Five Steps for Victims Of Identity Theft
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that identity theft is one of the most rampant consumer complaints within the United States. Almost 400,000 complaints were reported in the year 2016.
Criminals use various schemes in order to steal a particular person’s identity. These schemes include dumpster dives to steal documents, such as un-shredded bills that contain personal information; ransomware attacks; breaches on credit cards; phishing scams and dispatching suspicious emails in order to deceive people into divulging their accounts and passwords; and stealing people’s mail in order to acquire pre-approved loan and other offers of credit card companies.
Identity thieves use sensitive information for a lot of purposes. Sometimes they open accounts. At other times they steal the victim’s money in order to pay for medical treatments. Most victims of identity theft wouldn’t know how to start restoring their name and their credit. They don’t know the steps to take and who to talk to in order to take action against this crime.
Steps To Take
Here are the steps you should immediately take once you realize you are victimized by identity thieves:
Step 1: File A Report With The Police
If there are indications showing that you are victimized by identity thieves, filing a police report is the first step you should take. A lot of fraud departments would need a copy of the police report in order to ensure that the customer is actually a victim of identity theft.
Step 2: Place Credit Bureau Fraud Alerts
Fraud alerts prevent creditors from authorizing new credit accounts, thus ensuring that a person’s identity is verified before a new credit account is authorized in the person’s name. You should place 90-day alerts through the major credit bureaus immediately when you suspect that your information has been compromised:
- TransUnion: (800) 680 7289
- Equifax: (800) 525 6285
- Experian: (888) 397 3742
Before you become victimized by identity thieves, a guideline to follow is to carefully scrutinize your credit reports at least 2 times every single year. This will allow you to check if there are any unauthorized loans, credit cards, or other activities associated with your name. You can get free reports here.
Step 3: Cancel Your Debit Cards and Credit Cards
This step is pretty straightforward and will go faster if you have all your debit and credit card numbers stored for quick reference.
Step 4: Contact Credit Unions and Banks
Close all your checking accounts and other accounts (e.g. savings, credit card, loan accounts) connected with the compromised account. You can also request to stop payments on check numbers that are stolen and checks that are uncleared. Also, you can open new checking accounts, debit cards, and credit cards.
Step 5: Contact Other Types Of Providers
Contact your homeowners insurance carrier and your auto insurance carrier so that they will know that other people shouldn’t be filing claims using your name. Also, contact places where you have acquired memberships such as gyms, libraries, and wholesale clubs.
Our insurance companies have partnered with leading firms when it comes to protection from identity theft and data security. This is to help our clients manage their identities proactively, and also helps them repair their identities in case they are victimized by identity theft. Please ask us about the identity theft coverage available on your homeowners, condominium, or renters policy.
Homeowners Should Reassess Insurance Coverage Annually
Owning a home is one of most people's dreams. A house is a large purchase that requires a lot of thought and consideration. It is one of our most valuable and cherished assets. Sadly, a lot of homeowners don't realize how unfortunate it would be to not have the proper insurance coverage for their house and its contents in case of fire or other natural disasters. In such cases, large losses would be inevitable and difficult to bear without adequate insurance.
Do you have the right insurance and coverage to repair and replace your house and its contents especially if it's damaged, destroyed, or totally lost? A lot of homeowners will say they do have the right insurance coverage. However, studies show that a lot of homeowners do not have enough insurance for rebuilding or recovering after disasters. A recent study by Marshall & Swift/ Boeckh, revealed that 61% of homes are actually underinsured. These homes are estimated to be underinsured at an average rate of about 18%.
Our companies implement reviews of their clients’ limits for homeowners coverage annually. These limits are based on estimates of the replacement costs within neighborhoods. The outcome of the calculations may lead to adjustments of the policy limits. The estimates are usually related to each area’s general factors and are provided by various appraisal agencies.
This is only one part of the entire systematic process. We also suggest that you get an agent to check your insurance for you at least annually. This will allow you to choose carefully the proper coverages you will need. Nobody wants to pay a higher premium than is necessary. However, the costs of construction continue to rise significantly each year. As a homeowner, it is important for you to ensure that possible future losses are satisfactorily covered by your insurance policy.
This is true, especially, if you have made new improvements to your house but have not yet included these within your coverage. And even if improvements have not been made, we still suggest that you review your insurance coverage in order to make sure that it is enough to cover the costs you have to incur when rebuilding your home. Also, remember that rebuilding costs can be different in different areas and neighborhoods.
