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!
7 Common Mistakes People Make With Their Homeowners Insurance
Owning a home is a great joy and a big responsibility. It’s important to properly protect your assets with the right homeowners insurance. Unfortunately, there are quite a few common mistakes homeowners make when insuring their home and assets. Take a moment to learn from these mistakes and compare them against your current coverage.
Having too much or too little coverage
When it comes to insuring your home, it’s important to find the right balance of insurance that is not too much or too little. If you’re over-insured, you’re going to be paying more for things you don’t likely need. If you’re underinsured, you may run into damages your insurance doesn’t cover, causing you to pay for repairs completely out of pocket. An experienced insurance agent can help you find that “just right” amount of coverage unique to your home and family.
Setting your deductible too high or too low
A low deductible sounds great, but keep in mind your premiums will also be higher as a result. A high deductible may save you some money on your premium, but if you can’t afford to meet the deducible when you need to file a claim, that will leave you in a tight spot. Similar to finding the right amount of coverage, you also need to find the right deductible. Think: How much money can I immediately and reasonably pay out of pocket if something goes wrong?
Not understanding the extent of your coverage
Don’t sign off on your policy without reading the fine print and asking questions. Many homeowners make the mistake of assuming their policy will cover everything that could happen to their home. Wrong! Your policy covers what it says it will cover, so read it. Issues like flooding, earthquakes and mold may require additional coverage. If you have special items in your home, they may require special coverages too.
Failing to report any life changes
If your family gets a dog or remodels the basement, you may not think this is something you need to share with your insurance agent. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Some “life changes” could impact your insurance policy. Check with your agent who can advise if this is something that will require different or additional coverage. In the case that a change to your house could save you money, like adding a security system, it’s always worth the ask!
Not making an inventory of your property
If your house caught fire tomorrow and everything you owned was gone, could you recall all your household items by memory? It’s not likely any of us could. This is why it’s so important to take a photo inventory of each room in your home, and pictures of the outside of your house. Place the file with the photos in a fireproof safe. Don’t forget to update this inventory if you purchase a new item or change something in a room.
Not taking immediate action to report or resolve an issue
If you spot something that could be mold, don’t drag your feet to get it looked at. What might not seem like a big deal now, could cost you big down the road. Not only will the issue continue to get worse, your insurance may not cover the repairs since you did not take action when you first identified a problem.
Forgetting to regularly review your policy
On an annual basis, you should review your homeowners insurance, and all insurance policies with your insurance agent. They will be able to ask you questions on things that have changed in your life over the past 12 months. They can also advise you of changes to your policy or other policies that may be a better fit for your current life situation. One annual meeting can save you both time and money – make it a priority!
Have you run into issues with your homeowners insurance? Ask a question or share and example from which others can learn!
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!
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!
Insurance is meant to be your safety net should life throw you a curve ball. Not many of us have the disposable income to purchase a new home, a new car or replace all of our belonging if they got damaged. This is why it’s so important to have insurance to cover you in the event of a loss. However, having too little insurance or not the right insurance could cost you big. Take a look at these four insurance mistakes and be sure to avoid making them!
#1. Buying only the minimum
Most states set a legal limit to the minimum amount of insurance you must have, particularly for cars. Don’t make the mistake of buying only the minimum! Sure, it might save you a few bucks now, but it will certainly cost you big in the event of an accident. Most often, this minimum insurance will cover the other driver and their car, but will not fully recover the damage to your vehicle. You will be forced to pay out of pocket or fulfill a high deductible to fix or replace your vehicle. If you rely on transportation to get to your job, run errands and anything else, think about how this could impact your finances – and your life!
#2. Not seeking out discounts
Always be sure to ask your insurance agent about possible discounts or money saving tips. Some companies will reward safe drivers or offer a diminishing deductible after a certain length of time. If you consider yourself to be safe and responsible, there is likely a discount program that will reward you for that! Ask and do your research to be sure you aren’t leaving money on the table.
#3. Selecting a deductible that is too high or too low
Let’s talk about deductibles. It’s important to pick a deductible level that fits your finances. How much money could you reasonably pay out of pocket at any time to fix damage to your home, car or personal belongings? Setting a high deductible will often reduce your monthly premium, but if you cannot fulfil it in the event of an accident, it really won’t do you any good. On the flip side, don’t set your deductible too low, either. You will likely see your monthly premium increase as a result and you may go years without ever needing to take advantage of it.
#4. Shopping by price alone
Finally and most importantly, be sure to consider more than just the price of your insurance policy. Look for online reviews of an insurance company or ask someone you know who has worked with them before to gauge their professionalism and customer service. The cheapest coverage may save you some money right now, but if their customer service is substandard, this will most certainly cause you headaches and frustration in the long-run.
Have you personally experienced any of this mistakes or maybe another one we didn’t mention? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!