Archive for December, 2011

National Survey for Trusted Choice® Shows Many Unprepared to Deal with Holiday Theft

Posted on December 22, 2011. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , , |

Trusted Choice® urges families to take steps to protect their gifts, offers safety tips.

Turn the news on during the holiday season and unfortunately and inevitably, there are stories of how a “Grinch” stole someone’s gifts from a car or from under a Christmas tree. Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents and brokers recommend consumers have the proper insurance products in the event that prized possessions are stolen.

“People tend to let their guard down at home because that’s where they are most comfortable and feel safe,” says Rebecca Korach Woan, president and founder of Chartwell Insurance Services in Chicago. “But home is where you should be most vigilant. Thieves know that your most valuable possessions are there and will often prey on unprepared homeowners, especially during the busy holiday season.”

A new national survey by Trusted Choice and IIABA found that 44% of respondents, representing more than 100 million people in the United States, said they have been a victim of burglary, robbery or another form of theft. Of those who said they were victims, only 40% said their stolen property was insured.

“This research proves that no one is immune to theft and, sadly, shows that not enough people have adequate property insurance,” says Madelyn Flannagan, Big “I” vice president of agent development, education and research. “Especially during the holidays, it is very easy to be consumed by the hectic pace of the season, but everyone should take time and put family and home safety at the top of their holiday wish list.”

The survey also found that, of those whose stolen property was insured, about 58% believed they were fully compensated for their losses. This indicates that in most cases, people who are properly insured fare well in the event of a loss.

That figure could be significantly higher if more consumers elected to insure their personal property for replacement cost and not depreciated actual cash value. Doing so typically only adds 10% to 15% to their homeowners insurance premium.

“If you haven’t done it recently, at least make it your New Year’s resolution to meet with a Trusted Choice independent insurance agent to assess your risks and insure that your assets, including your new holiday gifts, are protected,” says Bob Rusbuldt, Big “I” president & CEO. “Independent insurance agents not only advise clients about insurance, but they’re risk and liability experts.”

Trusted Choice independent insurance agents urge consumers to consider these points to protect their assets and gifts during the holiday season in their homes, in their cars, while shopping or anywhere:

At Home

  • Break down boxes—especially for expensive electronics—into small pieces and discard them in non-clear trash bags.
  • Keep gifts hidden from view at outside windows.
  • Lock all doors and windows even when leaving the home for a short period of time.
  • Leave spare keys with a neighbor rather than hiding them outside, such as under doormats or in fake rocks. Burglars are not fooled by most hiding places.
  • Indoor and outdoor lights on an automatic timer should be used whenever possible.
  • When you’re away from your home for an extended period of time, have a neighbor or friend watch your house and pick up newspapers and mail.
  • Beware of strangers at your door. Criminals can pose as couriers delivering gifts or be soliciting donations for fake charitable causes. Ask for identification or information about a charity.
  • Many renters have no insurance to cover their personal belongings in case of fire or theft. Existing homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies should be reviewed to ensure adequate and up-to-date coverage limits of your home or possessions.
  • Valuable gifts such as jewelry, antiques and collectibles may have limited or no coverage under a standard homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy. It is often necessary to purchase an “endorsement” or separate coverage for these items.
  • Consider insuring your personal property on the same replacement cost basis as your home.

In the Car
  • Lock all doors and roll up all windows even when leaving the car for a short period of time.
  • Bring gifts into homes with you overnight rather than leaving them in your car.
  • When shopping, keep gifts in the trunk or hidden from view in the interior of the car.
  • Put all of your packages in the trunk before departing one parking lot and driving to another. Waiting until your next shopping destination allows others to see packages go into the trunk of your car and then you departing into the mall or store.
  • Avoid parking next to vans and large trucks that block your space from general vision of others.
  • Make a mental note or write down exactly where you park your car to avoid wandering around longer than necessary.
  • During the day, park away from buildings to reduce the chance of dings from car doors or shopping carts and the likelihood of vandalism.
  • At night, avoid secluded areas and park directly under lights whenever possible.
  • Look underneath your car before you reach it when returning from shopping; criminals have been known to lie underneath in wait.

