Protecting your stuff: A campus guide to insurance and theft-prevention.
Tuition… living arrangements… class selection… food plan.
There are plenty of details to think about when you or your child are headed to college. Here’s one more: Protecting your stuff.
Laptop computers, cell phones and other electronic devices are modern necessities on college campuses. Many students also have a bike, car or both. Microwave ovens and TVs are standard in dorms. Replacing those items can be expensive and frustrating, so theft prevention and insurance coverage are critical.
The first step is for the student’s parents to take a look at their own homeowner’s policy. Most policies extend to a “secondary property,” such as a dorm room occupied by a member of the household.
If the parent doesn’t want to assume any liability, or if the student wants higher coverage, then they might consider getting renters’ insurance. Some landlords might require it if the student lives off-campus.
Your deductible will determine whether you file a claim for stolen items. It may make more sense to cover replacement costs yourself, rather than pay a $500 deductible (and possibly higher insurance premiums) because someone walked off with your $900 computer.
For a small monthly fee, you can have really valuable items – professional-quality musical instruments, for instance – covered as scheduled items with no deductible. Your insurance company may require an appraisal first.
Finally, make sure your policy covers every family member for expenses incurred if they fall victim to identity theft.
In most situations, students remain on their parents’ auto insurance policy. But most insurance companies offer a discount for students who leave their cars at home while attending a college at least 100 miles away.
Precautionary steps are the best – and cheapest – insurance for your stuff.
Don’t leave money sitting out in a dorm room or apartment and never leave your door unlocked, even for a short time. When practical, prominently mark valuables with your driver’s license number, and consider customizing the look of your laptop with stickers or stencils that will make a thief feel conspicuous. Shred any paperwork that includes sensitive personal information, such as account numbers or your Social Security number.
Keep a record of serial numbers and other identifying factors from all valuables in a secure location, along with pictures of unique items, such as jewelry.
Experts recommend U-locks for bicycles. Locks are available for your laptop, too, and should be used in your residence, as well as in public places such as libraries.
Finally, back up important computer data. That could save you hours of work in rewriting class assignments if your laptop is stolen or suffers a meltdown.