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Tips for safe and happy holidays

(Dec. 2012) – Don't let the spirit of the holidays lull you into giving burglars, muggers and scam artists a better chance to do their dirty work. Here are some tips from the Crime Prevention Coalition and American Family Insurance to help you celebrate safely this holiday season:

If you're traveling:

  • Use an automatic timer for your lights.
  • Ask a neighbor to watch your home, shovel snow and park in your driveway from time to time.
  • Don't forget to have mail and newspaper delivery stopped; piles are signs that you're gone.

If you're out in the evening:

  • Turn on lights and a radio or TV so it looks like someone's home. Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave, even if it's just for a few minutes.
  • Don't display gifts where they can be seen from the outside.

If you're shopping:

  • Stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Keep your wallet close to the front of your body.
  • Park in a well-lit space, lock the car and hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; pay with a check or credit card whenever possible.

If a stranger comes to the door:

Beware. Criminals sometimes pose as couriers, delivering gifts. And it's not uncommon for people to try to take advantage of others' generosity by asking for donations when there's no charity involved. Ask for identification, and find out how the fund will be used. If you aren't satisfied, don't give.

Take a holiday inventory:

Take photos or make videos of items, and list descriptions and serial numbers. If your home is burglarized, having a detailed inventory can help identify stolen items and make insurance claims easier to file. Include anything of value - and remember to make your list and check it twice!

Based in Madison, Wis., American Family Insurance offers auto insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance, health insurance, business and farm/ranch insurance in 19 states. American Family insurance is the nation's third-largest mutual property/casualty insurance company. Web: www.amfam.com; Facebook: www.facebook.com/amfam; Twitter: www.twitter.com/amfam.