That’s Not Me! – Identity Theft

“But he that filches from me my good name/Robs me of that which not enriches him/And makes me poor indeed.” – Shakespeare, Othello, act iii. Sc. 3.

Identity theft is a huge problem in the United States. Did you know that identity thieves stole approximately $21 Billion from victims in 2012? This equates to one incident of fraud every three seconds. That’s scary. In every minute, 20 acts of fraud occur. When you keep adding up the numbers it looks horrific. Most victims don’t know until it’s too late that they have become a victim of identity theft. If you are one of the victims of identity theft, we have listed a few things for you to do:

  • identity theftContact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) whether online or by phone, 877-438-4338.
  • If necessary, send mail certified and request a return receipt.
  • Contact your bank and let them know of the fraud.
  • Contact all of your credit card companies and credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union) and inform them of the situation.
  • Contact your insurance companies and make them aware of the theft.
  • Keep a detailed filing system. Keep all your originals, only send copies of originals to requestors.
  • Follow all deadlines. Keep a timeline of when you spoke to a person and set up a follow up date.

Following the above guidelines will help minimize any future thefts. We hope that you never have to use this list.

It’s a Nice Day for a White Wedding

wedding insuranceYour wedding day should be the happiest day of your life. You have been planning this day for most of your life. You and your fiancé wanted to have a white wedding in the mountains. Your lodge is reserved, the caterer is ready with the menu, the disc jockey has your playlist, and you’ve just picked up your pristine gown. Everything is coming together beautifully. Even the weather cooperated — a little more than you were expecting.

A major blizzard hit your venue and there is no way anyone can go anywhere. You have to postpone your big day. The good news is that you purchased wedding insurance before your big day so everything is covered and you can still have your white wedding without paying any additional out of pocket expenses.

Your wedding insurance covers these unforeseeable acts:

  • The venue. If your venue has any unavoidable cancellations from certain acts (such as damage) your wedding insurance will take care of you.
  • Any weather related problems such as inaccessibility, damage to venue, and many others. All the details including rescheduling the ceremony flowers, tent rental and reception food will also be covered.
  • None of your vendors showed up. Any number of reasons why a vendor may not show up and in that case, your insurance will cover it.
  • If you are called for duty or your job sends you off. Wedding insurance will cover the postponement of your wedding.

Give us a call when you are ready to take the plunge. We’ll help make sure your day is a happy one – come what may.

Travel Insurance – #ProtectYourTrip

February and April hold some of the busiest vacation weeks of the year. Do you have plans? Should you purchase travel insurance? Let’s look at some different situations.

Imagine, you’re getting away from the cold weather for a nice Caribbean cruise. You’ve been planning this trip for more than six months. Your bags are packed and ready when a major snow storm strikes. All flights out of your local airport are cancelled.

Let’s say you’re on safari in the African plains when you start feeling ill. You’re hundreds of miles from a hospital. Your guide is driving as fast he can, but it will take hours before you get to medical care, and you’re fading rapidly. To save your life, the guide has to call in a medi-vac copter.

Under these scenarios, you’d be out thousands of dollars — unless you have Travel insurance! This invaluable “peace of mind” coverage can provide total reimbursement for a trip that’s cancelled, as well as access to quality hospitals, pharmacies, and health care providers in case of death or illness (as well as other travel-related expenses).

Don’t leave home without Travel insurance! For more information, feel free to get in touch with us.

Polar Vortex and Your Home

polar vortexThe “polar vortex” in January shattered temperature records throughout the central and eastern U.S.:. New York City hit 4 F o and Chicago suffered -16 F. o The cold snap killed more than 20 people, , schools closed, highways shut down, and people remain inside and kept warm.

Your home, like you, needs to stay warm. Here are a few guidelines to help you and your family keep toasty indoors this winter.

  • Cover your drafts. Seal all open areas. Including doors and windows. You can buy “snake rolls” online through DIY, or roll up an old towel and put it at the source of the draft. Caulking works great for windows.
  • Replace your furnace filters monthly. Although this item might be out of sight and out of mind, put it on your calendar.
  • Winterize your air conditioning unit and pipes. Drain all water from the air conditioner. Get styrofoam covering for your pipes to keep them from freezing. Make sure all water spigots are turned completely off.
  • Replace your doors and windows with storm units.
  • Pay attention to the thermostat. It’ s easy to run your heater on high, but you’ll also get a huge electric/gas bill each month. Adding a blanket or two instead will help keep your bill under control.

Don’t let the polar vortex get the best of your home. For more information on staying warm, feel free to get in touch with us or visit our agency.

Lessor’s Risk Insurance – Protection for Landlords

If you rent out residential property, you face a variety of financial risks… everything from damage from fires and windstorms, through fines for building code violations, to a disgruntled tenant who sues you.Lessor's Risk

Lessor’s Risk insurance to the rescue! These policies cover losses to the property, medical payments for tenants or visitors injured on the premises, and your personal liability for alleged negligence.

