Winter Driving Tips

The winter will always bring with it precarious driving conditions. Whether it’s icy roads, heavy snowfall, low visibility, or any other combination of harsh weather, knowing how to control your car is key to staying safe as you journey through the snow. In fact, winter driving conditions account for more than 40% of all auto accidents and more than 113,000 injuries each year.

In addition to being more cautious while driving in adverse weather, motorists should know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies.  Since road conditions can also change quickly in winter, drivers need to be aware of situations and surroundings, and be prepared to react more quickly than in other driving scenarios. Extreme temperatures may also impact vehicle function.

Below you will find some additional information on navigating your vehicle in winter weather.  And, if you do happen to experience an accident, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office.

Winter Driving

  • Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.
  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
  • Never mix radial tires with other tire types.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).

Tips for long-distance winter trips:

  • Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
  • Keep blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
  • If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  • Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.

Tips for driving in the snow:

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.

Holiday Shopping and Identity Theft

The holidays are just around the corner, and it’s time to start thinking about what gifts to buy your loved ones. The holiday shopping season is a fun-filled time, but it does present risks, since there are so many transactions taking place and more opportunities for identity theft to occur.

Did you know that according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics an estimated 17.6 million persons, or about 7 percent of U.S. residents age 16 or older, are victims of at least one incident of identity theft every year?

The most common type of identity theft is the unauthorized misuse or attempted misuse of an existing account—experienced by 16.4 million persons.  Most identity theft victims discovered the incident when a financial institution contacted them about suspicious activity (45 percent) or when they noticed fraudulent charges on an account (18 percent).

Two-thirds of identity theft victims reported a direct financial loss. And of those that experienced losses approximately 14 percent lost $1,000 or more. With that information in mind, we have put together a list of 10 tips to avoid identity theft during this busy shopping season.

Be Wary of Contests
Many online contests promising large prizes could be scams such as sources of computer viruses that will try to hijack your information.

Change Your Passwords
Have you had the same password for the last five years? It’s time to change it up. Create a password that is long and complicated, and doesn’t reference any of your personal information like your birthday. Stay away from using coherent phrases by breaking up words with exclamation points and other symbols, and of course, don’t use the typical “password” or “1111.” It’s also crucial that you use a different password for each account. If you need help with this, try using a password vault instead of trying to memorize them all yourself.

Check Websites
Make sure that the websites you’re using are secure. To lessen your chances of becoming a victim of credit card theft, only enter your credit card information on sites with URLs beginning with “https.” The “s” in the address stands for “secure,” and lets you know that your connection to the site is less likely to be overseen by hackers. This is especially important whenever you are entering sensitive information, such as credit card or Social Security numbers.

Check Your Credit Score
As the end of the year approaches, take a look at your credit report to check for inaccuracies as well as monitor your credit score. Every person can receive one free report from each of the three credit bureaus.

Cover Up
Shield your credit card and PIN number from view when making transactions so that thieves can’t steal your numbers by looking over your shoulder.

Don’t Trust Public WiFi
It’s tempting to do your online shopping at Starbucks, but you shouldn’t trust public WiFi networks to protect your identity.

Email with Care
Don’t submit personal information via email, even if it’s for a reputable organization.

Only Use One Credit Card
Shopping online is a very efficient way to get every item on your list checked off, but consider ways you can practice internet safety. For instance, designate one credit card for online shopping purposes, instead of using multiple ones across different sites.

Take it with You
Identity theft doesn’t only happen over the internet. The police also advise against leaving items in the car as you go shopping. If someone breaks into your vehicle, they could steal something that reveals your identity and puts your information at risk.

5 Winter Tips for Your Home

So another glorious summer is over, and what do we have to look forward to now? Just imagine it: 10-degree temperatures, icy slush to drive on and cold drafty breezes inside our homes. If that excites you, you’re living in the right area and you’re in the right month. If the whole idea sends a chill down your spine, you’re in good company.

While most of us can’t do anything about the icy slush or the outside temps, we do have a good deal of control over how warm our homes can feel. The following list of tips provides some ideas on getting your home winter ready. Surprisingly, a few dollars spent up front not only saves money all winter, but makes us warmer as well. It’s kind of like having your warmth and your wallet, too.

