What I learned from being robbed and how to protect and prepare.

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Being robbed sucks! Like really, really SUCKS! It’s probably pretty high on our “things that blow” list. Not only does it come with horrible feelings of fear, violation and all around ickyness, it also is a HUGE time suck! Police reports, taking inventory, working with insurance, re buying EVERYTHING and oh yeah… cleaning up the mess. Let’s just say I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy!

As we’ve been picking up the pieces and getting our lives back in order there were so many things we learned. Things we noticed that we did right and of course things things we wish we had done better before the unthinkable happened. I had never met a person who had their home ransacked like ours and all of a sudden we became experts on it. We were as prepared as ignorant bystanders could be. Ignorance was certainty bliss. But now knowing what we know we just have to pass on the tid bits of knowledge that might protect the next unknowing victim…

As far as Facebook goes…

Some speculated that FB was to blame for our home robbery. That maybe we over shared and posted about vacation plans for all the bad guys to see. The truth is I’m super paranoid about over sharing on FB so we never once mentioned about our upcoming travel plans. No one knew when we were leaving or coming back or that we were gone for that matter. I did share photos while I was gone but nothing that really screamed “ON VACATION!!! GO NUTS IN MY HOUSE!!” Unfortunately there were over 50 home robberies over the holiday vacation period in our Valley so there was nothing tying ours to a Facebook connection. As far as tips for helping Facebook NOT be a contributor to something like this, here are a few tips…

-NEVER announce when you are going to be on vacation! Sounds pretty simple and it is! Talk about it after the fact and resist the urge to count down your trip to Mexico publicly via FB.

-Don’t be afraid to ask your friends once in a while to refrain from spilling the beans. Friends and family tend to get excited when they know they are about to see you. Sometimes they even write on your wall for all to see and say something super complimentary but also very telling ” Can’t wait to see you next week! This is going to be the best Spring Break ever! We soooo need this week long vacation!” Little did they know that they just shared with all of FB your travel plans! “When can I see you while you’re in town?” ” How long will you be in San Fransisco?” etc. All innocent comments but telling non the less. Don’t be afraid to erase comments like this. Even ask nicely publicly on FB for friends to be sensitive when sharing such info.

-Return the favor! DON’T oust someone else! Private message friends if you know they re coming to town to see if you can meet up. Never make someone elses travel plans public knowledge.

-Do a “Friends Cleanse.” Take a look at your total number of friends on FB. If you are like me I bet a large portion of those “friends” aren’t really people you know well or interact with in real life. The fewer amount of people that are privilege to your going ons, the less likely something will slip and get into the wrong hands unknowingly so trim the fat! Go through your list and unfriend those who you just don’t need hanging around online. If you don’t care what they are up to, they probably don’t need to know what’s going on with you. Just because you were introduced to your neighbors sister in law once at a 4th of July BBQ doesn’t mean she needs to know your plans!

Protect your photos and videos:

This is were our biggest heartbreaks stem from. 10 years of home videos were stolen and the first 8 months of my baby’s life on photo were taken as well.(moment of silence as I shake my fist in the air!!!) We did this half right! We had backed up all our photos up until last April when I had our 4th child. Oh what I wouldn’t give to have these irreplaceable back!

-Back up and back up often! Once a year is not nearly enough! Try to make this a regular habit. Maybe on the first Sunday of every month or another time when you can make it routine! Just think how devastated you’d be if you didn’t have photos from HUGE life changing moments!

-Upload your photos to the cloud or other online photo storage sites. Places like picaso, drop box and zip cloud. Here are a list of the top 10 online storage sites. Some do have a monthly charge and some are free.

-Upload to an external hard drive. This is what we had done and my husband kept our external hard drive “off site!” Somewhere safe and away from home in case of robbery or fire. Thankfully we had every other photo we have ever taken up until April of 2013.

Appraise and document your jewelry and collectables:

I bet if you had to right this second that you couldn’t list all your valuable jewelry. Of course you might think of your engagement and wedding ring but do you have a complete list of your valuable accessories. I could not list my entire collection and add stress, anxiety and fear on top of it all I bet your memory will be clouded as well.

-Take photos of all your jewelry next to a ruler to help gauge size. Email yourself these photos along with a full detailed description: White gold, size 5 wedding band with 24 small diamonds covering the entire ring.”  Make a file in your email that holds emails like this. Trust me… there is more to email yourself.

