For some of you, college may be the first time that Mom and Dad aren’t there to make sure you’re in class on time and not missing your meals. They also aren’t around to secure your belongings. Read on for help with keeping your valuables safe at college and your dorm safe.
Find Out What’s Already Covered
How much coverage does your family’s homeowners insurance provide for the stuff in your dorm room and help keep your dorm safe? Some policies include financial protection for your possessions if you live on campus; others may limit coverage to a certain amount – for example, 10 percent of a policy’s overall coverage amount for personal property, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). (If your parents have a $100,000 policy, that means you’d have $10,000 worth of coverage if you live in a dorm room.) Homeowners policies generally won’t cover you if you live off campus, so if you move, look into a renters insurance policy. It may cost far less than you think: Based on numbers from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average monthly premium is between $15 and $30.
Lock Up Your Valuables
The most common targets for campus thieves are laptops, cell phones, purses and wallets, according to Campus Safety magazine. Don’t leave your laptop or tablet unattended whether you’re in your dorm room or at the student center. Lock your electronics and other valuables away in a drawer, closet or safe. Another option is to equip your laptop with a security cable to prevent theft.
It’s safest to leave expensive jewelry or family heirlooms at home. And it might seem like common sense, but always lock the door to your dorm room whenever you step out.
Register Your Electronics
Snap photos of your electronics along with their serial numbers and store them in the cloud. It’s also good practice to register each device with its manufacturer – this way you prove you own those items and receive updates related to your purchase from the company. For an extra measure of security, check with your campus police or public safety department to find out if it offers a free property registration program. Examples of these programs include those provided by the University of Michigan and University of Central Florida. The III also recommends engraving your electronics to help with tracking them down in the event of theft.
Create an Inventory
Part of keeping up with your stuff is knowing exactly what it is that you own. That’s where having an inventory of your possessions comes in handy. Develop a list of items that will be in your possession while you’re away at school and the estimated value of each item. Whenever you purchase or receive a new item of value, update your list. Also, don’t just maintain a paper list; keep a digital copy as well.
Don’t Forget About Your Wheels
Whether it’s a bicycle, scooter or car, you need to keep your mode of transportation safe and secure. Always lock your vehicle and invest in a bike or scooter lock to discourage theft. Get a U-lock and sturdy cable for your bike rather than a cable lock or padlock; these are easy pickings for thieves with tools. At UC Berkeley, for example, it’s common for cable locked bikes to be stolen on campus even during the day. Be careful not to leave your laptop or any other valuables visible inside your car, especially overnight. (And don’t forget about your own security: Many campuses have programs in which you can either be driven or escorted to your dorm room late at night.)
Make sure your parents notify your auto insurance company of your plans to take your car to school; their carrier may need to adjust the policy based on the car’s new location. Lastly, remember: Your good grades could make your family eligible for a car insurance discount.
Crissinda Ponder is a personal finance editor and writer whose work focuses on mortgages and insurance for MoneyGeek.com. Crissinda can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CrissiPonder.