Roofs
Most of us would prefer to ignore our roof and just hope it keeps taking care of us. Shingles can look OK from the ground but can be cracked, curled and wind damaged when you get a closer look. And when there is a problem, you can’t fix it in the winter. That foot of snow that will be on your roof in January? Well, that will pretty much prevent any attempts at stopping the mold momentum that will be growing with each passing January hour.

If you can safely inspect your roof yourself, please feel free. If not, hire a home inspector or roofer that you trust. This is one of those items that meet the $10/$10,000 rule: a few dollars spent now can save you a bundle later this winter.

Rain Gutters
Many of us are quite unaware that rain gutters perform a vital purpose. Their job is to capture all that water coming from the roof and run it well away from the structure — especially the window wells. If your gutters are full of leaves, pine needles, kite string, and tennis balls, then water that doesn’t drain stays right there and freezes leaves you with a problem: an 800 lb. ice cube tray lurking over your head. And it’s just waiting for that perfect moment to fall.

Even worse: when your gutters don’t drain, you get water that drains where it shouldn’t. Now you have water into your window wells and mold in your manor. As an added bonus, wet basements are an awesome way to introduce termites into your living space. To prevent all of the above, make sure your gutters are clean, that they drain toward the down spout, and that there is a drain tube at the end of the spout to run water well away from the foundation.

Seals
Nobody loves that waft of cold air flowing through your home in the middle of winter. Where does it come from? The usual suspects are the doors and windows, but it can come through electrical plugs and other openings on the exterior as well. There are solutions for all of the above, but the easiest and cheapest fix will be the weather stripping and door sweeps at your front and back doors. If you close your door and see daylight around the edges, then you have work to do. Don’t wait until you’re doing this project with the door open in 10-degree weather.

Hose Bibs
Ah, the lowly hose bib. Home inspectors will routinely see where homeowners leave a hose bib attached to something. One thing is pretty much certain: If you leave your hose on the hose bib all winter, you’ll have frozen pipes in the winter and broken pipes in the spring. When that valve is turned next March you’ll find you’re the proud new owner of a swimming pool in your basement. The rot, mold and termites will be soon to follow.

To avoid this, get all attachments off your hose bibs — now. In addition, make sure that your hose bib is securely attached to the structure so you can’t pull the hose out of the house. It only takes two screws to do this right, but the absence of those two screws can mean the $10,000 fix is heading your way.

Heating and Cooling Systems
To be able to safely take care of you, your furnace needs to see some love. Get a good filter, and then make sure it goes where it actually filters the incoming air to your furnace. Take a look at where air comes in and make sure your filter won’t lean, fall or lift improperly when the air flow happens. Next, take a look at your furnace. If it looks like the place where all the dust on earth comes to die, you might have a problem. Get your furnace serviced regularly.

If you have a swamp cooler, you have some tasks to do. First, start saving — central air is better in 1,000 ways. Until then make sure that the pan is drained, the supply line is drained, the supply valve is off and the supply line disconnected. Next, make sure the unit is protected against drafting cold air into your home, the power is off, and for good measure, take out the motor and bring it in. Or just roll the whole thing off the roof.

The Basics of Flood Insurance

Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States, causing an average of $50 billion in economic losses each year. Most U.S. natural disasters declared by the President involve flooding.

There is no coverage for flooding in standard homeowners or renters policies or in most commercial property insurance policies. Coverage is available in a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers. Despite efforts to publicize this, many people exposed to the risk of floods still fail to purchase flood insurance.

And, in light of the recent devastating floods experienced in the South, we thought it would be extremely important to shed some light on what flood insurance covers, how it is purchased, and provide an idea on the associated premiums.

