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You Need Renters Insurance!

Okay, so you don’t own the house or apartment you live in, but you own the items inside, right? Your bed, the television you watch, the computer you’re using to read this; all belong to you or someone who lives in the house. So why not make sure you can afford to replace these things in the event something happens.

Sure you may think, “Meh, all my stuff is old and broken down. It’s not worth insuring.”

Also known as Tenant insurance protects your stuff! Let us help you get the insurance you need!
Also known as Tenant insurance protects your stuff! Let us help you get the insurance you need!

It may be old and not in the best shape, but it’s still useable. Also, just because you don’t think something is worth much, doesn’t mean someone won’t steal it. Now, imagine how much it would cost to replace your old stuff. All of it.

That insurance is sounding better and better, isn’t it?

Renters insurance is pretty inexpensive. Sure you might have to give up a latte or two — a month — to afford it, but isn’t going without caffeine worth the peace of mind of knowing that if your landlord’s “trick” to fixing the breaker box is unsuccessful and the building catches fire, all your worldly possessions can be replaced?

Get renters insurance.

Please.

Thank you.

A consumer’s top 10 tips to prevent identity theft

A consumer’s top 10 tips to prevent identity theft

Identity fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country today, impacting several million people per year. According to a 2010 Identity Fraud Survey report*, about 11 million people were victims of identity fraud during 2009.

Traditional shopping

  1. Review your wallet or purse contents before you go shopping. Common theft is the easiest way for a criminal to steal your identity and commit fraud. Before you go shopping, think about how much information a thief would obtain if your wallet or purse was stolen. Avoid carrying Social Security cards, birth certificates or passports unless absolutely necessary. Don’t carry extra credit cards unless you plan to use them.
  2. Create a list of all your credit card and bank account information and store in a secure place. Be sure to include account numbers, expiration dates and credit limits. Also include the telephone numbers or e-mails or the customer service and fraud departments. If you find your card missing or stolen, refer to this list and immediately notify your credit card provider of the loss. This not only prevents fraudulent charges, but it also notifies your provider if the card is used again.
  3. Protect your Passwords and PINS. When creating passwords and PINs, do not use the last four digits of your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, your birth date, middle name, pet’s name, consecutive numbers or anything else that could easily be discovered by identity fraud thieves. It’s best to create passwords that combine letters and numbers.

    Ask your financial institutions to add extra security protection to your account. Most will allow you to use an additional code or password (a number or word) when accessing your account. If asked to create a reminder question, do not use one that is easily answered by others. Memorize all your passwords. Don’t record them on anything in your wallet.

  4. Review your credit report now. One of the easiest ways to see if a criminal has stolen your identity is to review your credit report. Be sure to report mistakes to the credit bureaus. A federal law gives consumers the right to receive one free copy of their credit report every 12 months from each of the three main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion).

    Order a report today from one bureau and review it, looking for discrepancies. In four months, order another report from a second bureau. In another four months, order a report from the third bureau. Doing this will enable you to see snapshots of your credit throughout the year at no cost.

  5. Never provide confidential information over the phone to an unsolicited caller claiming that they represent a financial institution or creditor. ID criminals often will use your social security number to open up fraudulent accounts or gain access to financial information or assets, especially with increased activity around the holidays. Do not have your Social Security number printed on your checks and do not allow merchants to write your Social Security number on your checks. If a business requests your Social Security number, ask them why they need it. If it is not a valid reason, don’t provide it. If you receive an unsolicited call and are asked to provide information, get the caller’s name, location, telephone number, and reason that they are calling. Call them back at the phone number on your billing statements to verify the caller’s identification.
  6. Never put outgoing checks or bill payments in your home mailbox, as they are easy to steal. While sending checks is a popular and desired holiday gift, it also has its risks, as thieves can steal mail containing checks and gain other personal information from bills and financial statements. Where practical, drop all items containing checks or financial information in a secure postal mailbox or at the post office.

Online shopping & Identity Protection

  1. Log off completely when finished with online transactions. Closing or minimizing your browser or typing a new Web address may not be enough to prevent others from accessing your online information. Instead, click “log off” to terminate your online session. In addition, don’t allow your browser to “remember” your username and password information.
  2. Increase your own computer’s security. Personal firewalls and security software packages (with anti-virus, anti-spam, and spyware detection features) are a must-have for those who plan on shopping online this season. Make sure your computer has the latest security patches, and make sure that you access your online financial accounts only on a secure Web page using encryption.
  3. Avoid e-mailing personal and financial information. Although your computer may be “well protected” with proper firewall, antivirus, Internet security or encryption software, the individual or company receiving your information may not have similar security in place. Always confirm with online retailers that they have proper Internet security in place before responding to any e-mail request.
  4. Delete, without replying to, any suspicious e-mail requests. Hackers and spammers often impersonate retailers to lure personal financial information. If there is any reason to doubt the authenticity of an e-mail message from a company you do business with, don’t click on links or buttons in the message. Instead, type the Internet address of the company into your browser, log on as you usually do, and examine your account information. You may also telephone a company to ask if an e-mail is legitimate.

