Protecting your identity AND the environment

Posted by on Apr 13, 2017 in blog

While we know that it’s important to take steps to protect our personal information, it always seems to end up at the bottom of the to-do list. But identity theft is not going away any time soon. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 17 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014 alone. With numbers like this, chances are good that someone you know has been a victim. And you also know how much of a hassle it can be to deal with the aftermath of identity theft. What if you could cross several items off your ever growing to-do list all at once? Did you know that many of the actions that help prevent identity theft also have the added benefits of simplifying your busy life and protecting the environment? 3 ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR IDENTITY Go Paperless – An easy way for thieves to gain access to your personal information is by stealing your mail. Take advantage of the electronic delivery and online payment services that your banks, utilities, credit card and insurance companies offer. If you already pay online, but still receive paper statements, consider turning them off. Not only do you reduce the risk of identity theft, you reduce the amount of paper cluttering your desk and landfills. Eliminate Junk Mail – All of those pre-filled credit card offers that seem to arrive each week are another way for criminals to use your personal information to open new credit accounts. You can take steps to reduce the amount of unsolicited mail that you receive. The Federal Trade Commission website has an entire section devoted to privacy and security, including ways to opt out of unsolicited offers and telemarketing calls. Shred Documents – Believe it or not, criminals routinely sift through the trash of both homeowners and businesses looking for sensitive identity information. One way to prevent this is to shred any documents with personal information after they are no longer needed. While many businesses already shred documents with personal information, homeowners can look for similar services or invest in an inexpensive shredder from the office supply store. In addition to shredding documents, these services also recycle the paper, keeping it from the landfills. So, set aside a few minutes this weekend to reduce the risk of identity theft. Eliminating paper mail will also help simplify your life and have a positive impact on the environment. Then, you can get back to that book or your favorite...

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Preserve your prized jewelry and watches

Posted by on Apr 7, 2017 in blog

Jewelry and watches have a strong appeal to many people. They can represent sentiment, personal adornment, private assets, family heirlooms and collectible works of art. Because of their unique value, jewelry worn today should be preserved for tomorrow. Consider the following tips to help protect your jewelry: Store jewelry in a clean, protected location, such as a jewelry box. Place jewelry in separated compartments because some metals and gemstones scratch or chip more easily than others. Some boxes include individually padded slots for rings and provide posts for hanging necklaces and bracelets. Consider installing a secured safe within your home to prevent theft. Keep your most precious items or items you wear infrequently in a bank vault or safe deposit box. In addition to preventing theft or misplacement, you may also save on insurance premiums. Prepare an inventory of your watches and jewelry, just as you would all of your property. Take photos and keep purchase receipts. Store a copy offsite. Take extra steps when traveling: Photograph jewelry you plan to take with you in case an item is lost or stolen. Pack jewelry in your carry-on bag, not in checked luggage. Keep your most expensive items with you at all times. Place unattended jewelry in a locked safe or vault under hotel management supervision rather than in your hotel room safe. Examine the condition of each item on a regular basis. Check for loose settings, weak clasps and worn strings. Have any weaknesses or damage repaired as soon as possible. Visit a professional about every 6 months to have your jewelry professionally cleaned and inspected. Schedule a jewelry re-appraisal on a regular basis, about every 3 to 5 years. Jewelry and watches have style and beauty we can admire. Contact Shafer Insurance for more detailed information on how to preserve your collection for generations to...

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Be alert for skimmers and scammers!