WHAT’S COVERED

Building

  • The insured building and its foundation
  • Electrical and plumbing systems
  • Central air conditioning equipment, furnaces and water heaters
  • Refrigerators, cooking stoves and built-in appliances such as dishwashers
  • Permanently installed carpeting over unfinished flooring

Personal Property

  • Personal belongings, such as clothing, furniture and electronic equipment

WHAT’S NOT COVERED

  • Damage caused by moisture, mildew or mold that could have been avoided by the property owner
  • Currency, precious metals and valuable papers such as stock certificates
  • Property and belongings outside of an insured building such as trees, plants, wells, septic systems, walks, decks, patios, fences, seawalls, hot tubs and swimming pools
  • Living expenses such as temporary housing

FLOOD INSURANCE FOR BASEMENTS AND AREAS BELOW THE LOWEST ELEVATED FLOOR

Coverage is limited in basements regardless of zone or date of construction. It’s also limited in areas below the lowest elevated floor, depending on the flood zone and date of construction. These areas include:

  • Basements
  • Crawl spaces under an elevated building
  • Enclosed areas beneath buildings elevated on full-story foundation walls that are sometimes referred to as “walkout basements”
  • Enclosed areas under other types of elevated buildings

MANDATORY REQUIREMENTS

Homes and businesses with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders in high-risk flood areas are required to have flood insurance. While flood insurance is not federally required if you live in a moderate-to-low risk flood area, it is still available and strongly recommended.

RATES

The NFIP, a federal program, offers flood insurance, which can be purchased through most leading insurance companies. Rates are set and do not differ from company to company. These rates depend on several factors, including the date and type of construction of your home, along with your area’s level of risk. Most premiums include a Federal Policy Fee and ICC Premium. If your community participates in the Community Rating System (CRS), you may qualify for an insurance premium discount in some communities of up to 45% if you live in a high-risk area and up to 10% in moderate-to-low risk areas.

30-DAY WAITING PERIOD

Typically, there’s a 30-day waiting period from date of purchase before your policy goes into effect. Here are the only exceptions:

  • If flood insurance is being purchased in connection with the making, increasing, extending or renewing of your loan.
  • If a building has been newly designated in the SFHA and flood insurance is being purchased within the 13-month period following a map revision.
  • If flood insurance is required as a result of a lender determining that a loan that does not have flood insurance coverage should be protected by flood insurance.
  • If an additional amount of insurance is selected as an option on the renewal bill.
  • If a property is affected by flooding on burned Federal land that is a result of, or is exacerbated by, post-wildfire conditions when the policy is purchased within 60 days of the fire containment date.

Top 5 Strangest Auto Claims

Most of the time, car insurance claims are fairly routine affairs involving fender benders or storm damage. Truly bizarre claims, however, are rare and elusive. If you Google “weird auto insurance claim,” you’ll find multiple improbable rumors involving wrecks caused by drivers ogling naked pedestrians, windshields damaged in squirrel nut attacks, and even one report by a driver who claimed his windscreen melted when a plane crash-landed nearby and burst into flames.

Actually verifiable claims are much harder to come by; however, we’ve been able to track down 5 truly off-the-wall auto insurance claims that are just as strange as they are improbable. Below are the associated stories for each of the claims.

Also, please remember that you can always contact our office for any auto insurance accident or claim you encounter—no matter how strange it may be. Our office will be glad to assist.

Claim 1: In December 2011, Seattle news outlets reported a bizarre story involving a mattress and a three-car pile-up. A couple had failed to tie their mattress securely to the top of their SUV. As they were driving, the mattress loosed itself from its moorings and landed in the middle of the highway, causing a three-way crash.

As two good Samaritans stopped to help, the female driver hopped back into her vehicle and fled the scene, leaving her male passenger to deal with the aftermath. Shortly thereafter, one of the good Samaritans also left. A few miles down the road, however, he spied a man’s head “bobbing around in the backseat.” It turned out to be the male passenger had stowed away, hoping to escape the accident scene undetected.

Claim 2: A driver was involved in a minor rear-end collision in which he smashed the taillight of a car ahead. He then reversed slightly so that he could survey the damage, but in a stroke of ill luck, he hit the front bumper of the driver behind him. Then, when he opened his door to exit his vehicle, he knocked down a passing cyclist, resulting in three insurance claims!

Claim 3: An insurance agent received a rather suspicious claim for heavy hail damage to a car. When the adjuster inspected the damage, he was skeptical that hail could have caused the perfectly symmetrical, round divots that peppered the entire surface of the damaged car.

The insurance company rejected the claim as the vehicle had been purposefully damaged, not by hail, but by a ball-peen hammer. The company figured the client would be so embarrassed at being caught in an obvious attempt at insurance fraud that he would simply drop the entire matter. Instead, the man filed a police report claiming that an unknown assailant had beaten his car with a ball-peen hammer! The client then filed a new insurance claim, and this time, because they couldn’t prove that the client had inflicted the damage himself, the insurance company was forced to pay the claim.