Things to Consider
It’s always best to review your coverage and ensure that your assets and your family’s future are protected. The following is a list of some of the things you should consider as you review your policy with your agent.
- When did you last evaluate the cost to rebuild your home? Has it been a year or more? Then, you seriously need to talk to an agent with regards to your coverage.
- Does your policy include extended replacement coverage? Our companies offer up to 150% of the dwelling limits on your policy. When a disaster happens and you lack extended coverage, your insurance policy might not be adequate to cover the costs you incur for rebuilding your home or restoring its contents.
- Did you make improvements to your house? Are these improvements already covered? If not, you should make sure the improvements have adequate coverage for replacement when necessary.
- Make sure you get an appraisal from a licensed professional. This will help you make an informed decision as to the right amount of coverage necessary in case something happens. Remind the appraiser to calculate the cost to rebuild using the same quality features at today’s costs.
- Make sure you have a record of your house, its contents, and its unique features. It is best to keep photos and even videos of your house and its contents. This will make the claim process go faster.
- Make sure you have read your coverage documents and your entire policy carefully. You can talk to your agent if you have any questions.
You, as the homeowner, know more about your house than anybody else. That’s why you have to decide what’s best for you, your property, and your family. As agents, we are happy to help with whatever you need especially when it comes to evaluating your policy, its coverages, and its limits.
Natural disasters such as storms can result in long periods of power loss. Portable generators can be used to provide temporary power. However, there are potentially numerous risk associated with their use. Improper use of generators can result in illness, injury or even death.
For the safety of you and those in your home, it is extremely important that you take precautions when utilizing portable generators. We recommended that you follow the guidelines below in order to safely utilize generators:
- Always read and follow the manufacturer’s manuals before actually utilizing your generator.
- Do not leave your generator unattended. Do not leave it running when you are away from the generator’s location at your home or business.
- Regularly check your generator during use.
- Always be alert when touching the generator as many parts are hot and can cause burns.
Ensure the Generator is Properly Connected To Prevent Electrical Hazards
Electricity provided by your generator is prone to similar hazards as that of regularly-supplied electricity. Additional risks are imposed on you especially if the generator bypasses safety devices (e.g. circuit breakers) built into the electrical systems. It is best to get the help of an electrical contractor (or device manufacturer) to correctly install your generator.
- Always heed the instructions of the manufacturer when it comes to correctly grounding the generator. This is to prevent electrical shock.
- Before you actually touch the generator, ensure you have dry hands and you’re not standing on a wet surrounding.
- Never use a wall outlet to plug in your generator.
- When you want to plug your appliances into your generator, you should use cords specified by the manufacturer. Also, you can utilize extension cords that are three-pronged and have the correct amperage rating.
- Always remember that generators are extremely hot while in use and remain at high temperatures for a long period of time after being shut down, and should be considered fire hazards.
Generators Should Not Be Operated Indoors
Generators should not be used indoors, in basements, in garages, or even near windows, doors or vents. Your generator should be kept at least 25 feet away from your place of residence or business. It is best to check the recommendation of the manufacturer and your local ordinances as well. Take into account your neighbors windows, doors and vents as well. This is due to the fact that a generator’s exhaust can build up carbon monoxide. This odorless, colorless toxic gas can lead to serious illnesses (or death).
- There should be a clear space of about 4 feet on every side of the generator and above it as well. This is to ensure proper ventilation.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms with backup batteries should be installed within your house or place of business. Regularly test these alarms and reinstall batteries according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Safely Refuel Your Generator
You must always be cautious when you refuel your generator to avoid starting a fire or incurring burns. Below are some safety tips to follow when refueling your generator.
- Turn your generator off first and wait for it to completely cool off before you refuel. Fuels used for generators can actually ignite if they are poured on hot parts such as engines.
- Do not refuel while your generator is operating.
- Generator fuels should be stored and transported within approved containers.
- Generator fuels must not be kept near your house. They should be kept in well-ventilated locations separate from your house or business, or in storage cabinets approved for flammable liquids.
- Never smoke when you are refueling the generator or are around the fuel containers.
5 Reasons For Choosing Mercury Insurance
Getting an insurance policy that’s right for your needs can be frustrating. There are a lot of choices with a variety of options and limits for coverage. Mercury Insurance will make the insurance shopping process easier. They provide high-quality coverage at affordable rates. You will also have your own insurance agent, ensuring that you have the knowledge and help that you need to get the best policy to cover you and your family.
