Have you been a victim of identity theft? Do you know someone who was? Chances are you answered yes to at least one of these questions. According to CNN, every two seconds another American becomes a victim of identity theft – and it’s growing rapidly!
There are clear steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft before it occurs, but what about after it has already taken place? Consumers should be made aware that most homeowner or renters insurance policies don’t cover much, if any money stolen from property, and none of the money stolen from a bank. Once the damage is done, you can still manage its impact by following these key tips to stop the damage from going any further.
Check your bank accounts daily
The few minutes of your day it will take to diligently check your bank accounts, is well worth the price of fraudulent spending cleaning out your savings. Beyond just spotting ID theft, this practice will also help you spot erroneous fees or mistakes made when depositing checks. Online platforms, such as mint.com, can help you aggregate all of your different bank accounts into one location where you can view them seamlessly. This daily practice will ensure ID theft will have no more than 24 hours impact on your bank account, increasing your chances of getting all of your stolen funds restored.
Check your credit score three times per year
While you’ve likely seen commercials out there for all sorts of credit score companies, keep in mind that there are just three main credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You should run your credit score with them each once per year. Spread these out over the year, so you are checking your credit every four months. Checking all main credit bureaus will give you the full picture of your credit, so you can spot anything that appears fraudulent. The sooner you catch these errors, the sooner you can report them to the bureau and restore your credit.
Set alerts on spending
One of the best ways to catch ID theft in real-time is to set alerts on any spending from your bank accounts or charges to your credit card. Most banks or credit card companies will monitor your account for what appears to be fraudulent spending, but this may not be enough to catch a sophisticated ID theft. Take matters into your own hands and get an email alert for any time a card is used. These may result in a few extra emails a day, but it’s easier to delete these emails than to recover money lost due to ID theft.
Change all passwords on important accounts
Once you see fraudulent charges occur, it’s safest to assume the ID theft has all of your sensitive information. Immediately change your passwords for all bank accounts, email accounts, government accounts, social media and PayPal. This is one of the fastest and smartest ways to reduce the impact of ID theft. Additionally, don’t reset your password to something obvious or something you’ve recently used for another account.
Send creditors and credit reporting agencies a copy of your ID theft report
Once ID theft takes place, you should share copies of your ID theft report with your creditors and credit report agencies so they can note the fraudulent charges as such and remove the impact these would otherwise have on your credit score.
Escalate things to the police or FTC
If after you have taken all of the actions listed above and the fraudulent activity continues to occur, it may be time to take your case to the police or Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Usually the entities only get involved if the case is extremely sophisticated, but yours just might be. With their resources, you have a better shot at restoring your identity and the money or credit you may have lost in the process.
The good news is there are services and insurance out there that can offer you some additional peace of mind. Companies like LifeLock and IDShield offer subscriptions to closely monitor your private information and alert you of any potential threats. However, these services are by no means a guarantee you will never experience identity theft. Additionally, you can usually add on ID theft expense coverage as part of your homeowners’ insurance policy for about $30 a year. While this doesn’t cover the actual money stolen as the result of ID theft, it does provide up to $25,000 to cover the cost of hiring an attorney, credit recovery and monitoring service, and pay for time off work related to getting your ID back.
Remember, the best safeguard against ID theft is using precaution, closely monitoring your bank accounts and credit score, and taking action immediately if anything looks out of place.
What other questions or tips do you have related to identity theft? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!
With all of the extremely cold temperatures we are experiencing this winter, many of us have turned to electric heaters just to keep our homes warm. They help heat up a room faster, but also come with some dangers. One third of all home heating fires are caused by space heaters.
Please follow these tips in order to avoid fires and burns:
Don’t place a heater too close to clothing, mattresses, bedding, or upholstered furniture.
Don’t place a heater under any furniture or in an enclosed space.
Use newer heaters that automatically shut off if they tip over.
Keep heaters at least 3 feet away from any object that is combustible.
Always plug the heater directly into the wall receptacle, never into a extension cord!