Claim 4: A farmer was driving around in his pickup truck and had his shotgun riding, well, shotgun. Arriving at his destination, the man grabbed his gun and hopped out of the cab. Unfortunately, he lost his grip and the gun discharged. He wasn’t sure if he’d fired the gun while grabbing for it or if it went off by itself as it hit the ground.

The gun was loaded with buckshot and while thankfully, the man was uninjured, the truck’s interior wasn’t as fortunate. The entire cab of the truck — headliner, seat covers and dashboard — had suffered extensive damage. Luckily, the client had comprehensive insurance and the claim was paid.

Claim 5: In 1974, a young woman drove her beloved “hippie van” to an upholstery shop to have a fold-down bed installed in the back. The van then disappeared from the shop’s lot and a claim was filed with her insurance company. The woman was reimbursed roughly $600 for the vehicle, which was about what she’d paid for it.

Fast-forward 35 years when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in Los Angeles recovered a perfectly restored, still-running VW minibus from a shipping container bound for the Netherlands. They ran the VIN (vehicle identification) number and discovered it was the same vehicle that had been stolen from back in 1974.

Now owned by here insurance company, the minibus is worth about $25,000. The individual is hopeful that she can come to terms with her insurer and get her minibus back. One can only imagine the stories it would tell if it could talk!

How Uber Affects Car Insurance

With more than 8 million U.S. users and 160,000 drivers, Uber is disrupting the transportation industry in an unprecedented manner. By leveraging technology, they (along with other ride-sharing companies) are transforming the way we travel, especially in crowded, urban areas.

As the ride-sharing industry continues to exponentially grow, auto insurance companies are trying to figure out how and where to properly provide coverage for drivers that participate in these services.

Most personal insurance policies exclude all livery services and commercial insurance policies are expensive. Many ride-sharing companies do provide insurance for their drivers while paying passengers are in the car; however, there are still gaps in insurance coverage that each driver needs to properly address.

Q: Why are companies like Uber and Lyft getting so much attention from auto insurance companies?

A: These companies are attracting significant attention from auto insurance companies due to their operations — providing ride sharing services by contracting with drivers who use their personal vehicles to transport passengers. These drivers do not typically have a livery driver’s license nor are their cars registered or insured as commercial vehicles.

The issue at hand is that personal auto insurance is not designed, underwritten or priced to handle livery-type services. They are written for personal use vehicles that may include the transportation of family and friends. Therefore, most personal auto insurance policies exclude all livery services as those are typically handled on a commercial auto insurance policy. In fact, most policies actually stop providing coverage from the moment a driver logs onto his ride-sharing app until the app is shut off.

Commercial auto insurance policies generally carry higher limits, are underwritten with the recognition that commercial vehicles travel more miles, and cover exposures not included in private-passenger policies due to the increased risk of accidents and subsequent claims.
Q: Why don’t insurance companies cover ride-sharing?

A: The short answer: Auto insurers have not yet determined how to underwrite the risks of personal-line policyholders using their private-passenger vehicles on a for-hire basis.

Given the proliferation of companies like Uber and Lyft, however, it is likely that auto insurers will at some point start to offer policies that provide motorists with coverage for both traditional private use of a vehicle and commercial vehicle use.
Q: What is government doing as far as insurance is concerned? Do any laws govern ride-sharing and insurance?

A: For city and state governments the two key insurance regulation questions are:

  1. Must ride-share drivers be licensed in the same way that taxi and other for-hire drivers are?
  2. If private-passenger policies do not cover ride-share drivers when they are working, how do they become properly insured?

Though many municipalities have yet to properly address the concerns above, some governments have already started passing bills that insurance requirements and regulations for ride-share drivers.

For example, California recently passed a bill with the following requirements:

  1. Requires all ride-sharing companies to disclose to drivers upfront that the driver’s personal insurance policy will not apply while using their private-passenger vehicle for work activities.
  2. Requires commercial insurance from the moment the driver logs onto the app, until the driver logs off.
  3. Clarifies that their commercial insurance is primary coverage.
  4. Requires the ride-sharing liability insurer to defend and indemnify drivers when they have a claim, or accident, while on assignment.
  5. Ensures coverage is not dependent on a private-passenger auto insurer first declining coverage.