While Shopping
  • Use a credit card in order to avoid thefts of large amounts of cash that cannot be replaced.
  • Shopping with a single credit card is preferable—it is easier to cancel one rather than several if your wallet or purse is stolen.
  • Keep purses zipped and in your possession close to your body rather than leaving them in your shopping cart where they are more susceptible to theft.
  • Be sure to keep a reference list of phone and account numbers for all of your credit cards in a safe place at home.
  • Try to carry keys, cash and credit cards separate from each other.
  • For freedom of motion and clear visibility, do not overload yourself with packages when leaving a store and returning to your car. You cannot defend yourself with your arms too full of bundles.
  • Use ATMs in well-populated, well-lighted locations. Do not throw ATM receipts away at the ATM location.
  • Remember there is increased safety in numbers. Avoid walking alone and leave malls and stores well before closing time to assure a more active parking lot.

Other Tips
  • The holiday season often includes images of cute puppies under a Christmas tree or a kitten with a sparkly ribbon around its neck. But before you do your holiday shopping at the pet shop, potential pet owners must understand that no matter what they paid for their pooch or any pet, most homeowners insurance policies exclude animals. So if your pet is stolen, it is not likely you will be able to claim it as a loss with your insurance company.
  • Conduct a home inventory after the holidays and make sure than any new items in the home are properly insured.

This survey was conducted for Trusted Choice® via telephone by International Communications Research (ICR), an independent research company in Media, Pa. Interviews of a nationally-representative sample of 1,018 households were conducted in November 2011. The survey has an overall margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

Margarita Tapia (margarita.tapia@iiaba.net) is Big “I” director of public affairs.

This article was reprinted with permission from Trusted Choice®.

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Make Sure Your Holiday Decorations are Safe to Use

Posted on December 20, 2011. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , |

Each year, holiday season fires in the United States claim the lives of more than 400 people, injure 2,600 more, and cause more than $990 million in damage. According to the United States Fire Administration, there are simple lifesaving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday. By following some of these precautionary tips, you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.

Christmas trees: When buying a live tree, make sure the needles are green. The needles should not break if the tree is freshly cut. If you bounce the tree on the ground and needles fall off, the tree is too dry and should not be used. When you put the tree up in your home, be sure to keep it away from heat sources. Don’t put it up too early, and don’t leave it up for more than 2 weeks. Always be sure that it has plenty of water. When you take the tree down, do not burn it in the fireplace. Recycle it or have it hauled away by a community pickup service.

Holiday lights: Before using your lights, inspect them for bare spots or frayed wires, and use only lights that a testing lab has approved. Be sure not to overload your circuits; the best way to do this is to avoid stringing together more than three strands of lights. And never leave your holiday lights unattended.

Holiday decorations: All such decorations should be flame resistant. Be sure to place them away from heat sources. You should not burn wrapping paper in your fireplace. Such a fire may throw off sparks or produce a chemical buildup that could cause an explosion.

Candles: Always place candles in steady holders where they can’t be easily knocked over, and do not go out of the house with candles burning. If you do use candles during the holidays, be sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby.

Smoke alarms: Each year at Christmas is an excellent time to change the batteries in your smoke alarm. If your smoke alarm is hardwired into the home’s electrical system, be sure that it is working.

Get more personal lines insurance and risk management tips and ideas from IRMI.

Copyright 2011

International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

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Insuring Childcare Centers . . . It Only Takes One

Posted on December 15, 2011. Filed under: Commercial, Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , |

That’s it. Just one. Just a single accident or negligent act can wipe out a small business in a heartbeat. If you are a small business owner, especially in a specialized industy such as childcare, it is critical for you to understand the risks and how to protect yourself.

