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Posts Tagged ‘personal insurance’

Buying Cruise Insurance

Buying Cruise Insurance

From weather delays to onboard mishaps, protecting yourself and your vacation is something you should consider before you set sail on your next cruise.

Covered Events

The unfortunate events covered by cruise insurance vary depending on policy. Common ones include missed departures and delays, cruise operator cancellations, emergency traveler cancellations, lost and stolen luggage, medical emergencies, medical evacuations and cruise operator financial default.

Two special insurance features most travelers find particularly desirable are 100 percent refund policies and trip interruption coverage. The first will reimburse your pre-paid travel expenses in the event that you need to cancel your trip for any reason including a job loss or medical emergency. The second will reimburse your expenses if you need to cut your vacation short and fly home.

Buying Direct from Cruise Operator

Most cruise operators offer passengers some form of insurance protection, through it is often more limited in scope than comparably priced third party policies. For example, most do not cover cancellations due to operator financial default, terrorism or political unrest. If traveler cancellation is covered, there may be a cut off several days prior to departure. And medical coverage is often quite limited, usually excluding pre-existing conditions.

In the event of a covered situation requiring reimbursement, most cruise lines will pay up in the form of non-transferable credits towards future travel. Most often, expiration dates and strict redemption rules accompany these vouchers. Cash reimbursement is quite rare.

Purchasing Third Party Insurance

If you want broader coverage and cash reimbursement, you’ll have to purchase your cruise insurance through a third party provider. TravelGuard, TravelSafe and InsureMyTrip are three popular companies offering a range of cruise insurance products.

When reviewing your options, consider a ‘primary’ policy. It may cost a bit more, but coverage kicks in the moment something goes wrong—reducing or eliminating the time you’ll wait for reimbursement. If you chose ‘secondary’ coverage, you must attempt to collect on a primary policy before your cruise insurance will cover a thing. For example, if someone steals your camera while on the ship, a secondary policy will only cover your loss after you’ve attempted to collect on your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Cost of Investment

Whether you choose to purchase directly from your cruise operator or from a third party, expect to pay 5 percent to 10 percent of the cruise price for insurance. While this may be as much as $1,000 on a $10,000 cruise, the cost is minimal compared to the potential losses you’ll incur if you have to cancel your trip due to an emergency, the ship malfunctions and you find yourself stranded in a foreign port, or the cruise line goes out of business.

 

Buying a Used Car? Look Out for VIN Cloning

Buying a Used Car? Look Out for VIN Cloning

While car theft has been a great concern for car owners, it is less of a concern because of the improvement in technologies such as transponder keys, tracking and recovery systems, improved integrated active alarm systems, etc. But while car theft has dropped, car thieves have not given up… and the most common car crime today is VIN switching or VIN cloning.

How VIN Cloning / VIN Switching is Done

  1. Thieves steal your car.
  2. They then look for a model that is the same as yours.
  3. Thieves will make a copy of that vehicle’s VIN.
  4. They will create a fake VIN plate for your car which makes the car easy to sell.

What’s terrible bout this is that you may buy a car thinking it has a clean bill of health. But the real car’s history may be masked.

Worse, the police can seize the car if it was in fact stolen and you’ll likely be out of the money you spent on the car. (Some states like Wisconsin require auto dealerships to reimburse consumers when the dealership has sold a car with a bad VIN but not all states require this.)

Protect yourself from VIN Cloning

Here are some of the things that you can do so that you can protect yourself from VIN cloning and avoid buying used cars that have been stolen.

Check the Address of the Seller

Criminals will not let you know their address. If you are the buyer, always go to the seller and meet at his or her house. If he says that he is a motor dealer, go to his place of business. A legal trader will not have a problem with you visiting his business site. He will also have printed invoices and a legit landline number.

If the seller asks to meet at a convenient location, make sure to bring a friend.

Right to Sell

Buying from a private individual is riskier than buying from a car dealer because when things go wrong, you might not be able to find the seller if he or she is just a private individual.

To see if the seller has the right to sell, meet at the address indicated on the registration papers. Go into the house and don’t just meet outside the house. If the person has nothing to hide, then there should be no problem getting inside the house. If you find something unusual, walk away right at that very moment.

