TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2021
September 28, 2021
Fall is upon us, and homeowners need to prepare their homes for the dropping temperatures and changing leaves. By weatherproofing and performing preventative home maintenance, homeowners can protect their property from any unwelcome surprises and make their autumn more pleasant. Knowing what needs to be done, however, is not always easy. Share this checklist with your insureds to keep fall property management simple.
Your Fall Home Maintenance To-Dos
- Drain and Disconnect Outdoor Faucets: Sprinklers, hoses, swimming pools, any outdoor pipe should be completely drained and shut off before the cold weather hits. Frozen pipes are costly and stressful, so do what you can to prevent them from freezing in the first place.
- Service Your Furnace/HVAC System: Make sure your furnace and ductwork are cleaned and in working order by having a professional service them. Change air filters as needed and check that your thermostat is working properly.
- Test Your Snow Blower: Don’t wait until a snowstorm to take out your winter equipment. Make sure your snow blower is in working order in the late fall and have it serviced and repaired if needed.
- Bleed Radiators and Check Boiler: Is your home heated with steam heat? Have a plumber come out to service the boiler before it gets to work again this year. Bleed radiators and ensure the valves are working properly too.
- Clean Up Trees and Shrubs: The fall is the best time to prune plants and trees as growing slows. Make sure your plants are healthy and at least 3 feet from your home, so as not to cause damage during high winds and extreme precipitation.
- Inspect for Drafts: Notice cool air coming from windows or doors? Insulate them to cut save money on energy and heat as temperatures drop. Autumn is a good time to fit in last minute repairs as the days of stifling heat are gone and frigid air is not yet here.
- Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Test your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, replacing batteries as needed. The cold weather months are the peak time for carbon monoxide incidents due to the increased use of heating devices.
- Stock Up on Firewood: If you plan to use it, the fall is the perfect time to make your winter firewood stockpile. Remember not to store wood indoors or too tightly together to prevent insects of funguses from wreaking havoc.
- Bring in Outdoor Furniture: With warm, long summer days behind you, it is time to store your outdoor furniture in a garage or shed, or cover it with some kind of weatherproof furniture cover. If you live in an area prone to strong winds, make sure the furniture is secure and will not blow away or damage a nearby structure.
- Clean and Repair Gutters: Ensure that all gutters work properly and divert water away from your home’s foundation. Inspect gutters and downspouts for any damage, debris, or clogs. If you can’t get to this before the start of Fall, it is imperative that you do so before winter hits and snow and ice return.
- Remove Window A/C Units: Before the weather turns cold, be sure to take your window air conditioning units out. If that is not an option, wrap the exterior of the unit with something insulting to keep cold air from drafting into your home.
Once fall property preparations are complete, homeowners can bask in the autumnal beauty with the peace of mind of knowing their property is cold-weather-ready. Bring on the apple cider and jack-o-lanterns!
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2021
Shopping online. Visiting the doctor. Buying gas. In nearly all of the things we do from day to day, there’s the risk of identity theft.
You could unknowingly give your information to a fraudster thinking you’re shopping at a legitimate site. Your doctor’s office could experience a data breach. Or you could come across a tampered credit card reader at the gas pump.
The risks your identity faces go on and on. So what can you do to stop it? Unfortunately, virtually no one today can completely negate the risk of identity theft. But we can all take some important steps to help prevent it.
Here are 10 sensible habits to adopt that will help you protect your identity:
Limit what you carry in your wallet, and know what’s there in case it goes missing. First things first, don’t carry your Social Security card on a regular basis. Instead, keep it in a locked safe at home. Have a form of identification or some other card with your Social Security number (SSN) on it? Carry a photocopy of it instead of the real thing, and cut out or otherwise render your SSN unreadable. As for credit cards, only carry the ones you need. Finally, make photocopies of the front and back of the cards you always keep in your wallet and store them in your home safe. If one (or all of them) goes missing, you won’t have to search high and low for the card issuer’s contact information.
Keep your computers, software and other electronics secure and up to date. This means using strong passwords or enabling passcodes – remember not to write them down. It also means installing firewall, as well as spyware and virus protection. Keep everything up to date (and backed up) for the latest security enhancements. For your portable devices, consider installing software to remotely wipe your data or locate the device if it’s ever lost or stolen.
Don’t over share. Does every entity that asks for your (or your child’s) SSN really need it? Take a moment to think instead of automatically jotting it down. At the very least, maybe only the last four digits will do. In addition, be careful what you share online. Posting your full address, phone number, license plate number or your birth date online, even if it’s in a photo, may help others piece together a full picture of your identity.
Check your credit reports throughout the year. You’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year. And since the information on each report is oftentimes largely the same, you can stagger your requests and receive a different report once every four months. Once you receive your report, check it for accounts and other activity you don’t recognize. Even a credit check from a company you haven’t done business with could be an attempt at identity theft. To order your free credit reports, call 1-877-322-8228 or visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
Keep an eye on your accounts. Your account statements can alert you to identity theft sooner than your credit report, in most cases. Check regularly for unauthorized charges or withdrawals and other illicit activity, such as address changes or additional cards you didn’t request.