For example’s sake, let’s stick with childcare. If you provide childcare in-home, your homeowner’s insurance may or may not cover some of your liability exposure. And while it may provide limited coverage for business property, it won’t address child abuse claims or professional liability risks related to your responsibility as a childcare provider. You may think a claim such as abuse is impossible. However, even a false claim can result in serious financial loss due to the cost of defense.

For a daycare center, focusing on liability coverage only is a mistake. Coverage for your property, in the event of fire or flood, is critical. And, Errors & Omissions, in addition to General Liability, will help minimize your vulnrability to claims such as child abuse and other services expected of you.

Obtaining the right insurance is critical, but so is understanding the coverage you have. Find an agent who takes the time to educate you, not only on the benefits of your policies, but also the claims process. You must understand what happens if a claim is made after a policy term ends. Policies can be Occurrence or Claims Made. Do you know what type your policies are?

And finally, there are companies that offer specialized insurance packages for specific industries. They do not always replace every policy mentioned above. But, they can simplify the number of policies needed to ensure adequate coverage and the efficient handling of your claim. It is important to work with an agency that understands you risks and works with multiple companies.

We provide free, no obligation, policy reviews. Contact us today!

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Tis the Season for Holiday Parties . . . and Food Poisoning

Posted on December 13, 2011. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , , |

The holidays are almost here, which means hauling out the holly, stringing up the lights, and dashing through the snow. The holidays also mean lots of fun, festive parties to celebrate the season. These celebrations usually feature an array of delectable foods and tasty drinks that are dangerous to your waistline, but if you’re hosting a party, you have more to worry about than added pounds or lumpy gravy.

According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated one in six people in the United States come down with food poisoning every year. And whether you’re preparing the food and drinks for your party yourself or purchasing them, you could be liable if your party guests get sick. Food poisoning doesn’t just happen to bad cooks either. Foods, such as bagged spinach — that’s supposedly pre-washed and ready to eat — can contain E. coli, which is undetectable to even the most well trained chef.

Fortunately, most homeowner’s insurance policies cover food poisoning situations in which your guests incur medical expenses or endure “pain and suffering” (i.e. missing work because they’re hovering over a toilet bowl). There are limits to both of these coverages and intentional poisoning is not covered (so don’t try slipping something into your pesky aunt’s pumpkin pie), but most policies provide protection from unintentional food-borne illness.

The best way to avoid a food-poisoning claim is to take the proper precautions when preparing your holiday fare. Here are some tips to ensure your guests leave with leftovers and fond memories, not food poisoning.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat or poultry.
  • Use an anti-bacterial cleaner to wipe down any surfaces, including counters and cutting boards, that come into contact with raw meat or poultry.
  • Check the expiration date on foods before using them to cook or offering them to guests.
  • Wash all produce, even the kind that’s “pre-washed,” before using it.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by using separate utensils to stir raw and cooked food.
  • Make sure all foods are cooked to the appropriate temperature. This rule doesn’t apply to just meat and poultry either. Eggs, seafood, and even potatoes can cause illness if they are undercooked.
  • Don’t leave foods that require refrigeration or freezing out for more than two hours.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. If you’re unsure about any food – raw or cooked, prepared or homemade – don’t use it.

If you have questions about whether your homeowner’s policy covers food poisoning or any other party-related risk, your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent is happy to answer any of your policy questions. You can even invite him or her to your party, just be sure the food is cooked!

Reprinted with permission from Trusted Choice®.

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Get Deals, Not Steals: Tips for Shopping Safely Online

Posted on December 9, 2011. Filed under: Good for You | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Thanksgiving is over, and the holidays are in full swing, which means stores and malls are bustling with holiday shoppers looking for presents to put under the tree. While some people enjoy the adventure of going from store to store in search of that perfect gift, others seek refuge from the holiday crowds by buying their gifts online.