-Get appraisals. Have your jewelry appraised. This will be a valuable document that has exact measurements and value. Insurance companies often need proof of ownership and this will be your golden ticket. Scan copies of your appraisals and email them to yourself and add them to that file!

Antiques and collectables are also hard to remember. If you have a large collection of ” fill in the blank” you’d be wise to create a very detailed itemized list. Photograph it and email it to the file!

Do a video walk through:

You would be hard pressed to be able to remember everything that is in your home. Insurance needs proof so either a receipt (ours were all stolen), a photo of everything or some sort of other proof. Walk through room to room and slowly capture on video your homes contents. Say things out load “45″ Sony flat screen, Samsung blue ray player…” This will all help you prove what you had or at least jog your memory of what to look for to see if it’s still there! We are still finding things missing 4 months later because we simply forgot we owned it in the first place. This is something that needs to be done often or when new items of value are added.

Don’t forget your garage, sheds, storage rooms and inside closets! Clothes, and lots of them were taken from our closets and drawers. Open ‘em up and document your clothing collection.

We did this but again our home videos were stolen so it did us no good. Upload and email yourself this video. Add it to the file!

Speaking of Clothing…

Like I just mentioned, a ton of my husbands clothes were taken and since we had no receipts and not a clear idea of how much exactly was gone we had to guess. If you have a large wardrobe of nice work clothes, denim, designer clothes, outer wear,  you might want to make a list and keep it up to date! Again, email it to yourself! Even if you forget 1 or 2 items, if their value was of any significant,  it could be a big loss.

Your computer:

I could care less that our computers were taken. What was on those computers that I’ll never get back is the sad part. Our last years of photos of course was the biggest loss but also were tons of short stories and journal writing.

-Save important writings to google doc so they can be accessed from anywhere!

-Password protect your computer. We had valuable info from past tax returns. All our social security numbers and other sensitive info for my husband and my kids was just a click away. That’s not to say they could never hack it but it’s one more thing to keep them from that info. We have since had to deal with all three credit bureaus putting alerts on all our credit. Lets just say this is a big time suck!!!

-Invest in an external hard drive. Back up videos, your music, photos, documents. Keep it off site.

Important documents:

We were SHOCKED to find that the robbers took our collection of receipts and important records. We still have no clue why but years of receipts were gone. If there is any valuable paperwork that you’d be up a creek without invest in a scanner and or keep these documents off site. Lets just say we are the new proud owners of a safe deposit box!

Check your policy:

Luckily we had fantastic home owners insurance but we fell short in a lot of areas on coverage. Very few of us know what is really covered. On standard policies only $200 of your cash and precious metals is covered. And jewelry is only covered up to a $5,000 value (at least that was our policy). Take an inventory of your stuff. Does it add up and far surpass what you’d be reimbursed? What we surpassed on our policy added up to well over $6,000. This is money we will never see again and could have been avoided had we adjusted our policy.

Master bedroom gold mind!

Our master bedroom was hit the hardest. Every drawer dumped or rifled through, every nook and cranny searched. Moral of the story… DON’T hide stuff in the master bedroom. Bad guys are on to us! Like many of you, we had the majority of our valuables in our master bedroom. Jewelry, a small safe, cash, valuables. If they found it, it was gone! I don’t exactly know the very best place to hide or keep your valuables because these guys were pro’s. They also cleaned out our freezer and took frozen foods thinking we froze valuables.  They broke our toilet looking in the tank for stuff. We have since found places to keep things but of course I won’t share;) Get creative.

Tell your neighbors, stop your mail and be in contact:

We did everything right before we left. We put a hold on our mail, we told 4 neighbors to keep an eye out for us and we kept in contact. The night before our robbery I texted a neighbor who had been checking our porch for packages and neighbor gifts because it was the holidays. She had been clearing our porch for 10 days and she was the only one who knew we extended our trip by a week. A few of our neighbors had shoveled our driveway and our sidewalk. We were doing everything right. That’s not to say it wasn’t worth it! Who knows how many other times we might have avoided such a situation because we had neighbors taking care of us while we were gone!

If you plan to travel do all you can to make it look like things are “business as usual!”

-Put a hold on newspaper and mail delivery.

-Let your neighbors know how long you’ll be gone. We’ve always joked between neighbors that if service or moving trucks are parked in your driveway to call the cops! Ha! Just ask them to be on the look out for strange things. Have them pick up packages or anything accumulating on your porch.