Theft

Theft

Burglars won’t find your home an “easy mark” if they are forced to work in the light, if they have to take a lot of time breaking in, or if they can’t break in without making a lot of noise.

Research shows that if it takes more than four or five minutes to break into a home, the burglar will go elsewhere.

Most insurance companies provide 2 percent to 15 percent discounts for devices that make a home safer—dead-bolt locks, window grates, bars and smoke/fire/burglar alarms.

However, when improving the security of your home, don’t exchange security for personal safety. Don’t make your home such a fortress that you are unable to escape in case of a fire or other emergency.

Check your home for weaknesses and correct them

  • Take the time to “case” your house or apartment, just as a burglar would. Where is the easiest entry? How can you make it more burglar-resistant?
  • Trim trees and shrubs near doors and windows, and think carefully before installing a high, wooden fence around your back yard. High fences and shrubbery can add to your privacy, but can also be an asset to a burglar. Consider trading a little extra privacy for a bit of added security.
  • Force any would-be burglar to confront a real enemy—light. Exterior lights and motion detectors, mounted out of easy reach, can reduce the darkness a burglar finds comforting.
  • Simple security devices—nails, screws, padlocks, door and window locks, grates, bars and bolts—can increase the amount of time it takes to break into your home.
  • Invest in a burglar alarm. The most effective ones also ring at an outside service.

Are any of your valuables—paintings, a silver collection or a computer—easy to see from outside the house? Rearranging your furnishings might be advisable if it makes your home less inviting to criminals.

Simple security steps

Doors

Make sure you have strong doors. Outside doors should be metal or solid hardwood, and at least 1 3/4 inches thick. Frames must be made of equally strong material, and each door must fit its frame securely. Even the most efficient lock, if it is placed in a weak door, will not keep out a determined burglar.

A peephole or a wide-angle viewer in the door is safer for identifying visitors than a door chain.

Sliding glass doors present a special problem because they are easy to open, but if you have these doors, you can find special locks for them. A broomstick in the door channel can also help, but cannot be depended on.

Locks

Deadbolt locks are best. They usually are locked with a key from the outside and a thumb turn on the inside. The cylinder (where the key is inserted) should be pick-resistant. Ask your hardware dealer for a reputable brand or buy your locks from a locksmith.

Windows

Key locks are available for all types of windows. Double-hung windows can be secured simply by “pinning” the upper and lower frames together with a nail, which can be removed from the inside.

For windows at street level or on fire escapes, consider installing metal accordion gates.

Home security habits

  • Establish a routine to make certain that doors and windows are locked and alarm systems are turned on.
  • Avoid giving information to unidentified telephone callers and announcing your personal plans in want ads or public notices (such as giving your address when advertising items for sale).
  • Notify the police if you see suspicious strangers in your area.
  • Don’t carry house keys on a key ring bearing your home address or leave house keys with your car in a commercial parking lot or with an attendant.
  • Don’t hide your keys in “secret” places outside your home—burglars usually know where to look.

Vacation tips

  • Leave blinds open in their usual position.
  • Have mail and packages picked up, forwarded or held by the post office.
  • Lower the sound of your telephone ringer and answering machine so they can’t be heard outside.
  • Arrange to have your lawn mowed in summer and your walk and driveway shoveled in winter.
  • Stop newspaper deliveries.
  • Ask a friend to pick-up “throw-away” newspapers and circulars.
  • Use automatic timers to turn lights on and off in various parts of the house at appropriate times. Consider connecting a radio to a timer.
  • Tell police and dependable neighbors when you plan to be away and join with your neighbors to keep a close watch on what’s happening in your area. Working closely with them is a good way to prevent crime.

Source: Insurance Information Institute; www.iii.org

Prevent theft

Thousands of unsuspecting motorists are carjacked every year. Here are some tips to help prevent your vehicle from being car jacked or stolen

To minimize the danger of being carjacked:

  • Think of saving your life first. Only then, think of your car and what’s in it.
  • If another car bumps your car, stay inside with the windows shut and the door locked and drive to the nearest police or fire station.
  • Don’t stop at isolated pay phones, cash machines or newspaper machines where you could become a carjacking victim.
  • Stay alert to people lurking near or moving toward your parked car.
  • Always keep the windows of your car shut and doors locked, whether you’re in or out of your car.
  • Park only in well-lighted areas.