Keep children & pets from directly touching heaters or sitting too close.
It’s a new year and the perfect time to take a fresh look at the many areas of your life which you can improve. Aside from improving your health and breaking some bad habits, it’s also smart to take a critical look at your insurance policies to be sure you are properly covered and getting the best rates possible.
Take a look at these six tips for getting more out of your insurance in 2018 and plan to put them to use in the coming months!
Learn What Coverages You Really Need
When it comes to insurance, you don’t want to overpay for coverage you don’t need and you certainly don’t want to be underinsured. It’s smart to educate yourself on what coverages you really need for home, auto, life and any other type of insurance you purchase. Your agent should offer you sound advice, but you should also have enough base knowledge to ask questions and understand exactly what you’re getting in a policy.
Bundle Insurance Packages
Working with a single agent and bundling multiple insurance packages can save you time, money and stress. Many insurance companies offer a full suite of insurance policies and when you purchase multiple policies, there is a cost-savings involved. You will get the most out of your insurance by bundling packages because you will (most likely) only need to work through one company and one agent which increases efficiency and lowers costs.
Invest in Safety and Anti-Theft Devices
Get more out of your insurance this year by investing in safety and anti-theft devices for your home, car, boat and other insured assets. Most insurance policies will then offer a discount for installing such devices that reduce the risk of your items being stolen or damaged. Not to mention, this is a huge benefit to you, too. Win, win!
Stay in Direct Communication with Your Insurance Agent
It’s important that you have a direct line of communication to your agent, especially in case of emergency. Get the most out of your insurance, and reduce your stress, by working with an agent who is professional, responsive and proactive. You should also schedule a regular (i.e. annual) meeting with him or her to review your policies and insurance needs, as these frequently change over time. You want to be sure you always have accurate coverage and are taking advantage of the best possible rates.
Maintain Good Credit
For so many reasons, it’s smart to regularly check your credit score and to take steps to improve it. When it comes to insurance, your credit may play a role in setting your policy rates. Your credit-based insurance score helps the insurer determine your likelihood of experiencing an insurance loss. It’s important to note that not all insurance companies consider credit ratings when determining your policy rate, but a good credit score will help you in so many other areas of your finances that it’s one more way you can get more out of your insurance in 2018.
Consider service, not just price
It’s easy to focus on the bottom line of what your insurance costs, but don’t forget to consider the service aspect. Working with a company and an agent who delivers exemplary customer service is invaluable. This will save you headaches – and likely money – in the long-run. When shopping around, consider how responsive and knowledgeable the agent is and whether you would feel comfortable turning to this person in an emergency situation.
What other insurance-related questions do you have? Leave a comment and let us help you find an answer!
Prioritize making time to review your coverage so that you are properly insured. If you’ve never taken a life insurance policy, now is a good time to consider recent life changes, such as marriage or a child, which would make it important for you to have a life insurance policy.
To help get you stated, take a look at answers to these basic questions about life insurance.
Do I need Life Insurance?
The short answer is just about always, yes. Parents of a baby should even consider having life insurance for their child. If a heartbreaking and unforeseen circumstance should arise, a family shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of funeral costs completely out-of-pocket. As you get older, your life insurance policy should increase to cover more than just funeral costs, but also make up for the loss of income your family will experience. The goal of your life insurance policy should be to leave your loved ones in a stable financial situation, so that their emotional loss isn’t compounded by a financial loss.
How much do I need?
There are many considerations for how much life insurance is right for your unique situation. Begin by using some of the free life insurance calculators that are designed to give you a good starting point and also make you aware of things you may be overlooking. The main consideration will be assessing the financial needs of your dependents. What standard of lifestyle do you want to maintain for them? Who will cover medical expenses and funeral costs? How much debt, such as student loans and mortgages might you leave behind? Your local life insurance agent can walk you through all of the details and options available to you.
Are there different types?