Below are five reasons why Mercury should be the insurance of your choice
Vehicle Repairs Made Easy and Hassle-Free
Mercury provides you the option to have your vehicle repaired at their Authorized Repair Facilities. As a bonus, the repairs done at their authorized facilities are “guaranteed” for as long as you own your vehicle.
Mercury customers consistently give them great reviews. Mercury Insurance makes the complicated process of having your vehicle repaired easier. They do the heavy lifting for you.
Have you tried having one type of insurance policy with one company and another type with yet another company?. This can be very confusing. Mercury Insurance makes it easier and less expensive for you by allowing you to bundle policies. They give you up to a 15% discount if you bundle both your auto and homeowners insurance policies together.
Commitment to Providing Low-Cost Policies
Insurance fraud costs are estimated to be more than 100 billion dollars a year. In addition to hurting the insurance companies, this drives premium costs upwards. Mercury Insurance is committed to keeping insurance costs low. They have been a pioneer for application of fraud prevention measures. In 1978 they were one of the first companies to form Special Fraud investigation Units. These units work closely with law enforcement to stop hundreds of scammers and fraud rings every year, helping bring down the costs of premiums as phony claims payouts are prevented. Mercury Insurance has a mission to do everything possible to keep its rates low for their policyholders.
You are ensured of partnering up with a financially-stable company once you come onboard with Mercury Insurance. The company has been named by Forbes as one of the most trustworthy companies in America. Plus, they consistently get an “A” rating from A.M. Best. In addition, a recent survey by Insure.com of auto insurance customers ranked Mercury Insurance as one of the five best auto insurers in the nation.
Agents Committed to Excellence
Mercury works with a wide network of independent local agents that are dedicated to providing you and your family the products and services that best meet your insurance needs. Your agent will provide you personalized service and make sure you receive all of the discounts that you are entitled to.
Mercury has been recognized by Forbes as one of the best mid-sized employers in America, and they are proud of the positive ways their company culture reflects onto their interactions with their customers.
These are just some of the many reasons why Mercury Insurance is the best choice to protect your family and property. Call General Insurance Services in San Clemente, CA for a fast, no-obligation quote or visit our website at www.gen-ins.com to see how much you can save with Mercury Insurance.
Should You Buy The Insurance When Renting A Car?
You have prepared everything you need for your vacation. You’ve booked your plane tickets and made arrangements for a rental car. However, once you land and get to the rental car counter, the company representative asks if you want to get their insurance for the car you’re renting. You don’t want to run the risk of having to pay big expenses if something happens to the rental car. What should you do in this case?
Understand The Offer
The car rental companies usually offer to cover the car for collision and theft. This coverage could cost as much as $19 a day. Liability insurance could also be offered at a rate of $7 to $14 per day. And medical insurance that provides coverage for ambulance and doctor costs might also be offered.
However, the coverage offered by the rental company doesn’t actually include everything. If you clearly are negligent, like leaving the keys in the car with the doors unlocked, you won’t have coverage if the rental car is stolen.
Although the coverage they are offering you is referred to as insurance, what they are actually offering is a loss damage waiver. This waiver releases you from the financial responsibility in the event your rental car gets damaged or stolen while you are renting it.
Understand The Coverage You Already Have
Do you own a car already? If so, you surely have a personal auto insurance policy that provides liability coverage. Plus, if you already have comprehensive and collision coverage on your own car, that coverage will extend to your rental car as well, and it wouldn’t make sense to pay extra for coverage that you already have.
You should consider that the comprehensive and collision coverage offered by the rental car company may have no deductible, or a deductible that is lower than you have on your own policy. If you do not have comprehensive and collision insurance, you should definitely get the coverage offered by the rental car company.
Coverage Provided By Your Credit Card Company
Almost all credit card providers provide collision-deductible waivers if you pay for your rental car with their credit card. This means the credit card company will pay for any deductible that you might be responsible for. Check with your credit card company to make sure this coverage is included.
Understand the Details
If you’re actually buying the rental car company’s insurance coverage, ensure that you have read the fine print. Understand the coverage of the policy. You might be surprised that some policies provide coverage for only one driver, meaning you will have to pay extra for another driver.
Do Your Homework
In most cases, your auto insurance policy doesn’t provide coverage when you rent a car overseas. Sometimes, your credit card company might give you the coverage you need abroad. Do your homework by checking out what you already have before buying into the rental company’s offer.
