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Archive for the ‘Personal Protection’ Category

What You Should Know about Identity Theft Protection Services

What You Should Know about Identity Theft Protection Services

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Victims of Identity Theft report, about 17.6 million Americans had their identities stolen in 2014. This theft resulted in more than $15.4 billion in direct and indirect losses. While services—such as credit monitoring—can be convenient, some experts advise that these products don’t do anything one cannot do oneself.

Consider the following before you purchase identity theft protection:

  • Credit Monitoring – A central offering of ID theft protection services, monitoring alerts you to potentially fraudulent new accounts listed within your credit report. Unfortunately, monitoring does not prevent crime; it just notifies you of its discovery. And because a service may not monitor all three of the major credit reporting bureaus, it’s possible they may miss some fraudulent accounts.It makes more sense to monitor your credit on your own. You can request one free credit report from all three reporting agencies each year at annualcreditreport.com. Unless you already suspect fraud, you can easily spread out your coverage by checking a different report every four months—providing yourself with a year of monitoring at zero cost.
  • Identity Theft Insurance – While this might sound like a worthwhile investment given the growing incidence of identity theft, most consumer experts agree that this type of insurance is not worth the cost. It won’t return your stolen money. All it will really do is cover out-of-pocket expenses associated with repairing your identity—things like postage, copy fees and, if you’re really lucky, time away from work spent dealing with the theft.Before you even consider purchasing identity theft insurance, check to see if you have coverage through another policy. Such riders may be included in some homeowner and renter’s insurance products.
  • Credit Freeze – One of the best tools for identity theft protection is something you have to do on your own. When you initiate a credit freeze at all three reporting agencies, you must give your authorization before anyone can check your credit. It generally costs about $10 per agency, but it will greatly reduce the chances that a thief will be able to open a fraudulent account in your name. Fraud alerts are another option. They require creditors to verify identification before granting credit. Though they are free, you must remember to renew each alert every three months.

 According to ConsumerReports.org, American consumers spent $3.5 billion on identity theft protection products in 2010 (the most recent data available). Before you commit to annual fees in the range of $120 to $300, you might want to consider doing it yourself.

Three Things to Know About Permanent Life Insurance

Three Things to Know About Permanent Life Insurance

Benjamin Franklin, famous founding father of the United States, once wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Unfortunately, despite its certainty, far too many Americans fail to prepare for their eventual demise—and they leave their families to pay the price. In fact, according to the Life Insurance and Market Research Association (LIMRA), while 85 percent of consumers agree that they need life insurance, only 62 percent have actually purchased a policy.

Permanent life insurance is a category that encompasses whole life, universal life, index-universal life, variable life and variable-universal life policies. While each type of policies differs in its details, all provide a death benefit plus cash savings. This makes permanent life insurance an attractive investment for many consumers. Of course, there are a few things you should consider before you join them.

 

  1. Permanent life insurance may be more coverage than you actually need.

If you’re single, childless, or have grown children and have paid your mortgage in full, you might be better off with a less expensive term life insurance policy. It will provide you with a death benefit for a set number of years at a much lower premium. However, if you have a family or carry a lot of debt—including a mortgage—the higher cost of permanent life insurance can be worth it, providing your loved ones with a death benefit plus the cash value of the policy.

 

  1. If you want to grow your investment, permanent life insurance may not be your best option.

If you want the greatest return on your investment, some advisors suggest buying a less expensive term life insurance policy and putting the difference into other investment vehicles. For example, a $1 million permanent life insurance policy might cost $13,900 a year while a $1 million 20-year term life insurance policy costs $750. If you invested the $13,000 difference the first year at 5 percent and let it grow for 20 years, you’d have $34,492.87. Do that every year and you’d have significantly more.

 

  1. Permanent life insurance can be a good investment in the right situation.

Your heirs won’t pay taxes on the cash value of your permanent life insurance policy until after your death. This means permanent life insurance can be a useful investment for individuals with high earnings who have maxed out their other tax-deferred savings options. Additionally, permanent life insurance can be useful for older individuals who don’t have much in the way of savings but want to leave a monetary inheritance to their loved ones.