Q: How can prospective drivers learn if they have sufficient coverage?

A: Prospective drivers should ask the their ride-sharing company what level of coverage it provides. Most ride-sharing companies provide insurance coverage for their drivers, but only when they have a paying passenger in the vehicle.

Drivers should also contact their own auto insurer to address gaps, if any, in their liability protection. It is also recommended that ride-sharing drivers review a copy of their company’s insurance contracts so they know the exact terms and conditions of the coverage.

Tips for Fire Claims

Recently there have been a number of wildfires throughout the country, many of them engulfing homes and destroying other property.   While we certainly hope you never have to deal with heartache and stress with losing your home or business to a fire, we would like to share some tips from the Insurance  Commissioner’s office on how to property deal with a fire claim.

According to the commissioner’s office you should do the following immediately after a fire claim:

  • Once you gain access to your property take pictures of the damage if it looks like the adjuster will be delayed.
  • Make sure your address is visible. You may have to spray paint the address onto a sheet of plywood and put it in view of the road so the adjuster can find it.
  • If you are not going to be at the property, let the adjuster know how to contact you.
  • Do not dispose of property until an insurance adjuster has reviewed it.
  • Save all receipts.
  • Avoid insurance adjusters and contractors that do not have a valid license or use high pressure tactics and require large deposits.

The commissioner’s office recommends you do the following to prepare for any future potential claims:

  • Review your property insurance coverage to make sure you have adequate limits.
  • Record an inventory of your possessions.
  • Make sure you store a copy of your inventory at a separate location.
  • Save all receipts.

If you have any additional questions or would like us to help prepare your company against any future claims, please feel free to contact our office.

Employee Dishonesty Insurance

As the economy continues to sputter, we are constantly hearing stories about employees committing desperate acts against their employer and even customers.

Here are some scenarios that we have seen happen to some of our clients in the past year:

• An employee stole inventory from the company and disappeared.
• An employee used the company credit card for personal purchases like a television, gas, clothes, etc.
• An employee skimmed money from the till for over 12 months amounting to a total loss of about $20,000.

The question we often get is on the possibility of purchasing insurance to cover these types of acts. You can certainly purchase coverage for this, but it must be done by adding Employee Dishonesty coverage to a Crime Policy.

Employee dishonesty insurance is coverage for just that: dishonest or criminal acts committed by employees. It covers losses where an employee steals money, securities or even tangible property. Some policies will even cover theft of clients’ belongings.

What is the typical limit? Like always this depends. Some companies are much more cash heavy than others, and the risk is greater for this type of loss. However, the typical limit we will see is anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 in coverage.

How much does the coverage cost? Depending upon the limit and type of business, premium starts at a couple hundred dollars a year. Premium is almost always based upon the number of employees within the company.

Any policy exclusions?

• Acts committed by an owner, officer, or director within the company.
• Inventory shortages where the sole proof of loss is an inventory computation.
• Any employee that is discovered to have a history of prior dishonest acts either before or after being employed by the insured.

Why Identity Theft Insurance is so Important

According to a report by Internet security firm Kaspersky Lab, in what could be one of the largest bank heists in history, more than 100 banks and ATMs have been rigged so that thieves could steal up to $1 billion in cash.

Hackers from Russia, Ukraine, China and Europe were involved in the organized crime ring that was just recently exposed. The hackers installed spying software on bank computers, studied bank employee workflows so they could learn how to mimic their actions and used their knowledge to transfer money into bank accounts set up in other countries.

While the report did not name specific bank institutions, it stated that financial institutions in at least 30 countries were affected, including the United States.

We all know that identity theft is the act of taking someone’s personal information and using it to impersonate a victim, steal from bank accounts, establish phony insurance policies, open unauthorized credit cards or obtain unauthorized bank loans.

What many people don’t realize, though, is that 7% of all U.S. citizens will be victims of identity theft over the next 12 month resulting in over $50 billion in costs. Identity theft is also a long, arduous process for victims as they try to repair their credit, erase erroneous collection accounts, and restore their lives.

