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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Avoid Turkey Fryer Dangers

Posted on December 21, 2010. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , , |

With Christmas fast approaching, thoughts turn to turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie. Delicious deep-fried turkey, historically prevalent in the southern states, is growing in popularity around the country, thanks to celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse. The only problem is that the turkey fryers used to create this succulent dish are unsafe and not certified by Underwriters Laboratory (UL).

Turkey fryers are devices, resembling a large commercial coffee pot, that are filled with oil heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Turkeys are placed in this hot oil to fry the birds. The big problem, though, is that people often fill the fryers too full of oil, and it overflows when the bird is placed inside. This cascading oil hits the heating flames below, causing an instant fire. In addition, the turkey fryers are often quite unstable and easy to tip over. Lastly, many of these fryers lack adequate thermostat controls. Thus, the units have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion. For these reasons, UL does not certify any turkey fryers with its trusted UL mark.

UL and other safety organizations strongly urge people to discard their existing turkey fryers. But for those people who insist on using their turkey fryers, UL offers the following tips:

  • Always use turkey fryers outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other burnable materials.
  • Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages.
  • Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce the chance of accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended since most units lack proper thermostat controls. If people do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use. Even after use, never allow children or pets close to the turkey fryer. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot for hours after use.
  • To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer. Test it beforehand with water.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect eyes from oil splatter.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby.

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

Copyright 2010
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

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