Whether you prefer whole life insurance (with a fixed premium), universal life insurance (with adjustable premiums) or variable life insurance (allowing you to choose how the cash value is invested), talk to your insurance professional about protecting your family from the inevitable today.

Exclusions: There Is a Reason It’s Not Covered

Exclusions: There Is a Reason It's Not Covered

Every insurance policy has a section popularly known as “the fine print,” though its actual title is “Exclusions.” Exclusions are provisions in an insurance policy describing losses that the policy will not cover. For example, a homeowner’s policy does not cover losses caused by the use of cars, and a business auto policy does not cover injuries caused by a bulldozer on a construction site. While it may appear at first glance that the insurance company includes these provisions to get out of paying claims, the reasons are more complex and less insidious than that. There are very sensible reasons why no insurance policy covers everything.

First, not every person or business has the same exposures to loss. Most homeowners do not own a dump truck used in a business; the owner of the dump truck might not have employees to insure for jobsite injuries; the employer with a dozen employees might not own the building it occupies. Imagine if there were one insurance policy that covered all of these exposures — it would be hundreds of pages long and very complex. Therefore, over time insurance companies have developed different policies for different exposures — auto, home, business liability, and so on. The homeowner’s policy excludes losses that the auto policy should cover, personal policies exclude losses that business policies should cover, and vice versa.

Related to this are the issues of cost and choice. Standard insurance policies contain coverages that apply to large groups of households and businesses, but they do not cover every possibility. Those with additional needs have coverage options to choose from. For example, homeowner’s policies do not cover damage caused by water backing up from an overflowing sump or drain, but households that have basements with sumps or drains have the option of buying this coverage. Households without a basement do not have to buy it. This affords the buyer choices but does not force coverage on those who do not need or want it.

Furthermore, exclusions reduce the cost of the insurance policy. Every coverage comes with an associated cost — the company must factor in the costs of potential claims, expenses and profit for that coverage.

The more coverages a policy provides, the higher its premium will be. Without exclusions, people and businesses would be forced to pay for coverages they do not need. Exclusions help keep the premium affordable.

Finally, certain types of losses are uninsurable. Insurance companies cannot accurately predict when certain types of losses will happen, and the potential loss amounts are too large for them to absorb. For example, almost all policies exclude losses suffered as the result of a war or a nuclear accident. These events would cause massive losses beyond the abilities of insurance companies to pay. Other losses are not insurable as a matter of common sense. Because the purpose of insurance is to pay for losses from accidents, it will not cover most losses that a person intentionally causes.

Because every household or business’s circumstances are different, standard policies might not provide all the coverage necessary for proper protection. Properties in flood-prone areas, businesses that have a lot of contracts with other businesses, and individuals who post to online message boards may all lack important coverage. Consultation with a professional insurance agent will help determine whether more coverage is needed, whether it is available, and how much it will cost. The time to find out the availability and cost of coverage is before the loss occurs.

Time to Insure Your Computer Equipment

Time to Insure Your Computer Equipment

Once upon a time, large desktop computers were the golden standard of computing and portable devices were the exception. Today, almost the complete reverse is true. Laptop computers have grown more powerful and less expensive. Where college students considered typewriters to be mandatory equipment a generation ago, most today would not dream of attending college without a laptop. Businesspeople employ a variety of devices, including laptops, PDAs, tablets, and smart phones. Electronic book readers, led by the success of the Amazon Kindle, are becoming more popular. These devices are convenient, easy to carry, easy to use for information, entertainment, and communication, and very trendy. They are, however, also very susceptible to theft or damage, and their replacement costs can be substantial.