Prep the house:

-Invest in a few light timers. Have a few lights come on at night. Nothing more then your porch and a light here and there. I have to be honest. A neighbor was recently out of town for a long time and they had what looked like EVERY light on at night. Well that’s as much of a giveaway as no lights on while you are away that no ones home. If a bad guy was casing the neighborhood they might catch on that your “tell” for being out of town is EVERY LIGHT ON!

-I have heard of also having radios set to a talk radio station on a timer.  The chatter might be a good decoy. I like that idea.

-Arrange a shoveling or lawn care service if you will be gone for a longer length of time or if the weather calls for snow.

-Lights in the back yard! They got it by breaking in through the back door. We never have lights on in the back. Maybe that would have prevented them.

 

I’m pretty sure that this list isn’t anything new that you’ve heard but I also bet that most of us haven’t done many of them either. It wasn’t until it was too late that we wished we would have done these simple things. You can’t protect yourselves from everything but you can be more prepared. I know that had we done a few more of these things before hand that a lot of heartbreak could have been prevented. If you do just one thing be sure to back up your photos and videos! Stuff is just stuff but memories like that are the real losses!

 

When this happened to us EVERYONE was so kind and wanted to know how to help us. This isn’t your everyday trial so it’s hard to know how to help a friend who has had this happen to them. Here are a few do’s and don’t that I promise will be helpful if you ever find yourself wanting to help someone in this situation…

Do:

-Offer to watch kids while the parents clean up the mess so the little ones don’t have to see their home turned upside down. This is beyond helpful! Making a scary situation less scary is always good.

-Don’t talk about or ask questions about the robbery or investigation in front of the kids. This just brings up more fear, revisits old fear and you never know what the kids have shared with the kids.

-Bring by fresh flowers and or scented candles to help liven up the home. For a long time the home doesn’t feel normal and feels pretty creepy. The empty places where tv’s, electronics and other missing items are all constant reminders of the invasion. It took us over 6 weeks to start replacing items due to insurance so anything that can help brighten up the home is hugely welcomed. Something pretty to look at and fresh new scent help ward off the heebie jeebies!

-Over announce yourself!!! I can’t stress this enough! Don’t just pop in! The unsettled feeling is at an ultimate high! Every knock on the door, every door bell ring would send chills down my spine and make me hold my breath. I told all my friends to text or call me first if they were going to come by. If I knew someone was coming I was much more relaxed when the door bell rang.  It was about at the 6 week mark that I noticed I didn’t get a sinking feeling when the someone was at my door.

-Keep them in your prayers! I can honestly say that the only reason we were able to return to our home so soon after the robbery was because of all the prayers we had offered up on our behalf. Prayers of comfort and peace do wonders…especially at night!

-It was silly at first to think that my neighbors and friends were willing and offering up meals to us. We weren’t sick. We could cook but man alive was it a blessing to have a few nights off of having to prepare a meal. For a while our days were filled with taking inventory, trying to come up with proof of ownership and trying to get the house back in order. It was beyond wonderful to not have to worry about what was for dinner! Prepare and drop off a meal! It will do wonders for a tense family who could really use the break from that daily chore.

We were surrounded by amazing friends! We were blown away by their love and generosity. One night a basket of love was delivered to us that was over flowing with kindness and thoughtfulness. A friend organized a way for others to drop of gifts that would cheer us up. Gift cards and gifts for the kids. A frozen lasagna to replace the one stolen brought a huge laugh! A wallet filled with cash to replace the one my daughter had taken. We could tell that these gifts were thought threw and purposefully chosen. We were overwhelmed and it brought us to tears! It meant so much and still does as I think about the sacrifice it was all to make us smile and feel better!

Any and all gestures of love are always well received!

Don’t:

-This will feel hard to resist but don’t share stories of the time you were robbed. Don’t talk about the one time your friend was robbed, or how your Aunt had her purse stolen. I know it’s a reflex to share stories like this but I’ll tell you what…Nearly every conversation where someone was checking in on us, trying to comfort us or asking for details, they had a story to share. It was counter productive. It was anything but comforting to hear about everyone elses robbery be it small or big. I remember telling my husband that if we ever had a friend that this happened to all we would say was “I’m so so sorry. If you have any questions about how the insurance process went for us please let us know.” We got stuck listening to detail after detail and it was like we were reliving our violation every time. That only makes sense to me now. Sharing like experience feels like the right thing to do but having been on the receiving end of them I know that it can be more harmful then helpful.

 

Hopefully these tips will help!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our home robbery. Not the way we wanted to start 2014!

