'Tis the season for petty theft

Monday 23 November 2015, 8:52AM
By Harold French

New Zealanders are being warned to ‘mind their stuff’ as the weather warms up because petty theft and minor property damage rockets up more than 20 per cent over the summer months.

The Fire and General Insurance Manager for nationwide insurance and home loans advisory firm Prosper Group, Stewart Wright, said the company is bracing for a sharp increase in claims resulting from opportunity theft, as well as losses and damage to personal property as Kiwis move outdoors.

“It’s the season for petty theft. More Kiwis are on the beaches, so they leave their mobile phones, sunglasses, handbags – that kind of thing – unattended. Thieves target the beaches in summer because people are relaxed and less vigilant. There are also more vehicle break-ins,” he said.

Another problem was that outdoor activities like fishing, kayaking, boating and swimming results in broken sunglasses, water damage to mobile phones and people simply forgetting their stuff in the change rooms, for example.

“It’s the inconvenience factor of stolen handbags and phones that really gets under the skin for most people. A lot of them discover, belatedly, that their insurance doesn’t cover a lot of these things, or the excess is too high to make it worthwhile claiming against.

“Insurance policy limits can also catch a lot of people by surprise,” said Mr Wright, whose company actively assists clients through the claims process. “An example of a sub limit that may apply is that the insurance policy won’t cover you for theft that results outside your main dwelling, for instance, or which makes you pay higher excess.

“The fact is though, that losing a $200 pair of sunglasses still hurts. It hurts the back pocket, it causes distress and inconveniences and it hurts even more when you think you’re covered and you discover you’re not – it puts a bit of a damper on the holiday,” he said.

Even more aggravating is being unable to prove ownership.

“Insurance companies require you to prove ownership. If, for example, you’ve thrown away the box and the receipt, you can still provide a photograph, or Facebook screen shot, of you wearing or using the item. But if you can’t prove ownership you’re in for an uphill battle with the insurance companies.

“I’ve had someone submit a TradeMe receipt as proof of ownership, and that was fine,” he said.

Mr Wright suggested the following steps to help keep the holiday cheerful:

  • Have proof of ownership handy e.g. a photograph of you wearing your sunglasses or wristwatch
  • Ensure you have the correct cover for your outdoor pursuits, and that the cover meets your expectations e.g. be aware of policy limits, excess and sub-limits
  • If possible, be able to provide proof of value. If your handbag gets stolen, it may be difficult to prove the value of your make-up, for example. In that instance the insurance company will revert to a second-hand value pay-out
  • Lock valuable items in your boot, or out of sight
  • Ensure somebody keeps an eye on your stuff at the beach

"These are simple steps you can take to ensure that your holiday is not interrupted by petty theft or the inconvenience of lost or damaged property. They’re little things, but it’s the little things that count,” he said.