Question Low Prices

Be wary of cars that are being sold at an insanely low price. If there is some bodywork damage in the car, then the seller might go a bit lower. However, if the seller is willing to accept any price, then alarm bells must sound off because a car thief will settle for any amount instead of getting caught with a stolen car.

Check the Documents

Inspect each and every document that will be handed to you. Try to spot any forgeries. Check the VIN on all the records, the door sticker, dash, car frame, service and title records. All of the VIN indicated there must match. Check for any signs that it may have been tampered with.

Check the CARFAX if there are any clone alerts.

The odometer must match the mileage that is reported on the document. Check if there are any registrations between states. If there are, then this is a cause for alarm as this might be a stolen car.

Get a Mechanic

You can always get an expert mechanic to check on the car if there are any anomalies.

Why to Choose a Safe Deposit Box Over a Home Safe

Why to Choose a Safe Deposit Box Over a Home Safe

Whether you want a safe place to stash heirloom jewelry from your great-great-grandmother, a treasured collection of rare coins, stacks of savings bonds or your last five years’ worth of tax returns, a safe deposit box at the bank is a better choice than a home safe for a number of reasons.

  1. A safe deposit box is a better value. Even the cheapest home safe is going to cost you upwards of $100 dollars. A safe deposit box, on the other hand, typically rents for $15 to $500 a year depending on size. Unless you’re storing large valuables, the up-front cost of renting a safe deposit box is going to be less than purchasing a residential safe.
  1. A safe deposit box offers better protection from fire. Fireproof home safes are even more expensive than their basic counterparts are—and there are significant limits to how much actual protection they offer. For example, some fire resistant residential safes still allow contents to reach 350 degrees. While that might protect paper documents, it’s more than the heat required to damage items like computer disks and 35mm slides. Most only offer 30 minutes of protection as well—not enough if it takes emergency responders longer to extinguish the blaze. Fire is not an issue for a safe deposit box, however. Located in a sealed bank vault, they offer the ultimate protection for your items.
  1. A safe deposit box offers better protection from thieves. While the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing notes that the number of reported single-family home burglaries nationwide has declined 32 percent since 1990, they’re still increasing in some metropolitan areas—and a home safe is an easy target for a would-be thief on the prowl. Banks, on the other hand, are more secure than the average home. Even when a robbery occurs, few of the criminals bother with the safe deposit boxes. According to the FBI, only 18 of the 5,014 bank robberies that occurred nationwide in 2011 involved the safe deposit vault.
  1. Home safes are notoriously easy to “crack.” Just watch one episode of A&E’s Storage Wars and you’ll see how easy most residential safes are to break into. And anyone can learn to do it. A quick Google search of “how to crack a home safe” returned more than 43,700,000 written and video tutorials. Safe deposit boxes, on the other hand, are housed within a bank vault, which is much more difficult to break into.

IMPORTANT: While bank robberies involving safe deposit boxes are rare, it’s still wise to add a rider to your homeowner or renter’s insurance policy to cover the items you store within one. The minimal cost you’ll incur is preferable to running the risk of an unforeseen loss.

 

Dog Bite Prevention

Dog Bite Prevention

Americans love their dogs. According to the American Pet Products Association, more than 56 million U.S. households included at least one canine companion in 2014. Unfortunately, raising a pooch isn’t always just wagging tails and slobbery kisses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that dogs bite 4.5 million people every year. About 885,000 of those incidents result in injuries requiring medical attention, and about half of those serious injuries occur on children.

In addition to the shock and horror you’d naturally experience should your dog attack a stranger, visitor to your home, or even a family member, dog bite incidents are expensive. According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites accounted for more than 33 percent of the homeowner’s insurance liability claims paid in 2013, costing more than $483 million. The average cost per dog bite claim nationwide was $27,862—a pretty significant chunk of change.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances of your dog or family’s involvement in a dog bite incident. Consider the following:

