An expensive lesson


I got the call from my husband early on a Friday morning.  “We’ve been robbed.”  It had happened in the early hours of the morning while he and the kids were sleeping (I was spending the night in Buffalo).  He had fallen asleep watching football and woke up and went to bed around 3am.  When he came downstairs at 6am, he started noticing things were missing, like his laptop which had been on the kitchen table.  My son  couldn’t find his Zune in the family room.  It quickly became apparent that more items were missing.

It turns out we weren’t the only ones robbed.  Four other houses on our street were hit but I have a feeling they made out best at our house.  Besides the Xbox 360, Wii, 60 video games, camera, and camcorder, they took a few thousand dollars worth of tools my husband had in the garage.  They must have made multiple trips to carry so many items out.  We’re still discovering items that were taken since it’s hard to figure out what’s missing until you go to use it and it’s not there.  (The police actually took pictures of the empty spots where things used to be.)

We did make it easier on the burglars.  We had a habit of forgetting to lock the doors, but we’d lived in our nice suburban house for 21 years and there had never been a problem so I was never worried about security.  We have no pets or security system to sound an alarm.  We had so many items for the thieves to pick from.  They left all the flat screen TVs,  probably because they’re too bulky to carry.  Everyone slept soundly with their doors closed so no one heard a thing.

Things I would have done differently in retrospect:

  • Lock the doors more carefully (this is the most obvious).
  • Install a motion detector light in the backyard, which is where they entered the house.  We’re planning on doing that anyway.
  • Make sure I have full replacement value on your homeowner’s insurance.  We already do, but we have a $1000 deductible which will eat into the amount we’ll get from the insurance company.  I’m fine with that since we’ve paid lower premiums over the years.
  • Keep receipts longer.  The insurance company will give us higher reimbursement for items we can prove were purchased in the last year.  In some cases I was able to go to online retailer’s websites to print off copies of those receipts.  I was amazed to find that Amazon had my purchase history back to 2002!  I also plan on scanning receipts to make it easier to store them.  I’ve noticed a lot of receipts that are printed on thermal paper fade severely after even a short time so it’s good to have an electronic version.
  • Keep more product boxes.  I’ve always gotten on my husband’s about saving all the retail boxes for items we buy, but they came in handy for the laptop he bought 6 months ago since it had the serial number, as did the box for the Xbox 360.  The police compare the serial numbers to a list they get from the pawnshops each week.  We could also store the serial numbers electronically so we could get rid of some of those boxes.
  • Do more frequent backups and move backups offsite. I backed up my laptop before we went on our long trip and I’d been bugging my husband to do the same.  He never got around to it.  His laptop held lots of pictures of home projects he had worked on over the last few months which he lost.  If we were ever to have a fire then the backups would also be destroyed unless we store copies elsewhere.
  • Take pictures of our possessions occasionally just to keep track of what we have.  If we were to ever have a fire or another burglary, it would make it a lot easier to identify all the missing items.  I know I’ve heard this suggestion before but never made it a priority.  You can bet we’ll be doing this.

Everything that was stolen was replaceable.  We’re just grateful that no one got hurt.  I’m hoping I can help one person out there to avoid what we are going through.  It was definitely an expensive lesson for us.

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10 thoughts on “An expensive lesson

  1. Like you, we have been living in our neighborhood for 11 years. There have been a few break ins and the people have been caught. In any case, we have an alarm system, a dog but there is area for improvement. Thanks on the ideas of reciepts and boxes. I already plan on installilng motion lighting on the house as I will be doing some renovation this coming months. Being hearing impaired these little things go a long way. I have a $500 deductable on my full replacement but the obvious point is try to prevent before it happens.

    • Marc, I can imagine it’s tough being hearing impaired. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a sound sleeper, but I’m thinking the alarm system, dog, and motion detector lights will help as deterrents. Hopefully you won’t become the next victim in your neighborhood. I agree that $500 deductible is good if you are taking all the steps to ensure your security.

  2. Hi Michele,

    Sorry to read about your calamity.

    Your list is a good one, but I would add:

    Stand in the middle of each room (including the bathroom) and take a photo of each of the four walls.

    Create an inventory list of everything you can see. Include when purchased, price, where purchased.

    Close-up of the book cases, valuable contents of drawers. Add to inventory.

    Write to 2 CDs. Keep one at home and and one in a safe deposit box, along with the inventory.

    Update annually.

    Seep better.

    • Thanks for the great tips Mike. We acquired a lot of stuff after being in our house after 20 years so I have a lot of items I need to inventory. We have Quicken so we know how much we paid for most items but I don’t necessarily have proof of what it cost. I know it will take a while until my husband sleeps better.

  3. It’s really creepy that it happened while people were home. The burglaries I’ve experienced were all of the “come home and find the door busted” type, which is scary enough. Good set of tips. One of mine they threw a piece of firewood through the sidelight so that they could reach in and open the door. We do have motion lights now.

    • Betsy, Most people who I know who’ve been robbed were like you and had it happen when they weren’t home. It definitely adds a creepy factor knowing people were in the house while the family was sleeping.

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