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Tina Quelch and her husband were asleep one night last August when thieves broke into their Toronto home through a main-floor window that had been left open.

They made off with cash, a laptop, a digital camera, DVDs and a necklace, as well as beer and pop from the fridge.

"It was unsettling and upsetting. But, ultimately, we felt lucky that it was not worse," the 40-year-old communications specialist said, pointing out that at least the thieves had not ventured upstairs to the bedroom, trashed the house or stolen the car.

Statistics show that residential burglaries spike in summer months, when people are likely to be away on holidays, and the most common entry points are unlocked doors and windows. Insurer Aviva Canada Inc. says that the average dollar value of articles stolen has risen 36 per cent to $6,190 in 2010 from $4,555 in 2003.

When Ms. Quelch called her insurance brokers to report the roughly $3,000 in stolen goods, she says they gave her the runaround and tried to dissuade her from making a claim. At the heart of the matter was confusion over whether her home or commercial insurance should cover her leased business laptop.

"I learned that unless you have a catastrophic loss, the insurance company really doesn't want to hear from you," she said.

Ms. Quelch has since switched home insurance companies and raised her deductible. She has also learned the importance of reading her policy and finding out exactly what her plan covers.

Michele Buttle, the associate vice-president of insurance services at British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA), says insurance companies should inform customers about the impact a claim will have on their insurance record, including loss history, deductible, adjustments to coverage, the premium and other conditions.

BCAA offers these tips on how to avoid, prepare for and deal with break-ins:

1) Review your insurance policy. Before you go away on vacation, contact your insurance adviser to ensure your coverage is up-to-date and that you know exactly what your policy covers.

2) Make an inventory of your belongings. One idea is to use a video camera to record items in each room and store the images safely. Keep proof of ownership for your personal belongings, like the receipt for your diamond earrings or expensive watch.

3) Skip the social media updates. Do not post your summer holiday plans or updates from your trip on Facebook or Twitter.

4) Make it time-consuming to break into your home. Research shows that if it takes more than five minutes to break into a home, a burglar will go elsewhere. Use common sense: Secure your doors and windows.

5) Consider installing an alarm and motion-sensor lights around your home. Alarm systems may also save you money on your home insurance.

6) Turn off your computer and disconnect it from the Internet. If you save personal information in your computer, make sure it is difficult to access.

7) Keep valuables locked away and well hidden. Do not leave personal documents in your home office or desk or expensive jewellery in your bedroom – burglars know to look there. Consider using a safety deposit box elsewhere.

8) Contact your insurer. If you have been the victim of a break-and-enter, your insurance company should explain to you what is covered under the policy. They can also discuss repair or replacement of your contents to help you decide how to deal with your claim.

Roma Luciw is the web editor of the Globe Investor personal finance site and writes for the Home Cents blog.