Watch your surroundings. Whether you’re using the ATM or a portable device, you want to be sure others nearby aren’t watching as you type in your PIN or password. And just because you don’t see anyone nearby doesn’t mean they’re not there. If you’re using a shared or public WiFi, everyone else on the same network may see the data, including passwords or account numbers, you submit. Be sure to conduct sensitive transactions on secure networks.
Reduce your mail. Start by opting out of pre-approved credit card offers by calling 1-888-5OPT-OUT and following the prompts. This should stay in effect for five years and help curb the risk of someone else obtaining a new credit card in your name. Next, sign up for paperless billing with your financial and service providers and/or schedule automatic payments through your bank. The less mail containing personal and account details that comes to your home, the less likely it is to fall into the wrong hands.
Be skeptical when someone asks for your information. Scam artists don’t always have to steal your information. Sometimes they convince you to give it up willingly by telling you via a phone call, email, snail mail or text that you won a prize or need to verify your account. To claim the prize or account, you’ll, of course, need to supply some sensitive information. Requests like these are almost always inauthentic – what’s known as a “phishing” scam. So stay on guard and contact the entity through a known, verified method to inquire about the matter, rather than providing personal details on the spot.
Mind your garbage. If you’re throwing out account statements or other documents with personal information, you’re making it easy for dumpster divers to learn a little, perhaps a lot, about you. They may even learn enough to take over one of your accounts. So shred your sensitive documents and then recycle them – don’t just throw them out in the garbage.
Tidy up at home. Tax returns, credit cards you use infrequently, checkbooks, passports, birth certificates — these and other important documents should all be stored under lock and key. Whether it’s in a home safe or a locking desk or file cabinet is up to you. And don’t leave the code or key in an easily discoverable place.
Despite your best efforts, you may still discover that your identity has been stolen. If so, take immediate action to:
Fill out the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Affidavit.
Take your affidavit to the police and file a report. Be sure to get a copy for your records. It will come in handy if you need to close fraudulent accounts, straighten out your credit report and more.
Call your financial providers to request new account numbers and, if needed, cards.
Contact one of the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert, which will encourage creditors to contact you before opening new lines of credit, on your credit report. The bureau you contact will share it with the other two.
And, if you’re involved in a data breach and offered free credit monitoring, be sure to take advantage of it.
In today’s world of hyper connectivity and speed, it’s easy for your information to end up in the wrong hands. But, by being cautious with how you use and share your information, and checking for misuse, you can help keep your identity secure.
Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2021
FEMA, Ready.gov and Listo.gov are big voices in reminding Americans that September is National Preparedness Month. Ready.gov is a great resource for teaching you how to prepare for a natural disaster.
What do they consider a disaster? Wildfires, flooding, thunderstorms & lightning, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, landslides, severe weather, droughts and more. No matter where you live in the United States, you can be vulnerable to one or many natural disasters.
Ready.gov breaks down National Preparedness Month in four steps below.
Step 1 – Make a Plan
Step 2 – Build a Kit
Step 3 – Low-Cost, No Cost-Preparedness
Step 4 – Teach Youth about Preparedness
Every step is important in the event of a natural disaster and we encourage you to use this month to read through their information. You can read more here. Knowing information such as a shelter plan, evacuation route, communication plan or even having an emergency kit can be life-saving.
Proper Insurance & Natural Disasters
Having the right insurance coverage is essential if a natural disaster strikes. Many people assume that by purchasing home insurance, you are covered for anything and everything. This isn’t the case. By not having proper insurance coverage, countless people have been financially ruined.
First step with insurance, talk to your agent
Not only should you use this time with your agent to understand your current coverage, but talk about your risks. Should you purchase flood or earthquake insurance? If you were to experience an insurance claim, do you know how you will be compensated to repair or replace what has been damaged?
After talking with your agent, work on Step 2.
Step two includes creating your home inventory list, safely storing important documents and knowing exactly what to do if you experience a claim.
- Do you currently have a home inventory list? This is a list of your most important belongings. A home inventory list can be as simple as taking photos of every room in your house. Some individuals have an itemized list on a spreadsheet too. In the event you have an insurance claim, you can quickly reference your items in the event they need to be repaired or replaced.
- If you have an insurance claim, be sure to take pictures and videos of your damage. You will work with a claims adjuster so be sure to be timely with your response and save all receipts from purchases you have made regarding your claim. Examples – hotel receipts, meal receipts or other important items.
- Are your records safe? Records such as insurance documents, birth certificates, social security cards, marriage or divorce license, passport, pet ID tags, immunization records, medication lists, lease or rental agreement or mortgage or real estate deeds of trusts should all be safely stored in a water or fire proof box.
If you have questions about your current insurance coverage and would like to talk to a professional insurance agent, call us! We are experts in the insurance industry and can do a comprehensive review of your current coverage.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2021
When it comes to buying insurance, you have two primary options available to you: independent agents like us, and captive agents. While both can provide insurance services, these two types of insurance agents are not the same, and it's important to understand the differences.
