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What to Do Before Your Gifts Get Stolen or Destroyed

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Americans are in a spending mood this holiday season, to the tune of $586 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

That's about $423 per consumer, the NRF adds -- a healthy chunk of change for Americans, given the precarious state of the U.S economy.

That begs the question for consumers: Given the ample amount of cash being spent up until the last week of December, are those holiday purchases insured if they're lost or stolen?

In general, if your holiday presents are stolen from your car, or lost in a home fire, the loss is covered by auto, homeowner or renter insurance, respectively. If you have it.

"The second you buy something, your possessions are covered," says Nick McCummings, manager of Harrington Insurance in Brockton, Mass.

But that's not the entire story. Most home or auto insurance policies come with a standard deductible -- i.e., the portion of a claim under an insurance policy you must pay before the insurance company pays the rest.

McCummings says that if you have a standard insurance policy, that means if you lose $2,500 in gifts to theft, fire or other loss, you'd have to pay upward of $500 to cover the deductible. Furthermore, there are limits on what gifts you can insure this holiday season. For example, jewelry, furs, silverware and other pricey gifts are usually insured for up to $1,500 or $2,500, McCummings says. That doesn't mean you shouldn't get insurance for these items -- it just means the payout against the loss may be limited.

When looking for insurance for holiday gift items, work with your insurer to get the best coverage. For example, if you're insuring a diamond ring, have the jeweler fax the appraisal price to your insurance company, which will "schedule" the item, meaning add it to your existing insurance policy, McCummings says. "I always recommend scheduling all highly valuable items," he says.

It's really up to you to guard your holiday shopping gifts against theft or destruction in the first place.

When you're out shopping, lock your door and hide valuable gifts out of sight - under the seats, in the glove compartment, or in the trunk. Insurance theft investigators say out of sight is out of mind for potential thieves.

Also, park in well-lit areas, and try to shop during the day. Studies show that most car (and home thefts) occur after the sun goes down.

If you are buying an expensive gift for the holidays -- say, a diamond ring -- talk to your insurance agent and see if you need additional insurance to cover theft or loss of the item.

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