Thinking about bad things that could happen in life isn't fun. I'm not one to dwell on all of the things that can go wrong in life because I'm one of those upbeat "everything will be fine" people. But lets face it, no matter your outlook on life, things happen and it's best to be prepared. Since our burglary, I have learned tons!! Some things I knew, others I didn't and wish I had. So I want to share some of my recently acquired knowledge so you all can be prepared for the not fun things in life. So here's what I know...
First things first, secure your home! I know this is kind of a given, but even though I always make sure our doors and windows are locked, we must have missed one and our window was easily opened from the outside after the screen was cut. If you have an alarm, set it. EVERYDAY! I'm pretty sure everyone I know with an alarm system doesn't always arm their house every time they leave. We got out of practice of setting ours everyday and only set it when we would go out of town. We pay a monthly fee for it so we really should be using it. Needless to say it wasn't set on the big day and someone got in without even a hitch. It still makes me sick to think that we could have maybe prevented this.
Insurance - Renters or homeowners, you should have it. This is not only something you want for robberies, but for any event that would leave you without your stuff or even a place to live. Know your insurance company and agent, ask tons of questions about your policy and search their website for useful tools. You will need proof of ownership for you to claim items (State Farm told me they accept photos of the item, a scan of the manual, receipt, or even a picture of the box). Take tons of pictures of damage right after the event to document what happened. Also, if you have someone living with you, make sure they are covered under your insurance or have their own plan. We didn't know this and unfortunately anything that Sheldon "owned" isn't covered under my homeowners insurance because it is in my name. Thankfully, I purchased almost everything that was stolen in my name so we were lucky here. Because of this, I'm having to get proof that I purchased these things in my name which leads to my next point...
Receipts- I've said before that I'm bad with money, so that would also signify that I don't keep receipts. In fact, I usually only keep receipts for things that I've bought warranties on. Thankfully, I had warranties on a lot of the things that were stolen so I had quite a few of the receipts. I read on a message board recently that you should scan receipts for any items that were over $50 and keep the files secure somewhere. Many receipts fade with heat or age, so this is a really good idea. Scanners are definitely a good investment. If you have an iPhone, there's a really great scanning app called Genius Scan that works with your camera and can save the scans to pdfs. I've used this a lot recently with receipts for wedding purchases.
If you're like me and don't keep receipts or misplace them easily, you can sometimes get the place you purchased an item at to print you a new receipt. They usually only have a few years window that they can pull from, but it varies from store to store. And FYI, the Apple Store told me they only keep them for 3 years. You will usually need a date of purchase for this to work which will mean going to your bank and having them search for transactions (I'm in the middle of this right now because I can't find reciepts for either of the Playstations ugh).
Serial Numbers - This is really just for the police report. Just in case your items end up in a pawn shop or police custody with their serial numbers still in tact, you can get them back. A local pawn shop owner told us if our stuff happens to be found, it could take a year or more to get it back. I had the serial numbers for my macbook and my camera, and these just happen to be the two items that I would want the originals of back. I'm crossing my fingers that we see them again.
Computer Security - Thankfully, most of my computer files, iTunes included, were housed on my external Time Capsule, which wasn't stolen. This is one reason I'm really not super worried about not having my computer. But this has got me thinking about getting a Mobile Me account. That way important documents, pictures, and other things are housed on a remote server so they will be safe if something happens to my Time Capsule.
One thing I was immediately worried about though were my passwords. You know all of those websites that you have attomatic log-in set up on? Yeah, I immediately started changing passwords and this would have been much easier if I had a list saved somewhere at least of the places where I have accounts that I wouldn't want anyone else accidentally logging on to. I'm going to make a google doc that has this information for future purposes.
I also really wish I would have known that there are free tracking devices you can set up on your computer... yeah, I had no idea! But this one called Prey looks to be something that could have been very handy.
Paperwork and Documentation - Like I said above, you will need some kind of proof of ownership for insurance claims. This can be anything that can show them that you owned the item. But to make your claim go through faster it's best to have as much documentation as possible. The things they're asking on the paperwork I'm filling out for my insurance are; Detailed description of the item, brand name/model number and/or specifications, where purchased or obtained, age of item, today's repair cost/replacement cost/amount loss. They also want documentation attached, such as pictures and reciepts.
State Farm has this handy dandy Home Inventory Checklist you can download, fill out, and save somewhere safe to help you with this process before you have to fill out a claim. My boss told me about an iPhone app that does this as well. I downloaded it this week and it's pretty awesome! Here's a review of the Home Inventory app. There is a lite version that is free so you can try it out before shelling out the $5. It allows you to set up an on-line account as well so you can sync the iphone information to your computer. I really wish I would have had something like this, because I really am not sure what all the thief took. Of course we know all the big things, but we keep finding other random things that are missing. And I don't even know what he could have taken from the garage, there was way too much stuff out there that I haven't seen in years.
Safes or Safe Deposit Boxes - I don't have either of these, but I'm getting one now. The morning after the break-in I woke in a panic and ran to my jewelry drawer. I was almost in tears at the thought that my great-grandmother's jewelry could have been gone. Thankfully, he didn't happen to open that drawer or he would have taken it all. Sheldon had four rings (all with really no value except sentimental; one was his future wedding ring and one his mom gave him when he was 15) and all of them were laying out and grabbed up. It really is important to have a place to store heirlooms and important documents. Our passports and birth certificates were in the house too and were the first things I checked on when I got home that day. Thank God those weren't touched either! My bank charges $35 a year for a document sized box. I guess I always figured they were more expensive. $35 a year is nothing if it means my valuables will be safe.
All in all, we got off really lucky. Almost everything can and will be replaced. But all of this has taught me not to live with a false sense of security. Things happen and we really need to be prepared for the worst. Planning ahead and taking precautions will save you a ton of time and stress when the bad stuff does happen. I really hope this helps anyone else that wants to be prepared in the future. I know I've heard a lot of this in the past from my parents (who were robbed a few times and knew from experience what to do to prepare) and never really took it to heart until it happened to me. So please don't make my mistakes. Anyone else with advice, please share it! These are just the things that I've learned from this experience so if you have other experiences to share, please do so.