Written By: Axton Betz-Hamilton
Seventy-five percent of all homes in the United States will be burglarized within a 20-year span (Biermeier, 2023). In 2021, property valued at $737,294,919,165 was stolen in residential burglary cases, with miscellaneous items being the most common items stolen. These sobering statistics indicate a critical need to help clients reduce the financial risks associated with a potential residential burglary, along with being prepared to respond to the needs of clients who have experienced it.
To reduce the financial costs associated with the risk of residential burglary, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance is recommended. Clients will need to understand and weigh the pros and cons of replacement cost coverage versus actual cost value coverage for household contents. Furthermore, exploring limits on claims for certain items such as cash, electronics, and jewelry in the client’s policy provisions is warranted to ensure there is adequate coverage for the items they own. Serial numbers of electronics and photos of valuables should be kept in a secure location that would not be accessible to a burglar, such as a lock box at a bank. This information will be helpful in processing a claim as well as for law enforcement in identifying your items, if they are recovered.
Upon experiencing a residential burglary, victims may feel violated (Robert, 2020). A common perception regarding residential burglary is that it is a crime in which an individual files a police report, then files a claim with their insurance company and then moves on with life. Robbert (2020) states this perception is false; residential burglary leaves victims feeling personally attacked.
Victims may feel compelled to discard items that they know were touched by the burglar (Robert, 2020). Having recently experienced a residential burglary myself, I felt compelled to discard furniture and bedding that was touched by the burglar(s). Knowing that this can be a reaction, helping clients identify resources to replace these items may be needed, such as tapping into an emergency fund or shopping at furniture consignment stores or thrift stores. Feeling the need to wash and sanitize all belongings can be a reaction to experiencing a residential burglary (Robert, 2020). This was a reaction I experienced, and I incurred a substantial water bill as a result. Helping clients prepare for such a spike in a utility bill may be warranted.
Residential burglary victims may no longer feel safe in their home and decide to move. After my experience, I chose to immediately move. There were costs associated with this, including paying for movers, boxes, and packing supplies. Helping victims find resources to minimize these expenses, such as having friends and family help move items and obtaining free boxes from retail stores may be necessary if they want to move. Regardless of whether a residential burglary victim moves, if they did not have a home security system, they may want one. Helping clients fit this cost to their budget is essential.
Identity theft can result from a residential burglary, through the theft of electronic devices and personal documents such as passports and Social Security cards (Sandberg, 2019). All of these items were stolen when my home was burglarized. Helping clients who experience residential burglary secure their identity is critical to minimize further financial harm. Steps to take to minimize the risk of identity theft after a residential burglary are:
- Place a credit freeze with each of the three credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. There is no cost associated with placing a freeze, and it keeps an identity thief from opening new credit accounts using a victim’s identity.
- Change passwords for all online accounts.
- Report the theft of a Social Security card to a local Social Security office. They will help the victim obtain a new card.
- Create an online account with ChexSystems and place a freeze. This will prevent an identity thief from opening new checking accounts in a victim’s name.
- Create an online account with E-Verify and place a freeze. If an identity thief uses the victim’s personal information to try and obtain employment and the employer uses the E-Verify system to verify an applicant’s identity, they will not be able to obtain employment.
Residential burglary has a variety of financial implications. Having adequate insurance protection can help protect against financial losses in the event of a burglary, but once a burglary occurs there are several other costs that may need to be considered, such as obtaining a security system, new household items that were not stolen, and moving. Identity theft is also a concern when residential burglary occurs.