On January 2, while we were still on vacation in California we got a call from a neighbor reporting that our garage was open, my husbands car was gone and that our house had been ransacked. News like this is never anything you can prepare for and the reaction is probably exactly what you’d expect! We were in shock, shaken and felt farther away from home then ever before. The initial news was like getting cold water thrown on you! We just couldn’t believe it.

The police were called and we were only feed bits and pieces of details from neighbors who were keeping us informed while the house and crime scene were being processed. For hours we were kept in the dark. Naturally we hastily packed, threw our belongings in our car and headed home terrified at what we’d come home to.

The drive home gave us two things…1. A chance to freak out! After the police left a few neighbors went inside and their reports were not good. Some described it like a scene from a movie! Everything that was in a drawer was now on the floor. Heaps of mess. Chaos and emptiness all at the same time. The 10 hour drive only played into the uncertainty of the situation so we expected the absolute worst. 2. One last chance of normalcy before everything changed.  It’s funny how calm and safe I felt in a rundown motel in Ceder City on our drive home. I remember thinking that this was going to be the last night I felt “safe” before arriving home. I held my kids close that night and was glad we were all together.

The next morning as we got closer to home the sick feeling got stronger and stronger. My husband and I were as prepared as we could be but the feeling of violation was so heavy. We dropped off the kids with friends and headed in.

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I will say this… the pictures our imaginations painted was far worse then the reality of what we saw. Don’t get me wrong! It was super bad but the time we had to imagine the worse was a blessing in disguise.  When you expect a 10 on the “worse case scenario” scale and only come home to a 7 or 8, that’s a good feeling… sort of! Hard to explain but you get the picture.  We were told over the phone by the police what obvious things were gone already. Things like our tv’s, electronics, and a few valuables that my husband asked to look for. We had a good idea that pretty much anything of value was gone. We still held out hope that some items that really meant a lot to use were still there. Sadly as the cleanup process got underway we discovered more things gone and the severity of the loss was hard to handle. Our biggest loss was 10 years of home videos, gone. This one hurt the most and still to this day if I think about it I break down. What had absolutely no values to them and as something they took by mistake in their haste, truly left the biggest sting. Those first few days were a roller coaster of emotions. Highs when we would discover something they didn’t find and lows when we’d realize family heirlooms were gone.

With the help of amazing friends and a combined 40 plus hours of cleaning, organizing, washing and de-hebbiejeebbing the place our home was put back together. Our kids never had to see their home in shambles. Only with the help of dear dear friends were they able to come home that first night and sleep.

Sleeping there right away was probably the hardest decision we made. We had offers from friends to bunk with them and hotel room offers for as long as we needed it. I just knew that if I didn’t sleep there the first night that it would get harder and harder to go back. We wanted it to be as normal for our kids as possible and making our home a scary and unsafe place by not being there wasn’t going to help. That’s not to say that it wasn’t hard. I don’t think I slept more  then 2 interrupted hours night 1 and for the first 2 weeks it was touch and go for sure! Our kids on the other hand did great and I can only attribute that to the amount of prayers that were being offered up on our behalf. We felt comforted and protected. A million thanks!

12 days after the robbery Mikes car was found abandoned. We were greeted with a door bell ring at 1:30am and a police officer telling us we had 20 minutes to go get it before it was impounded at our expense! His car was unharmed but the feeling of violation was once again brought back up to the surface when we had it back. Still all this time later the car was the only thing we have gotten back. No leads, no information. It’s as if nothing happened. Our home, our mail, our credit cards, our car. All of that was used and still we know nothing.

I realized just a few weeks ago that the doorbell can ring without it causing me to hold my breath. Time has been the best healer. It was a rough first month and now as we deal with replacing items from our over 200 missing things list we are finding it challenging and annoying. This is going to take us forever. Still we are seeing the tender mercies through all of this. We have our family, are cared for and loved beyond measure by neighbors and friends and were protected. These are blessings we don’t take lightly. We consider ourselves so so blessed. So many lessons learned. So much perspective gained.

Thanks to everyone who rallied around us and helped with cleaning, meals, babysitting, prayers, temporary transportation, loaned us a tv, let me nap on your couch and cry on your shoulder. You were all the good in this world that will always trump the bad in the world! Always!

(My next post will be lessons learned and how to protect yourself from home robbery! Let’s just say we did a lot of things right and would do a lot of things differently! Lot’s to glean from my next post! Look for it soon!)

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