Any machine that runs on computer circuitry is vulnerable to certain perils. Most people who have owned such devices are familiar with the instinctually sick feeling they get when they accidentally drop one of these devices. Circuit boards are delicate components, subject to cracking if handled roughly. Moisture is also no friend to computerized gadgets. Drop one in water or spill a drink on it, and you will find yourself shopping for a replacement. Power surges, which can happen when electricity recycles after an outage, can instantly ruin a computer or electronic device. What’s more, popular electronic devices are perpetual targets for thieves.

When something happens to your laptop, will your homeowner’s insurance help pay for a new one? If you have a standard policy form, maybe not. The standard policy covers personal property of all types for a specific list of causes of loss. The list includes things like fire, lightning, explosion, windstorm and theft, but it does not list the other common causes of loss to computers. If someone steals a laptop from a dorm room, the policy will provide coverage. If the student drops it and cracks the screen, however, there is no coverage. However, additional coverage is available for purchase to protect against these common but disastrous events.

Anyone who owns computer devices should consider buying special computer coverage. This policy reverses common coverage for computers.

Rather than listing those causes of loss the policy covers, it lists those that it does not cover. If a cause of loss is not on the list, the policy provides coverage. This expanded coverage applies to computer hardware, software, operating systems or networks, and other parts, equipment or systems designed solely for use with them. For example, in addition to covering laptop and desktop computers, it covers printers, scanners, modems, wireless routers, and similar devices.

The coverage does not pay for losses caused by things like temperature extremes, humidity, wear and tear, mechanical breakdown, corrosion, damage caused by household pets, and others. However, the four common causes of loss to computers (breakage from dropping, damage from spilled liquids, power surges, and theft) are not on the list. Therefore, the coverage pays for damage caused by all of these. For example, the policy will pay for repair or replacement of a scanner that someone steps on, but it will not pay for repairs to a laptop that simply fails to turn on one day.

Because computer equipment is so common now in households, homeowners and renters should discuss their coverage with an insurance agent. For a relatively small cost, homeowners, renters, and students can insure their increasingly important but delicate belongings against thefts and those accidents most likely to damage them.

The Easiest Way to Keep Your Home Safe

The Easiest Way to Keep Your Home Safe

As the old saying goes, your home is your castle. Unfortunately, few are equipped with drawbridges, motes and guards—historically effective features designed to prevent unwanted parties from entering. Every year thieves gain access to millions of residences as a result, subjecting the owners to property damage, the loss of belongings and, sometimes, even violence.

The Statistics

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), there were 2,103,787 burglaries in the U.S. in 2012, 74.5 percent of which occurred in homes. While this represents a 3.7 percent decrease in total break-ins when compared to 2011, the number indicates there is still a need for homeowners to take steps to protect their residences, families and personal property.

Door Frame Fortification

Both deadbolts and alarm systems are popular tools you can use to reduce your home’s chances of burglary. However, neither will actually stop a criminal from entering your residence or causing hundreds of dollars of damage to your exterior door. In many cases, all it takes is a strong kick to a standard door to bust through the lock and deadbolt. In mere moments, a thief can gain access and flee with your valuables—all before the security service or local law enforcement can respond.

Fortunately, there is an easy—and inexpensive—way for homeowners and renters to make an attempted door kick-in burglary or invasion less successful. Reinforcing your exterior door frames with a product like Door Devil, Rebar Door Security Device or EZ Armor will make it much more difficult for criminals to kick their way into your home. Because going unnoticed is necessary for a successful burglary, most will be reluctant to make the amount of noise required to force their way through a fortified door.

You can install most door frame fortification devices in 30 minutes, and retail prices starting at $59 make them affordable for families on any budget.

Other Suggestions

Of course, no single security product is 100 percent guaranteed to keep criminals out of your residence. The more tools you use to add layers of protection, the safer your family and belongings will be. Experts suggest considering the following when implementing a home security plan.

