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Celebrating Safely: Five Common Holiday-Season Risks and How to Avoid Them
The holiday season is a time to come together with family and friends, delight loved ones with beautiful gifts, and make beautiful memories. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, a time of gathering, giving, and joy.
However, as risk managers, we often hear of not-so-festive stories—holiday scams, charitable fraud, dangerous decor, and the like—that can jeopardize these beautiful memories. To ensure everything stays joyful, we asked our experts to identify the most common risks of the holiday season and the precautions you can take to lessen the chance of them happening to you.
There will always be criminals just waiting to take advantage of your best intentions. They’ll mimic authentic causes online, slightly tweaking names and logos of well-known organizations; pretend to represent legitimate causes on social media or via email; and set up phony fundraising pages in the wake of humanitarian disasters, all as a means to steal your donations.
Protect yourself by… becoming more vigilant of the underhanded tactics mentioned above. Before you give, especially if you are planning a significant gift, carefully review the website and board of directors for telling gaps or elisions; check legitimacy and reputation with online databases like CharityNavigator and GuideStar, or ask representatives of the organization itself for information about its programs and fund allocation.
Ne’er-do-wells will also capitalize on your gift-giving generosity, using bogus texts or emails about “delivery issues” and “account problems” to steal your password or gain access to your accounts or identity. Another common scam: shady vendors on established sites like Amazon and Walmart selling inferior and counterfeit goods.
Protect yourself by… carefully inspecting all links. Better yet, instead of clicking through, you should directly contact the referenced store, package carrier, or financial institution to see if they sent you the message in the first place. And you should always examine a seller’s pedigree when you purchase on social media or online platforms, to ensure you are not engaging with a subpar drop shipper.
Though most vacations leave you with only positive memories, we know that expected delights can suddenly turn otherwise. In fact, some can be forever marred by incidents of stolen valuables and travel documents, unexpected illnesses, natural disasters, and threatened or actual kidnappings.
Protect yourself by… taking precautions before you take off. Back up important documents. Confirm that your travel and property insurance policies are sufficient to cover your plans and the possessions you will be taking with you. (If circumstances call for it, you may need to secure a kidnapping and ransom policy.) And when you are away, use the hotel vault — not your room safe — to secure valuables, follow local protocols and laws, and don’t post pictures or updates on social media until you are safely back home, so as not to tip off burglars to your empty residence.
Hosting holiday get-togethers is fun, especially when they go off without a hitch. Sometimes, though, the fun is tempered by an injured guest, a damaged piece of art, a drinking and driving incident, or harassment of a high-profile guest.
Protect yourself by … setting parameters, literal and otherwise. Seal off areas that need to be off-limits — a perilous staircase or a room that houses a valuable collection, for example. Imagine the potential flow of guests, to ensure that a sculpture isn’t bumped accidentally. Instruct bartenders to stop serving anyone who appears to have had too much to drink, and parking valets to keep car keys out of the hands of the intoxicated. Hire security if there’s even the slightest possibility of attracting paparazzi. And most importantly, confirm that all vendors are properly insured.
Homes that become uninhabited when you retreat to another residence are more vulnerable to damage, especially as no one will be there to spot small issues before they grow bigger. Similarly, if you’ve festooned your home with candles and, decorative lights, fire, and smoke damage are a possibility.
Protect yourself by … hiring a caretaker to check in on your residence to make sure the heat is properly set; water systems are shut off and there are no leaks or other damage that will prevent issues in your absence.
It’s been a stressful year for many of our clients so we are committed to giving everyone the best chance to fully enjoy what should be the most enjoyable part of the season. Whether you are spending time with family, attending galas and parties, traveling to exciting locales, or spending quiet time in your mountain getaway, we want to help you make sure the experience is an invigorating one. If you have any questions or concerns about seasonal risks — or if you want to get a head start on your risk management strategy for 2024, please be in touch.