It might be required that you bring proof that you actually have an existing policy. You might have to show proof to the car rental company to avoid charges. Learn a particular country’s insurance requirements. Sometimes, it is a must for you to have higher coverage than what you have on your existing policy. Finally, you might want to add car rental coverage to your travel insurance policy, especially if you don’t have any other type of coverage.
Back To School Safety Tips
It is both exciting and hectic when your child leaves for college. Among the many new concerns you and your child should consider, safety and the proliferation of crimes on college campuses should be high on the list.
The US Department of Education stated that in 2014 there were 14,000 reported burglaries on college campuses in the U.S. Your children can be safer if you engage them frequently in safety discussions and encourage them to follow some common sense tips.
Safety At The Residence
Students can let down their guard and be complacent when it comes to their safety at college. Whether your student lives on campus or off, there are steps they can take to make them and their property more secure:
- Be in open communication with the Resident Assistant (RA) or any person in charge of the residential area.
- Immediately report damaged locks, lost keys, or any broken security item.
- Regularly check if carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are functioning.
- Lock the door always, even when making a quick trip to the restroom.
- When someone is knocking on the door, do not open it unless you know the person on the other side.
- Keep your valuables hidden as much as possible.
- Avoid keeping large amounts of cash in your room. Watch your checkbooks for missing checks.
- If your keys are lost, replace your locks immediately.
- Keep all windows locked when away, and when windows are open, limit the opening to 4 inches or less with special locks or a cut-off broom handle.
- Immediately report suspicious activity.
Safety Of Property
Usually, students will bring their valuable items, such as laptops, TV’s and other electronics to campus with them. They should be advised to leave artwork, jewelry, and other nonessential items of value at home.
Here are some recommendations for your child:
- Never leave valuable items, backpacks or purses unattended, especially in common areas.
- Secure lockers all the time.
- Ensure bikes are kept secure and are properly locked before leaving them in common areas.
- Keep vehicles locked and keep valuables out of sight.
- Never leave your vehicle running and unattended.
- Keep a list of valuables and a detailed description of each item.
- Use protection devices such as backpack and laptop locks whenever possible.
- An engraver is usually available at the security office of the campus. Use one to engrave valuable items with a driver’s license number.
Department of Campus Safety
Usually, campuses have their own safety or even police departments. Your child should be encouraged to:
- Get familiar with the contact information and location of the campus safety departments.
- Be familiar with emergency phone numbers, and keep them in their saved numbers on their cell phones.
- Attend campus safety presentations and obtain college provided safety brochures.
- If you notice any suspicious activity, report it to the campus safety department.
Living through college can be tough for your child. That’s why it’s best to help them through the process by having frequent discussions on how to safely secure and protect not only their belonging but themselves as well.
Downsizing Your House: Here’s How To Do It In 6 Steps
Moving from one location to another can have its challenges, especially when you are downsizing your home. However, downsizing can actually have its perks. For example, it helps you cut on expenses and save money, and allows you to declutter your life.
So, how do you actually downsize your home properly? Let's get started.
Steps To Downsizing Your Home
1. Make An Inventory. Creating an inventory of every item that you own can be very helpful. Do you have three different microwaves or crockpots? It is probably not important to keep them all. The inventory you create helps you keep track of which items are duplicated, unnecessary, or outdated. Include the market value and condition of each item. The list of your belongings can serve as a packing list and can be helpful for estimating the cost of your move.
2. Take Measurements. You should check out the actual dimensions and the floor plan of the house you’re going to move into. This helps you get a sense of what actually needs to be moved in and what needs to be disposed of.
- Take the measurements of the new house and then do it again for your furniture including bulky items. In this way, you can check out items that will not fit inside your new house. Or, you can rule out belongings that won’t flow naturally with your new space’s layout.
It’s actually more convenient to dispose of these items ASAP as opposed to paying for them to be moved to the new house and finally deciding that they’re not a good fit.
3. Take Your Lifestyle Into Consideration. Do you have your own backyard in your old house? Are you moving to a condo complex or an urban place where a yard will not be a concern? If so, you garden tools and outdoor equipment might not be necessary.
Are you heading to a warmer location? Then, you might not need winter clothing and gear. You should decide on disposing of items you might not need in your new location or that you would use rarely.
4. Weigh Costs. There is another factor you should take into account when determining which items to downsize. This factor is the quality and condition of each item. For example, if you have worn-out sofas and furniture, it might be more practical to sell them.
We are talking about cost effectiveness in this situation. You might want to discard items that are already worn out and replace them with new ones after your move. This leaves you with more room for antiques and other valuable items that you can bring to your new home.