To prevent your car from being stolen:

  • Keep your registration card in your wallet instead of your glove compartment
  • Use paint or an indelible marker to put the vehicle identification number (VIN) under the engine hood and trunk lid and on the battery. This number is usually found on the dashboard on the driver’s side of the car.
  • If you have to leave personal property in your car, leave it in the trunk.
  • Keep your car in a garage and lock the garage door.
  • Use a security device like a steering wheel lock or a gear shift column lock.

If your car is stolen, have the following information ready to give to the police:

  • The year, make, model and color of the car.
  • The approximate time the car was stolen.
  • A description of anyone you may have seen loitering around your car before it was stolen.
  • The names of any witnesses.

Are my things covered during a move?

Moving is a pain, but according to the US Census, 37 million Americans did just that between 2008 and 2009. No matter how good the circumstances, no matter how great the opportunity, the process of moving all of your possessions from Point A to Point B can have you reaching for the Maalox. It’s bad enough you have to pack everything and move it. But no matter how much bubble wrap, newspaper and packing peanuts you use, something always breaks. And that’s just the things in boxes. furniture get scratched or torn, things go missing, it’s always something.

When you items are still in your old home, they’re covered by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. When they get to your new home, they are covered again by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. So, if you break the glass face of your grandfather clock at the old place or the new place, you can have it repaired. But what if it falls off the moving truck or the movers accidentally break it with the dolly? Is it covered?

The short answer is no. Your homeowners or renter’s policy will only cover things while they are in your home. While they are being transported, unfortunately, they have no coverage at all.

Unless, of course you take out a specific policy which covers such things.

C’mon now, you knew there had to be something out there.

There are three types of insurance you can get to cover your items while they are in transit. The type you choose depends on your personal circumstances.

  • If you hire movers and they pack for you, liability insurance is usually included in the moving fee. Ask the company you hired if the insurance is part of the moving contract, or if it is extra. Don’t use a moving company that does not offer liability insurance in case of property damage or destruction.
  • If you hire movers and you do the packing, liability insurance is usually extra, and from the moving company’s standpoint, that makes sense. If they didn’t pack the boxes, they have no way of knowing what is inside the boxes, the condition of the items in the boxes, etc. You would be surprised the number of people who put 22 dishes in one box without any protection, then are shocked when they open the box and discover shards of ceramic where their plates used to be. And if course, it’s the moving company’s fault.
  • If you’re moving yourself, ask your insurance agent if your policy covers possessions in transit. More than likely, the answer is no, but you might be able to secure special insurance for the move by paying an extra premium. Again, this varies by insurance provider, but it can’t hurt to ask.

No matter the option you choose, an itemized list of all your valuables will be required. You can’t expect a moving company to pay out on a missing or damaged Rembrandt that was hanging next to the dogs playing poker, without proof.

Is My Computer Covered By My Homeowner’s Insurance?

The required response to this question in order to obtain a license to sell insurance in most US states is, “Maybe.” The second required insurance agent phrase now follows. “It depends…”

I can, however, give you one absolute answer hardly tarnished by any hint of equivocation. And that is “No! Your computer will not be covered by your homeowners’ insurance when you find those pictures of your husband’s ex-girlfriend in that unmarked folder and opt to toss the entire system through the second-story window of your shared study. (The window probably won’t be covered either). Your computer also won’t be covered if it floats in a flood or if an errant piece of Sputnik targets it as it sits on your desk, either.

You might have a claim, though; had you reported that your neighbor’s dog attacked the system.

Here’s when the “insurance speak” begins. It depends. It depends on your coverage, how your computer is damaged or missing, how old the computer is, how much it cost, maybe how much it would cost to replace, whether your policy contains a replacement cost endorsement, who wrote your policy and how much of a deductible you chose when you purchased your policy.

But you aren’t the first person to ask this question. Indeed, according to a May 22nd report 2012 for 2011 claims, Enservio, reported that electronics comprised the second most expensive contents-loss category with a 13 percent Replacement Cost Value (RCV) as determined by the dollar value percent of total claims. Approximately 65 percent of the electronic claims were for loss by theft and claims including this category rose by 15 percent last year. Way back in 2002, when personal computers weighed as much as Vintage VW Bugs, thieves stole over half-a-million computers. The main concern with desktop computers now is identity theft, not theft of the plastic housing. With the advent of portable laptops, the number lost or stolen is so huge isn’t even estimated.

Here are the nuts and bolts: if your computer is covered, it is probably only covered to a limit of perhaps $1,500. This is adequate for most of us. If it requires more than this, you should probably speak to your agent to determine if additional coverage is necessary. Also, unless you purchased a replacement cost endorsement, your claims adjustor will deduct the use and wear of however many years ago you purchased the laptop or desktop. Assuming you bought a scaled down MacBook Pro laptop three years ago, your computer might be currently valued at $500 — not even counting the software updates. But there’s one more thing: you chose that $500 deductible way back when you first purchased your policy. You know, so you could save money. So, your insurance company owes you $0.