Yes, there are quite a few different types of life insurance policies, are structured to provide unique benefits depending upon your life situation. Term Life Insurance provides only a death benefit without any cash-value component and is the lesser expensive option. Permanent life Insurance offers as a cash-value account which offers a return-on-investment in the case you do not use your life insurance policy during its duration, thus making it the more expensive option. Additionally, Whole Life Insurance and Universal Life Insurance are two subdivisions of Permanent Life Insurance. There is also Variable Life Insurance. Navigating all of your policy options may see like it daunting task, but a knowledgeable insurance agent will help make things simple for you!
Why would I want to add a rider?
Riders can be added to your life insurance policy, for an additional fee, to help safeguard you and your family from a variety of unexpected and unpleasant situations. For example, an Accelerated Death Benefit rider (aka Living Benefits rider) pays the benefit early if you become terminally ill. An Accidental Death Benefit rider pays an extra benefit if you die as the result of an accident. A Long-term Care rider pays for long-term care expenses should you need in-home care. And a Waiver of Premium rider waives premium payments should you become totally disabled. There are many more riders and benefits you can discuss with your insurance agent who can advise you on whether they are something you should add to your policy.
What is the underwriting process?
The underwriting process is designed to fully assess your health and lifestyle. You should expect to complete paperwork, answer questions, and a medical examination is common. If you do not need a life insurance policy in the millions of dollars, you can likely find simplified life insurance which does not require such an intensive process. Keep in mind that these policies, though easier to obtain, tend to cost more in the long-run and are limited to a shorter amount of time.
Is it expensive?
Like anything, the cost of your life insurance will be relative to the amount of coverage wish to obtain and for the length of time you’ll be covered. Another big consideration is your age and overall health, as assessed by your interview and medical examination. Your insurance agent will be a key resource to help you find the right balance between cost and coverage to fit your needs.
The important takeaway is that even if you can only afford a small life insurance policy, should something ever happen to you, you will have the peace of mind knowing you have left your loved ones with a reduced financial burden.
Have additional questions? Please reach out so I can help you find answers!
Celebrating a birthday, adding to your family, making a new purchase or adopting a pet are all wonderful milestones in life. To keep these as positive additions, you’ll want to be sure to openly communicate with your insurance agent so you can alert him or her to any of these milestones. Why? Because even some of the most unexpected scenarios can impact your insurance policies. For all the things in life you hold dear, you don’t want to risk them being hurt or damaged without insurance to help make things right.
Take a look at 9 milestones that can impact your insurance and what you should do to keep your belongings and loved ones safe.
Yes, your birthday matters when it comes to the cost of your insurance! For car insurance, drivers around 25 or younger will pay a higher premium as they are still considered “young drivers.” Usually your rate will go down a little at a time as you age into adulthood. There are some possible discounts that you can age into for car insurance, so be sure to ask! For life insurance, age most often works against you. The older you become, the more your premiums will rise. Make sure you always have your insurance agent factor in your current age into all of your policies.
Marriage or Divorce
Marriage is a great thing, and insurance is just one more way you’ll benefit from tying the knot. Commonly your car insurance will be significantly reduced with marriage. You will merge your previously two policies into just one, even if you’re still driving two cars. In divorce, the opposite is true. You’ll return back to single policies at a higher cost per car.
Birth or Adoption
If you’re expecting a new bundle of joy, be sure to include your insurance agent on that birth announcement – or at least have a discussion with him or her as to how it could change the type and amount of insurance you have. You may wish to have a life insurance policy on your child. You may also wish to increase your own life insurance, now with an extra dependent. Finally, your car insurance and health insurance will likely change due to the new addition to your family. Be sure to bring this to the attention of your insurance agent so there are no surprises later!
Getting or Losing a License
Having a child get their learner’s permit or license is something that you should always tell your insurance agent. Sometimes they are required to be listed on the policy at time of permit & sometimes at time of license. Be sure to check with your agent to find out which it is. On the flip side, loss of a license due to health or incidents, is also something that your agent would need to know so that you are properly covered.