While shopping online can be a less stressful and often money-saving alternative, the convenience of shopping from the comfort of your home comes with some risks. Cyber attackers and scammers are just waiting to prey on those who don’t properly protect their personal information, such as credit and debit card numbers and bank account information.

If you’re planning to be one of the millions of people who shop online this holiday season avoid the holiday blues by following these cyber shopping safety tips.

  • Shop only on secure websites. To determine if a site is safe, look at the address box for an “s” in https:// and check the lower right corner of the page for a lock symbol. Both of these things indicate that a site is safe to use for purchases. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) for information about a company’s reputation and customer satisfaction rating.
  • Use credit, not debit. Credit cards provide additional protection from theft that many debit cards don’t offer. If your credit card information is stolen, you’re only responsible for up to $50 in charges as long as you report the theft within 30 days (reporting time varies by company). If your debit card is stolen, a thief can empty your bank account without your knowledge and it can take a substantial amount of time to recover the stolen money.
  • Protect your personal information. Make sure your computer has the most up-to-date spam filters, anti-virus software, and anti-spyware installed to avoid unauthorized access to your computer. You should also read a site’s privacy policy thoroughly before making a purchase to ensure the information you’re providing is secure and won’t be sold to a third-party.
  • Keep track of your receipts and credit card statements. When you make a purchase online, save the receipt and a copy of the confirmation page for your records. Check this documentation against your credit card statements to make sure there aren’t any suspicious or unauthorized transactions. Keeping proof of a purchase also helps resolve any issues that may arise with the order.
  • Do your online shopping at home. Don’t use unsecured Internet connections available in many coffee shops, libraries, and other public places where your information is not secure. Also, avoid using public computers for online shopping since you don’t have control over the computer’s spyware or malware software.

If your credit card or personal information is stolen, your homeowner’s policy may cover your liability. Check with your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent to find out if you’re protected from this type of loss or if you have any other questions regarding your policy.

Printed with permission by Trusted Choice®.

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Questions to Ask: Choosing an Insurance Agent

Posted on December 8, 2011. Filed under: Commercial | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Have you ever used the “eenie, meenie, miney, mo” method to locate an insurance agent? Or, maybe you look for the agent with the biggest ad in the yellow pages? With all the quoting sites available online, it’s easy to find low rates. But, how can you be sure those rates are attached to adequate coverage and superior service?

Insurance protects your most important assets, which makes it worth the effort it takes to find an experienced, independent agent. Here are some things you should know:


  • The insurance companies to which the company has access. Independent agents, who have access to multiple insurance companies, have the ability to look for the best policies to meet your unique needs at the best value.
  • How much time the agent will spend helping you assess your insurance needs. Insurance is a complex matter. It is not a “one size fits all” product. It takes time to fully assess your unique coverage needs.
  • Whether the agent reads AND understands the policies they offer.
  • If the agency specializes in insuring a particular type of business or line of insurance. For example: businesses that require insurance including professional liability insurance such as real estate agents, accountants, doctors, contractors, or computer programmers or technology related operations, etc.
  • If this was a referral, did it come from someone you trust and respect? Find out what their experience with the agent was like. The things other people desire and want may not be the same things that you want in a professional service provider.
  • Whether the agency can address all of your insurance needs, from home and auto, to life, health, disability, and commercial.
  • Ask who will handle your account on a daily basis. Is it someone who is licensed in insurance, and can provide advice as you communicate with that office, or an order taker?
  • What the agency’s hours of operation are, including their availability after hours, as well as the average time it takes to respond to client requests.
  • What involvement the agent has in the claims process. Understand how claims are tracked and the role the agent takes in the resolution of disputes.
  • Whether the agent is proactive in periodically reviewing your policies and shopping coverages for you.
  • If the agent is involved in their community. An agent’s active involvement in their community may translate into a greater commitment to his or her customers.

Choosing the best independent insurance agent for your needs takes an investment of time on your part. But the interests they will be helping you protect are certainly worth it, don’t you think?

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