The amount of coverage depends on your financial situation. If you’ve taken out a mortgage on the property, the lender will probably insist that you buy a policy large enough to cover the loan balance. As a rule of thumb, the higher the value of the property and the greater the risk of potentially catastrophic liability, the more coverage you’ll need.

Your premium will depend on the type of losses covered and the extent of reimbursement. If you choose comprehensive or all risk coverage (which will pay for damage from all causes unless specifically excluded), your cost will be higher than if you buy “named perils” coverage (which covers only losses due to specific causes). Expect a higher premium for replacement value, which will reimburse you fully for rebuilding your property, than for actual cash value coverage, which will pay only the value of the property, less depreciation.

You can also reduce your premium by increasing the deductible of your Lessor’s Risk policy, which usually ranges from $100 to 5% of the building coverage.

Optional coverages include repayment for rental income lost if the property becomes uninhabitable, and for risks of doing business with tenants, such as legal fees and liability against claims for libel, slander, and discrimination.

Our personal insurance specialists would be happy to help you select a Lessor’s Risk policy that offers the best value. Just give us a call.

10 Tips for Black Friday

Many of us can’t resist the lure of the incredible sales offered on Black Friday. While not technically the biggest shopping day of the year (that honor is given to the last Saturday before Christmas), Black Friday does offer some great deals, but it is also primetime for thieves.  At Mason & Mason, we’re all about safeguarding what’s important to you, so we’ve compiled a list of 10 things you can do to protect yourself this holiday season.

  1. Black FridayCopy your cards. Before hitting the mall, make photocopies of your credit cards. If your purse or wallet gets stolen, you’ll have the card information and also the customer service number you need to cancel the cards.
  2. Protect your purse. Don’t leave your purse sitting in a cart unattended. Keep it on your person so that it’s more difficult for someone to walk off with (I learned this one the hard way after having mine grabbed a few years back).
  3. Streamline payment methods. By carrying only one credit card, you ensure that you’ll only have to cancel one credit account if you find yourself the victim of a pickpocket.
  4. Keep it concealed. Don’t pull out your checkbook or credit card before you reach the register. Although it can be tempting to do so in an effort to save time, by keeping it out of sight you avoid “shoulder surfers” who might be looking over your shoulder and capturing your information.
  5. “S” = Secure. Shopping online? Look for the “s” in the web address (e.g. https://www.amazon.com) or for a “lock” symbol in the lower right hand corner of your computer screen. These let you know that you’re on a secure shopping site and your information will be encrypted.
  6. Review your receipts. Save all of your receipts so you can match them later against your monthly statements.
  7. Corral the kids.  Taking the younger ones shopping with you? Designate a central location before hitting the store to meet up in if you get separated. Make sure they know exactly where to go if they lose you.
  8. At the ATM. Only use ATMs in locations that are open and visible. Do not dispose of your receipts at the ATM; take them with you and take care of them when you get home.
  9. Trunk it! If you’re making a day of it and hitting more than one store, keep your purchases in the trunk if possible. Having that bag from Coach lying on the backseat adds an extra layer of temptation for a thief. In this case, out of sight often does mean out of mind.
  10. Park smart. Don’t park next to large trucks or vans that block your vision (or the line of sight of others who might help out in case of trouble). Always have your keys in hand, ready when you approach your car.

Stay safe and have fun. And don’t forget… if your Christmas shopping includes a really nice piece of jewelry for that special someone, be sure to call your insurance agent and get it put on a jewelry schedule! Questions? Let us know. We’ll be happy to help however we can.

Thanksgiving: A Recipe for Disaster?

The menu is set. The shopping is done. The preparations may even be well underway already. Thanksgiving is nearly upon us!

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving is the peak day for cooking fires. It makes sense, doesn’t it?  We want you to have a happy and safe holiday, so we’ve put together some basic safety tips to make sure your Thanksgiving doesn’t turn into a recipe for disaster.

  1. cooking firesKeep children in check. We know that some kids love to help with dinner prep, so we’re not suggesting you kick them out of the kitchen altogether, but a good rule of thumb is to keep them at least 3 feet away from the stove, for their sake.
  2. Get after the grease. Make sure all cooking surfaces have been thoroughly cleaned before turning the heat on to ensure nothing has spilled there that could ignite and catch fire.
  3. Stay by the stove. Perhaps the easiest way to avoid cooking fires is to simply stay attentive. Unattended cooking is the top cause of cooking fires.
  4. Put a lid on it! Keep a pan or a lid close by in case flames should erupt. You can use the lid to smother the fire and put it out. NEVER USE WATER.
  5. Don’t sip yourself silly. With so much going on in the kitchen, you’ll need your wits about you. Save the wine for after dinner and you can be at your very best as you serve your family and friends.
  6. Sound the alarm. Before the big day, check your smoke detectors to be sure they have fresh batteries and are in good working order.