  1. Choose your pet carefully. There are varying opinions on whether dogs of certain breeds are more dangerous than others are or if home environment has more to do with a dog’s nature. Talk to your veterinarian about potential behavior and health issues associated with specific breeds. Speak with your insurance agent about breeds excluded from coverage under your homeowner’s insurance policy.
  1. Socialize your pet early. Well-socialized puppies are more likely to grow into adult dogs who feel comfortable around a variety of people and other animals. Continue to expose your dog to new situations—under controlled circumstances, of course—as he or she gets older.
  1. Wait until your child is old enough. Because half of all serious dog bite incidents involve children, experts recommend waiting until your own are at least 4 years old before introducing a dog to your home. At that age, children are better able to understand how to behave around pets.
  1. Never leave a baby or young child alone with a dog. You should also teach your children not to approach strange dogs or to try to pet dogs they do not know. Instruct them to ask the dog’s owner for permission before approaching or petting.
  1. Keep your dog healthy. From controlling parasites to spaying and neutering, regular veterinary care can influence how your dog feels and directly affect how he or she behaves. Make sure to vaccinate your dog against rabies and other infectious diseases according to recommended guidelines. And take your pet on plenty of walks to keep it healthy and provide mental and physical stimulation.
  1. Obey all pet-related laws. License your dog as required by your community, city and county. Respect leash laws and, if you ever leave your dog alone in a fenced yard, ensure the area is truly secure.

Whether you already own a dog or are considering bringing a canine into your home, give us a call to review your insurance liability coverage for bites and other pet-related injuries.

 

 

Before Tossing Those Electronic Gadgets Consider This

Before Tossing Those Electronic Gadgets Consider This

You’d be surprised to know that simply tossing away electronic gadgets can potentially inflict damage including large financial losses

In the age of hard drives and solid-state memory and its humongous capacity to store information, a lot of details about one’s self is actually stored in many different electronic devices. Therefore, throwing electronic devices indiscriminately and hastily can potentially leave one exposed to the headaches that result from having one’s identity stolen.

The use of technology in daily life has spawned various cases of identity theft. Identity theft protection is something to be vigilant of in this day and age.

Whether using electronic gadgets for personal use or for business, ensure that the data stored in these devices are safe. This is not just for personal benefit and protection, but for the clients’ and company’s reputation and safety, as well.

Here are tips on how to dispose electronic gadgets properly and how to employ identity theft protection effectively.

Before tossing that old Palm, Blackberry, iPhone, tablet, old computer, or any other device that may store information, be sure to do the following for identity theft protection.

  1. Delete all sensitive and private information from the hard drive / memory of all electronic office equipment to be disposed of.

Most people know that disposing or re-selling old laptops and smartphones requires deleting old data from these. After all, it is common sense to NOT want the next user to gain access to personal and business information contained within these. Yet many people fail to adequately remove sensitive information.

Many more are surprised to learn the same identity theft protection principle can apply to copiers, printers, and fax machines. More often than not, electronic devices like these, which were manufactured after around 2002, were equipped with high storage capabilities. This means that when these devices were used, digital information about users have been stored inside these devices.

When disposed of hastily and without deleting sensitive information from the hard drive / memory, traces of one’s identity and personal information may end up in the wrong hands.

These information includes tax returns, voided checks, driver’s license, social security card, client information, just to name a few.

Irresponsible disposal could get one’s business in trouble. How? One’s business could be slapped with HIPAA fines or lawsuits related to professional liability issues.

  1. Remove the hard drive from the electronic office equipment prior to throwing it away. This is common sense identity theft protection procedure that’s not often done. However, it only takes a minute to do so, so be sure to make it an official protocol.

  2. If a person has no time to remove the hard drive himself, enlist the help of an e-waste company which specializes in destroying hard drives and deleting data from these.

However, if a person is doing it himself, allow for sufficient time to overwrite files from hard drives. Overwriting simply means replacing data with random information to prevent hackers and identity thieves from rebuilding data contained within the hard drive. It is highly recommended to leverage multiple-pass overwriting which is more time consuming but does a better job of removing the data.

  1. Use the company’s own fax machine, printer, or copier instead of renting or using these from a third-party provider. This way, sensitive personal information of clients cannot be stored in public and vulnerable hard drives.

  2. Keep up-to-date on information regarding data breaches, vulnerabilities, and ways to employ identity theft protection.

