With Christmas approaching and part of my practice dealing with fraud and theft insurance claims, I jokingly refer to this as theft season.  Each year from December through February, there are always a large number of Christmas present claims.  By this I mean that people go out and purchase numerous Christmas presents for friends and family with cash, come home and drop them off at the house, head out to dinner and when they return all their gifts have been stolen.  Soon to follow is the insurance claim and as part of that claim, a request that they document what was purchased.  Rather than be caught in a bind with the response that you can’t document your purchases because they were all bought with cash, here are a few tips on how to better protect yourself should you be the unfortunate victim of such a Christmas theft.

  1. Keep receipts separate from the gifts.  Immediately take the receipts out of the bags and keep them in a separate place.  All too often during Christmas present theft claims people state that they purchased an item for cash and the receipt was still in the bag with the presents that were stolen.  By simply removing the receipt and keeping it in a safe place, if the gift is stolen, you can at least demonstrate you actually purchased it.
  2. Have a receipt sent to your email.  Increasingly stores are offering the option of having a receipt sent to your email account, a paper receipt or both.  By getting both a paper receipt and emailed receipt, you can keep a backup copy electronically.
  3. Do not pay cash.  From a financial advisor’s perspective, I’m sure this is bad advice.  From the perspective of documenting your purchases, using a credit or debit card is a great idea because it allows you to demonstrate that a purchase was actually made.
  4. Swipe your store’s customer reward card.  Most stores these days have a rewards card of some type such as Best Buy or Toys R Us.  By swiping your card, in addition to whatever rewards you may receive, the store generally keeps a history of your purchases.  If necessary you can then request a copy of that record to demonstrate that you actually purchased that item from that store (as well as the date it was purchased and the amount you paid for it.)
  5. Take a picture of the gifts.  Obviously you don’t need to take a picture of the Strawberry Shortcake doll you purchased for your son Mikey for $7.99, but for items that cost a significant amount and can be easily stolen (e.g. iPads, Laptops, etc.), take a quick photo with your phone, with not only the item, but something recognizable from your house (i.e. you holding it).

While hopefully you will never need to file the “Christmas present claim,” in the event you do have a Christmas theft, the suggestions above should help you make sure that little David and Teresa still have the wonderful Christmas you intended.