You hear a strange noise down the hall and you're home alone. You can't figure out what it is, so, naturally, your mind jumps to the last crime drama you watched, and now you're terrified.
We hope that it's just the cat knocking something over again. But if it turns out to be something more, your next steps are crucial.
So, what should you do in the event of a house robbery?
- Get to a safe place and stay out of your house
- Call the police
- Once you know it's safe to go inside the house, take inventory of stolen items
- Call your insurance agent or company to file a claim
- Take steps to prevent future break-ins
But first, let's get technical. Did you know robberies and burglaries are different?
- A robbery is when you are present and the intruder uses force or the threat of force to take your belongings.
- A burglary is when an intruder takes your belongings when you're not home.
Either way, your homeowners insurance will likely cover damage done to your home by the intruder and most of the belongings they take.
1. Get to a safe place and stay out of your house
You open your front door and see your house was broken into (a burglary). What do you do? Bolt into the living room to see if you still have your laptop? Hurry upstairs to check on a family heirloom you keep hidden?
While this instinct makes sense, it's dangerous. If you spot any signs of burglary, you should immediately exit your home. Stay with neighbors or inside your locked vehicle until the police arrive.
There are two reasons for this seemingly counterintuitive step.
- The first is that the intruders may still be in your home. To ensure the safety of you and your family, it's best that you don't let them know you are present or encourage a physical confrontation.
- The second reason is that your home is now a crime scene, and you definitely don't want to contaminate it with your fingerprints. Moving things around will only make finding the culprits and your stolen possessions harder for the police.
2. Call the police
As soon as you and your family are in a safe place, outside of your home, call 911. The police will come to your house, do an investigation, and ensure the thief isn't still there. They will ask you to do your best to create a list of the missing items to include in the report. This step is very important. A police report and an accurate list of your missing items is crucial for your insurance claim.
3. Take inventory of stolen items
So here's the hard part, not to say the rest of this hasn't been challenging, but now you need to establish what has been stolen. You will probably identify any large or valuable items that are missing first, like electronics, home safes, and jewelry since they're more noticeable. But it's important to look around and make a complete list of all items that were stolen, big and small, to include in the police report and your insurance claim.
Police frequently check local pawnshops and dark corners of the web used for trafficking stolen goods. You never know which stolen item, a watch, an old cellphone, a power tool, might be the key that helps find your items.
This information needs to be turned over to the police as soon as possible.
The best thing you can do to increase the odds of having your items returned is to accumulate as much information about the items as you can, including:
- Serial numbers
- Manufacturer names
- Any other identifying markers like scratches or labels
- For hard-to-track valuables like pieces of art or jewelry, try to find a photo of the item.
Ideally, you'll have an up-to-date list of your belongings before a break-in, so it's a good idea to start recording items as you acquire them if you don't already. This is called a home inventory.
To create your home inventory, you can use one of the several home inventory apps, or a spreadsheet, or just pen and paper, as long as it's recorded somewhere.
Check out our free template: Inventory List For Your Personal Property to get started on yours.
4. Call your insurance agent to file a claim
After the police have reviewed the scene and filed an initial report, your next phone call should be to your insurance agent. When you call your agent, have your list of stolen items ready. Make sure the list you give your agent matches the one you provide the police.
After this, a claims adjuster will reach out to go over the next steps. They will ask for a copy of the police report or a case number. You can still file your claim without one, however, you will need to provide the report later to proceed with your claim.
Your list of missing items is also necessary when you talk to the claims adjuster. So, if you haven't noticed, step three is important. Try to find any receipts or professional appraisals of any items that were stolen. This will help the claims adjuster evaluate the value of your items.
If you cannot locate receipts, try to look through your email or web history for proof of purchase, things like:
- Instruction manuals
- Product warranties
- Product registrations
- Photos of the item(s) can also sometimes help
Claims adjusters can only do so much if you can't confirm what your valuables are worth. They will do all they can to make sure you receive compensation for the items that were stolen.
What will my home insurance cover in the event of a house robbery?
Most homeowners insurance policies will cover damages to your property from the robbery and the items stolen. However, it's important to keep in mind there may be a value limit for the items stolen. For example, fine arts, jewelry, and guns may need to be insured by adding an endorsement, for high-value property and valuables.
5. Take steps to prevent future break-ins
Nobody expects a break-in to happen. However, after your house is robbed, it's a good idea to see how you can try to prevent future robberies.
Hint: Certain home security measures may get you a discount on your insurance, depending on the insurance company.
At Auto-Owners, we provide discounts for:
- Centrally monitored alarm systems
- Deadbolts on all exterior doors
You can also consider easy-to-implement home security measures, like:
- Install motion-activated outdoor security lights.
- Ask a friend or family member to check on your home when you're traveling.
- Avoid sharing your travel plans on your social media profiles, which can tip off criminals.
- Join a local neighborhood watch group.
- Purchase a locked gun case for your firearms.
- Bring in packages from your porch promptly.
- Don't let your mail pile up.
Above all else, we hope you feel safe in your home again. Having an intruder ransack your belongings is upsetting, so we encourage you to take time to de-stress and make a game plan on how to prevent future robberies.
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