  • Install battery operated automatic light timers throughout your home. Use them to create the illusion of occupancy when you’re away on vacation or out for the evening.
  • Never leave doors or windows unlocked. Do not store a key to your home in an outdoor location where it may be easily found.
  • In addition to a door frame reinforcement kit, install door locks with an ANSI grade 1 rating and deadbolt locks with at least 1-inch long horizontal bolts.
  • Replace soft, wooden exterior doors with solid core or metal doors. This includes the door leading from your garage into your home.
  • Reinforce windows or glass panels within or near exterior doors with invisible security film. This will make it more difficult for a burglar to break the glass and reach through to unlock the door. This also works for ground floor windows and sliding doors.
  • Place a metal or wooden rod in the track on your sliding patio door to prevent it from opening more than a few inches.

Everyone wants their home to be safe and secure for their family. Implementing these suggestions should help. If you’d like to learn more about protecting your belongings with homeowners or renters insurance, contact your insurance agent.

 

 

Increased Medicare Costs?

Below is the link to a very interesting article our office received, which could impact many of our seniors, those on Medicare and Social Security.  They do a good job of explaining the reasons, and impacts the results could have on all of our senior citizens.  If you’re on a fixed income, like many of us, take a minute to read the article information below, to be prepared, just incase!

 

Posted on 15 Oct 2015 by Neilson

Medicare Premiums May Soar as Social Security Payments Stay FlatThe 60 million people on Social Security will not receive any cost-of-living increase in their benefits in 2016, the government said on Thursday, but because of a quirk in federal law, nearly one-third of Medicare beneficiaries could see record increases in their premiums unless Congress intervenes.

 

Read the whole article here:

Program Business Article

 

Protect Yourself from Robocall Scams

Protect Yourself from Robocall Scams

The phone rings. You answer—but no one responds. Before you can hit disconnect, a recorded message begins to play. It informs you that you’ve won a free vacation, have been chosen to test a product, are eligible for a reduction in your credit card interest rate, owe money to the IRS, are in trouble with local law enforcement, or need to call your bank or lender due to a change in your account. But none of these statements are true—they’re just fabrications used as bait in new rip-off scams criminals have hatched to steal your personal or financial information.

Though the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003 made robocalls illegal in 2004—the FCC regulations prohibit telemarketers from calling a cell phone number with an automatic dialer under any circumstance—the practice is still rampant. And because the numbers these calls come from are usually spoofed—meaning they are fakes or have been stolen from a legitimate organization—they’re difficult for authorities to track.

Fortunately, there are several things you—as a consumer—can do to protect yourself from robocall scams as well as reduce the number of unsolicited marketing calls you receive on your cell phone and landline.

  • Register your phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry. Once you’ve listed your number, legitimate telemarketers must remove you from their call lists. Exceptions include companies with which you have an existing business relationship, businesses that have received written authorization from you, political organizations, charities and telephone surveys.
  • Disconnect as soon as you receive a robocall. The recording may give you the option to press a key to opt out or for transfer to a representative. You may also be given a number to call. Do not do this. If you press a key, the number is logged as working—and the quantity of robocalls you receive will increase. If you call a number given in the recorded message, any individual with whom you speak is likely to be a criminal phishing for your information.
  • Block the numbers that robocall you. If you’re being harassed on a landline, you’ll have to call your phone service provider. However, it’s easy to block numbers on most new cell phones—usually by reviewing the call log, selecting the number, and choosing “add to reject list.” This won’t eliminate all calls—scam robocallers change spoofed numbers frequently—but it should offer some relief.
  • If you’re unsure about the caller, Google it. Enter any phone number into the Google search bar and—if it has been used for scam robocalls—you’re likely to find that information within the search results. Free websites such as com provide reverse number look-up and allow users to post comments regarding the robocalls associated with any given phone number.
  • File a complaint with the FTC. As mentioned previously, most robocall caller ID numbers are spoofed. However, reporting them to the FTC can eventually help to track down violators. You can do this for free when you visit gov/complaint or call 888-382-1222. You can also stay up-to-date on recent robocall and email scams reported to the FTC at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.