Legally, businesses, whether big or small, are held financially accountable for data breaches of people’s sensitive personal information. When a company fails to protect their client’s sensitive personal information, hackers and thieves could take advantage of data that’s supposed to be private. Customers will most likely file a lawsuit because of the company’s professional negligence.

Be proactive in creating a comprehensive cyber risk management plan for the company and its clients so that it won’t get caught by surprise whenever a data breach does happen. Preparation and proactive identity theft protection saves the company and client from headache, and not to mention precious dollars, from lawsuits and profit losses.

It pays to keep the company’s reputation clean. On top of these tips, it is also good to invest in an insurance product such as appropriate professional liability coverage, or identity theft insurance which can help defray costs of expensive negligence law suits if ever these happen. In a wired world where data breaches, identity thefts, and cybercrimes frequently occur, it is best to invest time, effort, and resources in making sure the company data is always safe and secure.

 

What to do if Your Tax Refund is Stolen

What to do if Your Tax Refund is Stolen

Imagine this: You’ve collected your W-2, your mortgage and student loan interest statements and your investment earnings documentation. You log into your online tax preparation software and spend the next hour inputting your information. When you hit “submit,” you breathe a sigh of relief; your taxes are complete for another year. Then you get an email saying the IRS has rejected your tax forms. Someone somewhere has already filed in your name.

Tax refund theft is happening more frequently these days than ever before. According to a government accountability office report, scammers snapped up more than $5 billion in 2013 tax returns last year. The IRS expects that number will grow even larger as identity thieves utilize some of the 6.5 million Social Security numbers stolen last year alone. In fact, some states are already seeing a spike in suspicious 2014 returns. According to The Washington Post, most of those were filed using TurboTax, one of the largest providers of tax preparation software.

Officials state filing early is one of the best ways you can protect yourself, essentially by beating criminals to the punch. Hopefully you won’t find yourself among the defrauded. However, if you are, here’s what you need to do to remedy the situation.

Report the fraud to the IRS.

The IRS identity protection division handles fraudulent tax return cases. You’ll need to fill out an Identity Theft Affidavit, which will create an alert on your account. The IRS may ask you to file your return on paper while they work to confirm your identity. You’ll then receive an identity protection personal identification number—or PIN—that you’ll need to use along with your Social Security number on future tax returns. You may also want to report the fraud to your local police department and the Federal Trade Commission.

Review your credit report.

If a thief had enough of your personal information to file a fraudulent tax return, he or she may also attempt to open new credit cards or take out loans in your name. Check your credit report at all three credit-reporting agencies as soon as you become aware of the fraud. At minimum, follow up annually. You can request a free credit report from each agency once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. You may also want to put a freeze on your credit account. This will restrict anyone from pulling your credit report without your authorization, which will make it more difficult for an identity thief to open credit cards or loans in your name.

Change your passwords.

It may be easier to use the same password on all your financial accounts, and never change it, but you’re increasing your vulnerability to identity theft when you do so. If your information is compromised at one company, criminals will try to use it at others. Don’t let them get lucky. Create unique passwords for every account, and make them a long mix of numbers, letters and symbols. You might also want to take advantage of multi-factor authentication settings when available. These require a user to provide a code or other information in addition to their password when signing into an account, thereby increasing your protection.

 

 

 

Pet Insurance Basics

Pet Insurance Basics

Americans love their pets. According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners in the U.S. spent more than $58 billion on their cats, dogs, rabbits, horses and other critters in 2014. Of that expenditure, $15.25 billion was for veterinary care and $13.14 billion on related supplies and medications. We can all agree, that’s a lot of scratch! But while some pet moms and dads have to pay for routine wellness exams and unexpected vet visits and treatments out of their general household budget, others are thinking ahead. They bought pet insurance, and can rest assured their furry family member’s healthcare needs are covered.

What is Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance helps you pay veterinary bills if your pet suffers and injury or illness. Some plans even chip in on routine medical care, though it’s usually most helpful when unexpected accidents strike. Those are the ones that usually require expensive procedures—such as cancer treatments that cost tens of thousands, hip replacements in the neighborhood of $10,000, and ACL repairs that carry fees upwards of $2,500. Any of these would decimate the average American’s emergency savings account. However, pet insurance makes these treatments financially possible.