Before you throw your arms up and say, “See? Nothing is ever covered!” consider an alternative. For less than a cup of coffee a day, you might have purchased a replacement cost endorsement back when you bought the policy. Depending upon the company and your claims history, you might have purchased a smaller deductible too. If the lowest model MacBook Pro is now $2000 and you purchased a replacement cost endorsement with a $250 deductible, you now get a replacement laptop valued at two grand for the cost of your deductible.

Finally, consider this alternative: call you agent now to find out these details. Don’t wait until a thief makes the call necessary.

Finding the Best Homeowner’s Insurance

Buying homeowners insurance can be confusing. If you are in the market to protect your home and possessions, you may want to do some research before committing to a policy or one specific insurance company. Ask questions and find an agent you trust that works with a company that has a good reputation for keeping their clients happy.

Your home is your castle and your possessions represent not only your past, but your present as well. You have worked hard to be able to live in the fashion you have become accustomed to, so it is in your best interest to make sure things can be replaced if a tragedy or accident occurs. When buying a policy make sure you know what it will cover. Some policies may focus more on the replacement value of a house or specific possession instead of its actual cost. Knowing the difference between these two amounts will affect how much you will want to ensure the property for and how the much the premium for the policy will be. For example, a 2 story, 4 bedroom home may be valued at only $65,000, but to build the exact same home at today’s prices, the replacement value may exceed $100,000. It will be up to you what you decide to insure the property for. If you would replace your home with a smaller one that would cost less to build then insure the property for its actual value. If you want a house similar to what you have now, bit the bullet and insure for the replacement value.

Many homeowner policies cover a variety of things including roof and fire damage, theft and various forms of liability. Liability can be anything from your dog biting the mail man to you cat Skippy tripping the neighbor lady as she walked to the front door to trade the daily dose of gossip. Most insurance policies have liability clauses that cover all types of accidents that occur on your property.

A family’s possessions can also be replaced if an itemized list of valuables is included within the policy. The contents of the home that have considerable value, such jewelry and works of art, should be listed in great detail within the body of the policy.

One of the biggest areas of confusion when purchasing a homeowner’s policy is the phrase “Act of God”. Many policies claim that “acts of God” are not covered. This can include damage to due ice and wind or other natural disasters. In recent years, people have discovered that water damage caused by flooding can sometimes be a gray area when it comes to insurance. Most companies offer a “Flood Insurance” rider that is attached to the policy and covers several types of water damage.

Never buy insurance without reading the fine print. Know what you are signing up for and what a policy will cover. Making sure you have the answers to help you make an informed decision is the best way to cover your assets in this type of situation.

Renters Insurance – A Must Have for Renters

Are you currently renting an apartment? If this is the case, and you don’t have renters insurance, you are making a very big mistake. Not only is it a “must-have” in terms of insurance, it is quite inexpensive.

The Basics of Renters Insurance

Simplicity is one strength of renters insurance. As opposed to the complications of insuring a house – as well as the cost – insuring your apartment property is rather straightforward. Here are some common areas of coverage with renters insurance:

  • Personal property
  • Personal liability coverage
  • Relocation assistance (if you are forced to live somewhere else, permanently/temporarily)
  • Others, such as off-premise coverage and identify theft coverage, even

Note that you can choose to add on increased coverage, to give you even more protection. Even with some of the following, as we will find out, the price is still quite reasonable:

  • Replacement Cost Coverage: Your three-year old big-screen TV isn’t worth $900 anymore, but you do want a new big-screen TV.
  • Scheduled Personal Property: If the standard limits for jewelry, fine arts and furniture isn’t enough, for instance, you can add to it here.
  • Business Coverage: If you can run a business from your apartment, you’re probably not covered unless you add protection.

Benefits of Renters Insurance

Are you protected from theft, fire, or your neighbor’s leaky faucet? If you don’t have renter’s insurance, you could be in for an unfortunate surprise.

The necessity of renters insurance is thus seen in these instances. And note that while your landlord should have insurance, it will certainly not protect you in many instances. In other words, living without renters insurance is rather dangerous.

It is all-the-more imperative due to its cost. When you compare it to home and auto insurance, for instance, renters insurance is a mere speck in the insurance world. The facts certainly prove this.

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average premium runs as little as $15 – $30 a month. It is not common for a policy to run slightly less or more than $200. Even additions such as increased jewelry protection and identify theft coverage would land a policy in the $300 – $400 range for a year (source).

Imagine the scenarios that could occur. Certainly, if you are a renter, renters insurance becomes an important policy to purchase. It could be the only thing that stands between you and financial security for your items and your “home.”

Karl Susman, Susman Insurance Agency