read Grange’s other tips for keeping your identity safe here.
No matter how you celebrate the season, everyone can do a little more to ensure the holidays are as safe and fun as possible. We hope you’ll keep these tips in mind as you prepare for the festivities!