5. Organize Yourself. Declutter your entire house if you haven’t already done so. It is important for you to have an actionable plan on what to do with items you will discard or leave behind. Mark the items in one of these categories:
- Recycle/ Trash - Some things seriously needs to be thrown away. These include broken appliances, old toiletries, and other items that cannot be donated. You can rent dumpsters to help you dispose of these items properly.
- For Sale - Those items that are in good condition can actually be sold to others. This can help you make a few bucks as well.
- Donation - You can actually donate some of your belongings to non-profit organizations. You can even give them to your friends, family members, or neighbors. There are even non-profits that visit your house just to pick up furniture that is in good condition.
- For Packing - Items that you wish to bring to your new house should be packed properly with related items and labeled as well. Your inventory can be taken to another level by including the specific box (number/ code) each item is packed in.
6. Be The Early Bird. The process of moving and downsizing takes up more time than you actually think. Give yourself about two to three months to create an inventory and sell unessential items or arrange for friends or family to pick them up.
Go through your “For Packing” items again. If you think it’s still too much for your new home, then try to trim it down a little bit.
Downsizing is a serious thing and you have to make hard decisions to pull it off properly. Remember that if you allow yourself a few months for preparation, the process will be much easier. You can actually evaluate each item you have and decide what is still useful and how it will fit into your new home.
Should I Hire A Mover Or Do It Myself?
Planning to move? You might be debating between hiring a moving company or doing it yourself.
One consideration you should look into is cost. However, your ultimate decision will depend on a variety of factors. These include the distance between the place you are moving from and the place you are moving to, the flexibility of your schedule, and how comfortable you are doing the moving yourself.
If you are simply moving across town, you can just ask for help from your friends. This could be less expensive and more convenient compared to hiring a moving company.
However, if you’re moving out of a two-story house with big furniture located on the second floor, you might look into getting a mover. This is true especially if you have to move long distances. Moving companies are more experienced in getting furniture through small staircases and loading them into a truck.
Doing It Yourself
What Are The Costs?
Doing the moving yourself can be less expensive compared to hiring a moving company. However you have to take all costs into account before you try doing the process yourself.
If you wish to rent a truck, for example, what specific truck size would you actually need to fit everything you want to move out? For insurance, what are the costs for coverage of both the truck and your belongings? How much will it cost to fuel the truck?
What Is The Timeframe Necessary To Complete The Moving Process?
When you move yourself, it provides a certain degree of flexibility. There is no moving company showing up at a specific time with the expectation that all boxes are packed, labeled, and ready for loading.
However, the actual process of moving yourself can take a bit longer. Also, you might have to make several trips from point A to point B to get the job done. You have to take into consideration the worth of your time and determine if you will have the free time necessary to do the moving yourself.
Who Is There To Help?
Do you have friends whom you can actually ask for help? You have to think about the meals they need while doing the entire moving process. You might also think about giving them a gift to show that you value the effort they have put in to help you.
Letting The Moving Company Do It For You
How Will You Select The Right Company?
You always have to select a reputable moving company. You can ask your friends and family for suggestions. You can also check out reviews online and look at the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for possible complaints or recommendations. Narrow down your list to about three companies and request quotes from each of them.
What is Included?
You need to know what is included in the estimate given. Moving companies usually charge a specific amount based on weight. You can also ask for a refund if your belongings end up weighing less than expected.
You can also inquire about other charges included in the moving process. One thing you have to consider is the cost of insurance. Tips are not included in the estimate. However, it is common practice to give tips to movers.
Do You Need Additional Help?
A lot of moving companies provide a comprehensive moving service. If you opt for it, the company usually packs your belongings, loads them into the truck, and unpacks them in your new place.
Obviously, this will cost more than a less comprehensive option. However, it might help you save time and free you of the stress you might experience with moving yourself. If you wish to get full service, you should ask for estimates from at least 3 reliable moving companies.
When Will Your Belongings Arrive?
Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks before your belongings are delivered to your new location. This can add stress and should be taken into consideration.
Protecting Your Belongings
Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring a moving company, you have to make sure your belongings are covered by insurance. Renters insurance and homeowners insurance policies protect your personal property for loss or damages. However, there might be certain limitations and exclusions when property is being moved.
Some moving service providers include insurance in their fees. You must review the policy to ensure that the coverage is enough for your needs.
You should talk to an insurance professional to find out about the coverages, limitations, and exclusions of your policy when it comes to moving from one home to another.