How Much Will it Cost?

Just like your own healthcare insurance, pet insurance is not free. However, it’s likely more affordable than you may think. According to insure.com, you may find basic policies for as little as $10 a month. Policies with broader coverage will carry a higher price tag, of course. According to Insure.com, accident coverage—that would cover your pet’s care if it were hit by a car or fell out a window, for example—can be had for $15 a month. Accident and illness policies start around $20 a month. A premium policy, covering a broad range of services as well as reimbursement for various treatments and preventative care, will cost more. It’s even possible your employer may offer discounted pet insurance as a supplementary benefit. Ask your company’s human resources officer.

Can All Pets Get Health Insurance?

As was the case with human health insurance before the Affordable Care Act, not all pet insurers are going to cover all pets. Plans vary, but some will not apply if your pet is more than 10 years old, is a certain breed (like Great Dane) or species (like horse), or has serious pre-existing conditions. Purchasing pet insurance before your cat or dog needs it is the best way to ensure he or she will be eligible for coverage. Buying a plan while your pet is younger is also a good idea.

As is always the case in life, no two situations are identical. Ask your personal insurance agent to help you select a pet insurance plan that offers the solutions you need at a price you can afford. Your pets—and your wallet—will thank you.

Why You Need More Personal Liability Insurance

personal liability insuranceAccording to the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, civil lawsuits, including those involving personal liability claims, cost the U.S. economy $233 billion each year. The average compensation payout for a civil injury suit is $60,000. The average awarded in a punitive damage lawsuit is $50,000. Most of us don’t have that kind of cash to spare. If we accidentally injure another person—or they injure themselves on our property—we could lose our savings, our home equity and our other assets. Fortunately, insurance offers some protection.

Homeowner’s and Auto Insurance

While your homeowner’s and auto insurance policies offer some liability protection, it may not be enough in the event of a serious incident—or even a minor incident when experienced lawyers get involved. According to an article by CBS Money Watch, most homeowner’s insurance policies only cover personal liability claims up to $300,000. Most auto insurance policies provide up to $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident for bodily injury—though few drivers actually purchase that much.

Experts advise you review your current liability coverage under both your homeowner’s and auto insurance policies with your agent. While most states set minimum liability requirements, it may make sense to increase your coverage limits. For example, to thoroughly protect your home, investments and other assets, it may be wise to increase the bodily injury liability limit on your auto insurance policy to the maximum, even if your state of residence requires less. You may also want to buy additional personal liability insurance equal to or greater than your net worth.

Additional Personal Liability Insurance

Don’t think you actually need additional liability coverage? You might be surprised. Experts suggest purchasing personal liability insurance of at least your net worth if you have teenage drivers at home, keep dogs as pets, regularly entertain on your property, have a pool at your residence, keep guns around or own a boat. All of these factors, and many others, can increase your chances of eventually facing a liability claim.

Additionally, auto and homeowner’s insurance policies never cover all the types of liability claims you may encounter. Typically excluded are defamation of character, libel, slander and false arrest. Personal liability insurance—in the form of an umbrella liability policy or personal excess liability insurance—does cover these charges.

Personal Liability Insurance is Affordable

Personal liability insurance is a valuable supplement to your existing insurance policies and may cost less than you expect. In fact, according to CBS Money Watch, you may be able to obtain $1 million to $2 million in supplemental coverage for as little as $250 to $300 per year. Contact your insurance agent or financial advisor for assistance with choosing the right policy as well as advice on how much coverage you need in your particular financial situation.

Are You at Risk for Medical Identity Theft?

Are You at Risk for Medical Identity Theft?

When you think about the dangers associated with identity theft, you likely imagine shadowy criminals using your financial information to apply for credit cards or take out loans. While these actions can devastate your credit score—and often take years to repair—there’s another hazard that goes beyond that important number. It’s the theft of your medical identity, and according to experts at the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) in San Diego, more than 1.8 million Americans became victims of this crime in 2013.

