A Stolen Backpack and Five Lessons Learned

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A Stolen Backpack and Five Lessons LearnedWhen my daughter’s backpack – along with her laptop – was stolen on a field trip, we were all a little upset. My daughter was angry with herself for being careless, my husband was livid with the culprit and their mean-spirited opportunism. I was worried I would have to explain that I wasn’t sure that we could replace it – at least not for a little while – and so took the first chance I could to sneak away and check the what sort of coverage (if any) we may have for the item.

1. Back-up always

First of all, there is no way we would have been able to calm the situation down enough for me to get away long enough to think about anything if we had not always made sure that our computers are backed-up on a separate hard drive regularly. Not one, but two catastrophic meltdowns resulting in several hundred dollars being poured into retrieving data finally taught us. So, after much insistence and even a demonstration, I was able to convince her that her music and games were safe and that she could use our other, older computer to avoid doing homework right away. 

2. Compare coverages

The coverage offered by the outlet where we purchased her computer was adequate for “helping” us purchase another laptop, but not so great that I didn’t want to explore other options.

3. Home insurance matters

Having never had to access the benefits of my coverage, as thankfully no disasters have yet to hit my house, and because I just don’t have the time to try to find the “stolen laptop” section in my policy, I called my broker. It was confirmed to me that, yes, personal property is covered for theft even when it’s not physically at home, and also that because we had all of our receipts and paperwork, plus the fact that we have replacement cost insurance (which covers the full value of the item for replacement as compared to actual cash value coverage, which factors in depreciation), we should be able to get our daughter another computer that will make her happy.

4. We all own more than we think.

Our broker also suggested that we use this experience as impetus to perform a personal property review. She pointed out that our receipts and the fact that we had paid for the laptop by credit card were what was ensuring our coverage, but if there had been something else valuable in that backpack that we didn’t have the same proof of ownership for we might not have been so lucky.

Personal property inventory aspects:

  • Paper receipts of your large purchases
  • Card expiry dates and emergency phone numbers
  • Bills, warranties and instruction manuals for more valuable possessions
  • Several pictures of each item of worth from different angles with descriptions, the cost to replace and serial number if there is one
  • Include items you may think trivial. Nice lamps can cost an astonishing amount of money!

Remember to store back-up copies of the inventory and the photos somewhere safe and away from your computer.

5. Coverage limits for valuables can be low

Our broker also encouraged us to revisit the coverage limits we have on items of value. It is actually very common to exceed the maximum for certain items. The special limit for jewellery we had was $3,000, which my engagement ring surpasses (not by much, but enough), and my mountain bike was an embarrassing amount over what we would have received had we not increased our cap.

Getting Wired

We have another project now. While speaking with our broker we also learned that we could earn a discount on our premiums by doing a few things with the home that will actually serve to make us feel safer. We’re looking into installing an approved alarm system, one that is “connected” and will alert us through our cellphones if anything from a fire to a power outage occurs.