Captive Insurance Agents
A captive agent works for a single insurance company, either as an employee of that company or as an independent contractor. This means that a captive insurance agent will be limited to the specific insurance products offered by that particular company, so they won't be able to help you if you need a type of insurance they don't offer, or shop around to find the best deals on the market.
The insurance company may also push certain products, so there is no guarantee that you are truly getting what is best for you, and not just what is best for the company.
Independent Insurance Agents
An independent agent is not controlled by any one insurance company, and instead works with multiple insurers. This means independent agents have access to all of the insurance products and services offered by all of the companies they represent.
As a result, it's often the case that an independent agent will be able to help you with all of the products you need, even if those products come from multiple insurance companies.
As an independent insurance agency, we are not bound to a single company and can assist you with insurance products from multiple providers. This enables us to shop around to get you the best possible rates for you. We offer a wide range of insurance products, and we can help tailor a plan that fits your specific needs and budget.
We also take customer service very seriously. If you need to file a claim, we’ll walk with you and work on your behalf throughout the process. We’re available for questions, and we can even regularly review your policy to ensure it is still the best possible fit for you.
To see how an independent insurance agent can help you, or to find out how much you might save by switching, get in touch with us today.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2018
You’ve bumped into a pole; there’s a little damage but nothing too bad. Should you even call your insurance company?
That is a question faced by countless drivers every day and the answer is not always so straightforward. The short of it is yes, there are situations where it is ok, and even more beneficial, to not call your insurance company after damaging your car. What are some of those situations?
The Types of Accidents You Can Pay For Out of Pocket
Filing too many claims through your insurer can cause your rates to soar; costing you hundreds if not thousands over the coming years. If you find yourself in the following situations, think twice before calling them up.
An Inexpensive One Car Accident
Bumping into a pole, your kid’s baseball putting a dent in the side: these are situations that cause some damage, but nothing that’s too expensive to fix. Damage you inflict to your own car is always handled through your collision or comprehensive insurance. Both coverages come with deductibles that usually range from $50 all the way up to $2,000. If you estimate the damage inflicted to your car to be below your deductible, or even slightly above it, you should just handle the repairs out of pocket. If the damages are $300, but the deductible is $200, you would save $100 by filing a claim, but your company may decide to raise your rates, costing you more money in the long run.
The only thing we would advise in this situation is to make sure your estimate of the damage is accurate. Insurance companies expect claims to be submitted in a timely manner. If you wait too long, your claim may not be accepted. If the damage turns out to cost more than your initial estimates, you may be stuck paying for it. If you have a local auto body shop, check with them to be sure the damage will be inexpensive to fix.
If you are injured in a one car accident, so long as you can afford the medical bills either out of pocket or through your health insurance, you do not need to report it. If you hit a pedestrian however, that always needs to be reported.
A Very Minor Two Car Accident
In an accident with no more than two drivers where neither is injured and the damage minimal, you can both agree to not call the insurance company. The benefits of not calling your insurance company are the same as in the situation above. Admittedly however, it is a bit trickier with an extra driver. We would advise you only do this if you trust the other driver.
The reason being, the other driver can at any time renege on their agreement to not involve the insurance companies. It may not be wholeheartedly , but say the damage to their car turns out to be more costly than originally thought, or their neck starts to hurt a few hours later. The intent could be malicious as well, where they try to take advantage of the agreement by blaming you for damage to their car you didn’t even cause.
It will be disadvantageous if it comes down to them having their insurance company behind them, and you by yourself. So, unless you know or really trust the other driver, we would not recommend you not call your insurance company even in the most minor of two car accidents. If the other driver is trustworthy however, then this situation would be ok.
The Types of Accidents Where You Should Always Report it
There are a few accidents where no matter what you need to report to your insurance company. What are they?
Accidents Where Someone Else is Injured
If another driver involved in your accident is injured, even if its minor, it needs to be reported. Medical expenses are costly no matter where you go in the U.S. If they need to get themselves checked out due to injury, most likely they will come after you to pay the bills.
How much you need to pay depends on how much at fault you were, and that depends on which state you live in. For example, If you live in a state like Missouri, the amount you pay is proportional to the amount you were at fault. For car insurance in New Jersey on the other hand, if you are found less than 50% at fault, you do not have to pay anything.
What does this all mean? It means you do not want to be defending yourself on your own. You spent a lot of time and money finding the best car insurance company, so you will want them behind you to insure the other driver’s company is not taking advantage of you.
Accidents Where the Damage is Costly
Whether it's a one or multi-car accident, if the damage is large, you must report it. Your car may even be relatively unscathed but if you caused a lot of damage, you need to report it as well. Odds are, in such a large accident, even if no one is injured, someone is going to seek recompense from you. You will want your insurance company on your side for the same reasons you want them if someone else was injured. Your insurer doesn't want to pay out such a large claim either, so they're going to use their resources to fight and reduce your exposure.
Content courtesy of Value Penquin.