Protecting Your Smartphone is Easy

 

Protecting Your Smartphone is Easy

Can’t live without your cell phone? You’re not alone. According to Pew Research Center, 90 percent of adults in the U.S. own one. Forty-four percent admit to sleeping with it to avoid missing calls and text messages. But as addicted to our devices as we might be, many of us are not taking adequate security measures to protect ourselves while using one.

With the speed of access that a smart phone gives us, come a bevy of security risks. Consider: Fifty-eight percent of adult cell phone owners have smartphones and use them to access the Internet, send and receive emails, download apps, get directions, listen to music, engage with social media and more. Some of these activities expose them to criminals with nefarious intentions such as the theft of personal or financial information. In fact, a recent report from Norton, an antivirus and security software company, found that one in three smartphone users had already experienced some form of cybercrime. That number is only expected to rise.

Keeping your mobile phone secure—and protecting the valuable information within it—actually isn’t difficult. Experts suggest the following to maintain safety while still making the most of your smartphone productivity.

Add a password. If you haven’t password protected your smartphone, you’re basically giftwrapping easy access to your personal information for anyone who picks it up. According to Norton, 25 percent of smartphone users have had their phone lost or stolen. The minimal time it takes to enter a password each time you want to use the device is well worth the added protection.

Install a protective app. According to Symantec, thirty-six percent of malicious mobile activity was designed to steal data in 2014, compared with 17 percent in 2013. If malware infects your smartphone, it can steal your financial information—especially if you regularly use your device to make purchases or bank online. You can find free smartphone security apps from companies such as Norton in the Google Play and Apple App stores.

Turn off automatic connections. Some smartphones have settings that allow for automatic connection to available Wi-Fi networks. Disable this option and you’ll prevent your device from connecting and transmitting data without your knowledge. Fraudulent Wi-Fi networks are increasingly prevalent. Criminals typically set up a free network with a name similar to an establishment such as a coffee shop. Then they wait for patrons to connect to the network so they can collect their information.

Be a smart shopper. Shopping on your phone is certainly convenient. However, experts urge consumers to use caution when making online purchases away from home. Never enter private information, like bank account or credit card numbers, unless you’re certain the network and website is secure. Set your home Wi-Fi network up with a password and only make purchases from websites with urls that start with “https” rather than “http.”

Remember, a smartphone is basically a computer. There’s no reason not to protect it just as you protect your home PC. And if you’d like to explore how identity theft insurance can protect you from losses in the event of a cybercrime, contact your insurance professional.

 

 

One Homeowner’s Tool You’re Probably Overlooking

One Homeowner's Tool You're Probably Overlooking

Why do you have homeowners insurance? If you’re like many American homeowners, it’s not because you believe anything bad will ever happen to your property but because your mortgage lender or landlord says you must. You signed up for the policy and never gave it another thought. This is extremely dangerous.

Disasters can strike at any time. According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments respond to more than 360,000 home structure fires each year. Flood insurance claims average nearly $4 billion per year according to the National Flood Insurance Program. And Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics show there are more than 5,400 burglaries per day, 74 percent of which occur on residential properties.

Why You Need a Home Inventory

In the event of a theft, fire, flood or other natural disaster, your homeowners insurance may be all that stands between you and financial ruin. Protect your investments — don’t over look the home inventory. This detailed record of everything you own will come in handy should you ever need to file a claim, apply for disaster relief or document losses for tax purposes. Unfortunately, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 59 percent of U.S. consumers do not have one.

Creating your home inventory will take time, but the difference it can make in the event of a disaster is worth it. The actual process isn’t that difficult, especially if you follow these tips.