Click here for fire safety tips for areas OUTSIDE the kitchen.

From all of us at Mason & Mason, have a beautiful (and safe) Thanksgiving!

Ya Gotta Ask Yourself: Do I Feel Lucky?

travel insuranceOk, not really… but when it comes to Travel insurance, there ARE some things you should ask yourself. Preparing for a vacation can be one of the most exciting times in life. However, it comes with responsibilities beyond buying plane tickets and making hotel reservations.

For example, it’s all too easy to overlook the need for Travel Insurance. These “‘peace of mind” policies can protect travelers against everything from trip cancellation, and travel delays to lost luggage, medical emergencies (most Health policies have only limited coverage abroad) – and more, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Because coverages and rates vary widely, it can be difficult to choose the policy that’s best for you – and your pocketbook. To help you make the right decision, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I have a tight flight connection?
  2. Am I going to be travelling on non-refundable flights?
  3. Where am I going and what are the risks associated with traveling and the situation at my destination?
  4. Do I have any health problems that might crop up during my trip?
  5. Will I be driving?
  6. Will I be taking part in downhill skiing, surfing, or other high-risk activities?
  7. If I missed a flight or get injured, would I be able to afford a return ticket?
  8. What is the refund policy on my coverage?
  9. Have I read the fine print make sure that you understand exactly what is covered and – just as important – what isn’t?
  10. Have I compared similar policies to note any major price discrepancies?

Our Personal insurance specialists would be happy to help you answer these and other questions, to help ensure your peace of mind as you travel.

Bon voyage!

Your Teen Driver and Insurance

teen driverOne of the most exciting and terrifying moments for any parent comes the first time they watch them drive away alone. You trust your child, and you’ve either taught them well or hired a professional to do so. Still, there might not be anything quite as scary as the moment your teen driver and those taillights disappear from view… and no wonder! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.

Having a solid Auto insurance policy for your teen is essential to give you peace of mind when they’re on the road without you. Although insuring your teen driver won’t be cheap, it is possible to get the coverage you need at an affordable price.

Most Auto policies will offer discounts to teen drivers who maintain good grades, usually rewarding a B average with some not insignificant savings.

Because the vehicle your teenager drives will significantly impact the cost of coverage, when shopping for that first car look for reliability, not flash. Choosing a car with good safety ratings and consumer reviews will help keep premiums under control. Pick a model that’s not too old to need constant maintenance, but isn’t so new that repairs will break the bank. Most insurance companies keep a list of vehicles and the cost of insuring them.

Many companies also offer premium discount if you have your teen driver receive some extra driving instruction. Most states require a minimum number of hours of driving spent with a certified professional.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is far better than a pound of cure. It makes sense to pay for a comprehensive, cost effective Auto policy now, rather than shell out big dollars for repairs and legal costs after your teen has a car accident.

As always, our insurance professionals stand ready to help you make the right choice – just give us a call.

Gun Owners Liability Insurance – Yay or Nay?

Courtesy of the International Risk Management Institute, Inc. (IRMI)

gun owners liabilityA national debate has been raging about guns and tougher gun control laws in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting last December in which 27 lives were lost. Gun control advocates and those who oppose stricter laws disagree vehemently on this controversial issue. Various longstanding proposals have been tossed back and forth. But one newer idea is particularly intriguing — a unique type of liability insurance policy for gun owners. This policy could apply to those persons without a homeowners or renters policy, which covers liability for a host of negligent acts. It could also provide broader coverage (and separate liability limits) than what is granted under a typical homeowners policy.

Lawmakers in several states (e.g., California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania) have recently proposed legislation that would require gun owners to buy separate liability insurance, similar to auto owners being required to buy auto insurance. The theory is that this may provide a financial incentive for safe behavior since people with less dangerous weapons, safety locks, or other risk control measures could qualify for lower premiums. Gun control advocates are in favor of exploring this possibility. The National Rifle Association believes the idea has merit but only if it is on a voluntary and not compulsory basis.

Mandatory liability insurance, however, may not be the correct term for some of these state proposals. One bill would actually require the purchase of bonds against intentional acts and against misadventures for which the gun owners may not be held legally liable per se.

The insurance industry has expressed reservations concerning these proposals, particularly the New York bill, which would require coverage for damages resulting not only from negligent acts but willful acts as well. (This approach would provide more expansive coverage than a typical homeowners policy would, since the homeowners form includes an intended injury exclusion). The Insurance Information Institute contends that insurance should only cover accidents and unintentional acts, not intentional or illegal ones.

So what do you think? Does this idea have any merit? What could be some of the unintended consequences of such laws? Are you a gun owner who would consider a separate liability policy a valuable option? Let us know.