Believe it or not, even the addition of a furry friend could trigger a change in your insurance policies. By increasing the chance of a house guest being injured by a pet, or the pet destroying part of your home, your home owners’ policy may need to account for the additional risk. If you don’t update your policy to accurately reflect the addition of a pet, your existing policy may not cover any of the associated damages or costs.
A significant change in career could result in a change to your insurance policies. First, your life insurance policy could be impacted by the safety of your new job. If there is a greater risk of injury or death, you’ll want to be sure to update your insurance agent. Additionally, if your job requires a change in commute time or work location, your car insurance premium could go up or down.
New or Renovated Home
Purchasing a new home is an obvious reason to update your home owners insurance, but many people forget to update their policy when they complete renovation work. For example, finishing your basement will increase your livable square-footage and impact your policy. Also, enhancing your house with security features could lower your premium. Additionally, when moving to a new home and a new neighborhood, your car insurance could be impacted by the change in location. If you’re moving from an urban area into a suburban or rural area, your premium may be lower.
A new car will certainly impact your car insurance. Without talking to your agent, it is difficult to know whether your rate will go up or down. Getting a car with enhanced safety features compared to your old car can result in a lower premium. On the chance you purchased a sports car or some other type of vehicle deemed to be less safe, your premium may be affected in the other direction. Any car with a loan requires collision & comprehensive coverage. So if you purchase with a loan, make sure you are thinking about paying for these coverages as well. Alerting your insurance agent of your new purchase is unavoidable as your aren’t likely able to drive your new car without a policy for this specific vehicle.
Addition of a Boat, RV, Motorcycle, etc.
Some people may choose to purchase a recreational vehicle, boat or motorcycle. You should (and in many cases, must) insure these items. Upon purchase, you’ll want to have an immediate conversation with your insurance agent about obtaining proper insurance before you take these items out on the road or water.
Have you recently experienced one or more of these milestones in the last 12 months? It would be worth a discussion with your insurance agent to review your best options for coverage!
No matter your financial or personal situation, it’s important to play an active role in managing your finances. Specifically to women, maintaining control over your finances, understanding your budget and monitoring your credit score are essential for financial freedom.
In many cases, a spouse or significant other make take on the role of managing the family’s finances exclusively. While this may initially be a burden off your shoulders, if can lead to far greater problems down the road. You finances should be treated as a partnership so that you both have a voice in your budget and financial goals, and so that you are not left feeling financially dependent upon someone else.
In an effort to empower women through financial independence, here are key tips for taking control of your finances:
Gain a good understanding of your current financial situation
The first and most important step to gaining financial independence is to have a full understanding of your current financial situation. What is your personal and total family income? What debt do you have? What are your spending habits? Review your most recent bank statements and start to map out your financial footprint.
Learn financial fundamentals
Now that you understand your current financial situation, start to tackle any issues you’ve found by learning financial fundamentals and best practices. Start by searching for online resources that will help you understand how to improve your credit score, how to pay down credit card debt and how to avoid bank service charges to your account. Knowledge is power!
Create a (realistic) budget
Next, apply this knowledge to your personal and your total family budget. This cannot exceed your income if you truly want to gain financial independence. Look for ways in which you can cut back on spending or earn additional income, if needed. Most importantly, track your spending, compare this to your bank statements and stick to the budget you’ve created.
Have a debt management plan
If you realize you have debt, put a plan in place to pay down the debt with each month. Even if you can only pay a little each month, it’s better than nothing at all. Talk with the credit card companies who are happy to assist you in establishing a payment plan. If you have existing debt, be extra careful to not add to this debt further with current spending habits.
Set long-term financial goals
What are your biggest financial challenges right now? Or what are some items on your “wish list” that you want to work toward? Set long-term financial goals for yourself that will help you to visualize the reward for sticking to your budget each month.
If you want to gain financial independence but have hit challenges or need advice, there are many resources available to you! Local businesses and organizations often offer free or low-cost financial planning seminars or consultations that will help you get started in the right direction. Begin by checking with your local insurance agent, bank or financial planner.