  1. Decide on an approach. You can conduct your home inventory room by room, by category of item, from newest to oldest purchase, or from most to least expensive belongings.
  1. Create your list. Spreadsheets are particularly effective for this purpose. You can customize columns as you wish, but make sure you include all information an insurance adjuster will need. This includes a description of each item, when you purchased it, the purchase price, and the brand and model or serial number. You can also use Know Your Stuff, free software available both online and as an app, from the Insurance Information Institute.
  1. Augment your documentation. If you have receipts or canceled checks to prove what you paid for your belongings, keep them. You can scan them if you’d prefer to store these items digitally. Photographs of important items may also prove helpful down the line. You can even make a video tour of your home, showing all of your belongings, to accompany your inventory list.
  1. Make sure you include everything of value. This includes items you use less regularly such as tools, sporting goods, holiday decorations and formalwear. Go through every closet, drawer and box in your home as well as your attic, basement and garage.
  1. Store your inventory in a safe place. Keep copies of the list and other documentation outside your home. Locations you may want to consider include a friend or relative’s house, your office or a safe deposit box. For even better protection, store copies in two locations.
  1. Update your list regularly. At minimum, update your home inventory annually. However, some homeowners find it easier to update their list as they make new purchases and the information and supporting documentation needed is readily available.

Once you’ve created your home inventory, review your insurance policy with your insurance agent to ensure you have adequate coverage. You should understand whether your belongings are insured for cash value (replacement or repair costs minus deprecation) or for replacement cost (replacement or repair without an adjustment for depreciation). Rare or valuable items may benefit from additional insurance riders.

 

 

Preventing Burglary — What You Can Do to Protect Your Home

Preventing Burglary -- What You Can Do to Protect Your Home

When driving down a street at night looking at houses, you are most likely drawn to the house with exterior lighting, neatly trimmed landscaping, and lights on inside. That’s because the house looks inviting and well cared for. Now imagine a burglar is driving down the same street. The things that drew you to the previous house are the same things that will turn that burglar away, looking for better opportunities.  A property with no exterior lighting, overgrown landscaping, and possibly no one at home, invites criminal activity.

It is important to note that burglary is a preventable crime. Common sense dictates some of the steps you can take toward making your home safer and less attractive to burglars. The following are some general tips you should incorporate into your routine that can make the difference between the burglar stopping at your house or passing it up for another one further down the road.

The first line of defense between you and a burglar is to properly secure your home.

Make sure your yard, driveway, and all entrances to your home are well-lit. Consider the use of lights on a timer or photocell, which turns lights on automatically at dusk and shuts them off at dawn. Trees and shrubs around windows should be cut back so you don’t give a burglar a place to hide while preparing to enter your home.

If you are going to be away from home for a period of time, leave a light on. Lights left on indoors, especially those on a timer that turn on when it gets dark and shut off at bed time, can be a large deterrent to a burglar. The goal is to make it look as if you are home.  Ask a neighbor to pick up your newspapers and bring in your mail.

Along the same lines, if you will be gone for an extended period, arrange for your lawn to be maintained. Permitting your grass to grow high or get dry is a sign of neglect and can invite unwanted attention. If you have a garage – use it. Parking inside your garage on a regular basis makes it more difficult for a burglar casing your home to know whether or not you are really there.

Burglars will usually spend about five minutes trying to get inside your home. Make that task as difficult as possible by doing the obvious – lock your doors and windows! If you forget to lock your back door, this can be viewed as an invitation by a burglar looking to get in to your home quickly. In addition to the obvious, avoid spring bolt locks. It takes only a credit card to push open the bolt and allow access to the inside. Deadbolt locks should be installed on all exterior doors. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has established testing and ratings for deadbolt locks. Grade 1 locks are the best, with Grade 3 locks being easier to penetrate. Look for Grade 1 locks when shopping for a deadbolt. A key lock or pin-type lock work best for patio door, or any door with glass that could be easily broken to access a knob on a deadbolt. Heavy-duty strike plates should also be used to prevent a burglar from successfully kicking in your door.

When purchasing a new home, make sure all locks have been changed. Also, think about calling a reputable locksmith who can advise you on proper locks for doors and windows. Carefully preparing your home, including adequate locks, lighting, and regular maintenance, can make the difference between a burglar deciding to make a stop at your house or to keep driving.