Did you know that many homeowners insurance policies actually offer some form of identity theft as part of the policy? You can find out more about this coverage, its cost, and provisions within the rest of the of article below.

If you would like to see if your policy includes identity theft coverage or would like to receive quotes on this coverage, please feel free to give our office a call.

Identity Theft Insurance

What is it?

Some insurance companies now include coverage for identity theft as part of their homeowners insurance policy. Others sell it as either a stand-alone policy or as an endorsement to a homeowners or renters insurance policy.

What does it cover?

Identity theft insurance provides reimbursement to crime victims for the cost of restoring their identity and repairing credit reports. It generally covers expenses such as phone bills, lost wages, notary and certified mailing costs, and sometimes attorney fees (with the prior consent of the insurer). Some companies also offer restoration or resolution services that will guide you through the process of recovering your identity.

What does it cost?

Some insurance companies will include identity theft coverage for no additional cost. However, most will charge anywhere from $25 to $100 annually for the additional insurance coverage.

Tips for Avoid Identity Theft

  • Keep the amount of personal information in your purse or wallet to the bare minimum. Avoid carrying additional credit cards, your social security card or passport unless absolutely necessary.
  • Always take credit card or ATM receipts. Don’t throw them into public trash containers, leave them on the counter or put them in your shopping bag where they can easily fall out or get stolen.
  • Do not give out personal information. Whether on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet, don’t give out any personal information unless you have initiated the contact or are sure you know who you are dealing with and that they have a secure line.
  • Proceed with caution when shopping online. Use only authenticated websites to conduct business online. Before submitting personal or financial information through a website, confirm the site is secure.
  • Make sure you have firewall, anti-spyware and anti-virus programs installed on your computer. These programs should always be up to date.
  • Monitor your accounts. Don’t rely on your credit card company or bank to alert you of suspicious activity.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. Make sure it’s accurate and includes only those activities you’ve authorized.
  • Shred any documents containing personal information such as credit card numbers, bank statements, charge receipts or credit card applications, before disposing of them.

Does Auto Insurance Cover Stolen Items?

One of the questions we often receive is in regards to how auto insurance policies respond to personal items that are stolen from your car.  We want to spend this post providing some insight into this question.

Please keep in mind that every insurance policy is different and the information below may or may not address how your policy would specifically respond. 

What If My Laptop or Other Personal Items are Stolen from My Car?

Auto insurance does a good job of protecting, repairing, or replacing your vehicle if there is a claim.   It does a very poor job, though, of providing any type of coverage for personal items inside the vehicle.   In fact, most auto policies actually exclude coverage for personal items.

So then where do you get coverage? Your homeowners or renters policy will typically pick up the claim for stolen or damaged personal items located in your vehicle.  Keep in mind, though, the claim will be subject to the policy deductible, which will typically be either $500 or $1,000.

Our best recommendation is to avoid leaving items in your vehicle as best you can.   If you do have to leave items in your car, be sure to keep them out of plain view. Thieves will typically target those items that are easiest for them to get to.

Are My CDs Covered by Insurance if They’re Stolen from My Vehicle?

While CDs are quickly going the way of cassette tapes and being replaced by iPods or other portable electronic devices, this is still a common question we receive.

Unfortunately, the answer is your auto insurance most likely does NOT provide any coverage for CDs if they are stolen from the vehicle.   Some companies, though, will now allow you to purchase an endorsement on your policy that will provide limited coverage for the CDs.

Your best chance of finding coverage for this type of claim is to submit a claim through your homeowners or renters policy.   Many policies will provide $1,000 in coverage for “electronic apparatus, while in or upon a motor vehicle.”  However, before you rest easy thinking you are protected in the event of a claim, many insurance companies have interpreted “electronic apparatus” to not include CDs and will deny the claim.

Due to the ambiguity in regards to coverage for your CDs, we have a couple of suggestions:

  1. Check with your agent to see how your auto and homeowners policies will respond if your CDs are stolen.  It is so much better to know ahead of time how the policy will likely respond rather than waiting for the actual claim.
  2. Ask about the possibility of purchasing a coverage extension through your auto insurance company.
  3. Keep a digital copy stored on your home computer or an external storage device as a backup.