In fact, according to the ITRC, stealing medical insurance information and using it to obtain treatment and medication or submit false billings is the fastest-growing type of identity theft. Reports of the crime are increasing at an annual rate of 32 percent, and unlike credit cards—which offer some protection should you discover bogus charges—you’ll be on the hook for the costs incurred.

These costs can be quite large. According to the Ponemon Institute, which studies medical identity theft, 36 percent of the victims of medical identity theft encounter out of pocket insurance costs that average $18,660. Some have even lost their insurance or been charged higher premiums as a result.

While you cannot prevent data breaches or ensure criminals will not steal your personal information directly from a medical professional’s office, you can take the following steps to promptly spot and address problems.

Read your mail. Whenever you receive a letter from your health insurance carrier or your medical provider, review it carefully. If you notice listed doctors, treatments or facilities that are not familiar, notify your carrier immediately.

Request an annual list of benefits. Once a year, ask your insurer to provide you with a list of the benefits paid out in your name for the previous 12 months. Verify that all the information included on that list is accurate.

Check your credit report. Of course, you should already be doing this to look for other signs of identity theft. Unfamiliar medical collections included in the report may indicate medical identity theft. Contact the major credit-reporting firms immediately if you discover one.

Keep your health insurance numbers confidential. You wouldn’t give your credit card or social security number to just anyone, so don’t hand out your medical plan number either. Avoid health fairs or free screening kiosks that request your insurance information. Never give your number over the phone (unless you’ve called the insurer’s direct line yourself). And if you lose or misplace your card, contact your insurance provider as soon as possible.

Request a copy of your medical file. While you may have to pay for this service, ask your doctor to provide you with a copy of everything in your medical file. This is your “paper trail” in the event that you must dispute charges for visits or treatments you did not receive.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, medical identity theft is already a multi-billion dollar industry. Don’t become a victim. Protect your health insurance information, review all related records carefully, and contact me today about investing in identity theft insurance.

 

 

Do You Really Need that Car Rental Insurance?

Do You Really Need that Car Rental Insurance?

It’s a question you hear every time you rent a car: “Would you like to purchase insurance for this rental?” If you’re particularly cautious, you may even be tempted to answer in the affirmative, despite the fact that full supplemental coverage is prohibitively expensive, actually doubling the cost of rentals according to the United Services Automobile Association. Fortunately, there’s a good chance you don’t even need it. Consider the following before you approach the rental counter.

Your regular auto insurance may already cover your rental.

In many cases, the liability coverage you have on your day-to-day vehicle will extend to damages to other cars or property caused while driving a rental car. If you carry collision coverage as part of your regular policy, it may cover accident-related damages to the rental vehicle as well. Comprehensive coverage on your regular automobile can even cover vandalism or theft of your rental car.

What is actually covered depends on your particular policy, so you should consult with your car insurance agent before renting any vehicle. You should also keep in mind that even full coverage under your primary auto policy might not cover every charge—such as loss of use and administrative fees—the rental company will impose in the case of an accident.

You may already have rental car insurance through your credit card.

Some credit cards include supplemental benefits such as rental car insurance. In order to apply this benefit, you have to reserve and pay for the rental using that particular card. Terms and conditions vary widely, from primary coverage—that won’t require you to make a claim under your regular insurance policy—to secondary coverage—that will help you out with the deductible and other costs. In most cases, you must decline the supplemental insurance offered by the car rental company in order to obtain the credit card company’s insurance coverage.

Keep in mind, any coverage you receive from your credit card issuer is going to come with restrictions. For example, you may not be able to rent certain types of vehicles. Or the insurance may not cover damages that occur under particular situations (such as on a dirt road) or to specific parts of the car (such as the wheels). Card issuers frequently cap rental periods as well. Make sure you know what your credit card company offers before you rent a vehicle.

Sometimes, additional rental insurance coverage is still a good idea.

If your personal insurance policy does not include comprehensive or collision coverage, it may make sense to purchase liability coverage from the rental company. You might reach the same conclusion if your current car insurance policy carries a high deductible. Additionally, if you’re renting a car on a business trip, or intend to drive it into another country (other than Canada), you will likely need additional insurance coverage. Give me a call to discuss your particular car insurance policy’s declarations and limitations before proceeding.