Posted by on Mar 8, 2017 in blog

Before you swipe your bank card or credit card to make a payment or complete a bank transaction, be alert for skimmer devices attached inside or over the real card reader. Criminals use skimmers to capture the information from the magnetic strip on credit or debit cards, gaining unauthorized access to consumer accounts. Skimmers have become increasingly prevalent as they are easy to put in place. The skimmer device fits right over or inside the real card reader. When the card is swiped, it passes through the skimmer before going into the real reader. Skimmers have popped up at bank drive-through ATMs, gas stations and other businesses, especially in remote locations or places that are difficult to monitor. There are a few things you can do to make sure your account information stays safe. LOOK BEFORE YOU SWIPE Look for signs of tampering or bulkiness of the card reader you are about to use. If it looks too thick, damaged, loose or just does not look right, report it to the bank or business and use a different machine. Consumers have even reported parts of skimmers coming off the ATM. The FBI offers additional tips and illustrations of what to look for.  If you see someone tampering with or hanging around an ATM machine, report this information as soon as possible to law enforcement or the bank or related business hosting the machine. Sometimes criminals hang around machines to collect information via a Bluetooth connection or wait for an opportunity to add a skimmer or make changes to a machine. PROTECT YOUR CHIPPED CARD Many newer credit cards have radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. The chips use a wireless, electromagnetic field to transmit information across short distances. Criminals use small remote skimmers that can be concealed in a pocket to collect information from the RFID chip. With these skimmers, the card need not be physically swiped to compromise the information. The electronic pickpocket need only walk a few feet away from you to collect information from the chip. To prevent information theft, use a card carrier with a lined casing to shield the signal from the card. The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation put out a Consumer Alert describing additional measures you can take, such as stacking several RFID-equipped cards together. WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE HACKED If you do fall victim to a skimmer or RFID scam, immediately report it to law enforcement, providing as many details as possible. Contact the security department of your bank or the retailer whose card was compromised. Close the account and put a fraud alert on your credit file. Find additional information to protect your accounts on our identity theft prevention site...

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Add safety to your home fix-it list

Posted by on Feb 28, 2017 in blog

You’re the weekend warrior: attacking your home improvement projects with gusto. You’re not alone. Millions of Americans attempt home fix-it projects for fun or to save money. Don’t cut corners where safety is concerned. Consider these three scenarios and decide: good idea or bad idea?   Amelia is painting the trim on her house. Her 24-foot extension ladder is in the driveway, leaning against the gutter. Amelia finishes the section she’s working on. Instead of descending the ladder to readjust it, she remains on the ladder and “hops” it, gradually moving it to the right a few inches at a time until she can reach the next section. Good or Bad idea? This is a very bad idea. Amelia could cause the ladder to tip over and fall, and she could sustain serious injury. She should take the time to climb down the ladder to re-position it. Besides, “hopping” the ladder could spill the paint and make a big mess. George is handy. He likes to save money by completing home repair projects himself. Today he is adding a dimmer switch to a light fixture in his dining room. Before he begins work, he goes to the basement and flips the circuit breaker, cutting power to that section of his home. Then he double-checks the circuit with the handy, but inexpensive, tester he bought at the hardware store. Whenever George works with electricity, he also keeps one hand in his pocket. Good or Bad idea? Good idea! All these steps help keep George safe from shock. With one hand in his pocket, George’s arms don’t complete a circuit that leads directly through his heart. A do-it-yourselfer, William is renovating a room in his house. This weekend he’s using a variety of power tools, including a circular saw, to make his job easier. William wants to keep his vision and all his fingers, so he wears eye protection when he’s working and makes sure the blade guard is functioning. William also noticed that his 4-year-old son, Billy, is watching his every move. William stops what he’s doing and finds another family member to take responsibility for Billy. When he pauses to have lunch, William secures all the power tools, unplugs the power cords and shuts the door to the room. Good or Bad idea? Good idea! William is smart. Power tools are a major cause of injuries around the house, and he’s wise to protect himself and his family from potential injury. Children should be kept far away from work areas. Do-it-yourselfers are wise to take all precautions to prevent...

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Beware the hazards of charging – and over-charging – devices

Posted by on Feb 8, 2017 in blog, Uncategorized

Lithium ion batteries are common in many consumer devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets, providing a boost of power in a small size. However, the increased power also means a greater risk of overheating and fire because more energy is directed into a smaller space. While a number of overcharge protection features are built into these batteries and devices, proper storage and charging are critical to preserve battery life and to minimize exposure to overheating and fires. UNAPPROVED CHARGING DEVICES One major hazard is using a non-manufacturer-approved charging device with your phone, tablet or laptop. Cheap generic chargers are easy to find at convenience stores or as giveaways at conventions or other events. It’s tempting to use generic chargers if you lose or leave behind the cord that came with your device. While generics may be compatible with your phone or tablet, compatible doesn’t mean safe. Different devices require different levels of charge. A generic device runs the risk of putting too much charge into a device, causing the battery to overheat. Manufacturer-approved chargers are less likely to run this risk because they are made specifically for their own devices. BATTERY FAILURE Overcharging is not the only cause of battery failure that can result in fire. Also be aware of: External heat, such as leaving a smartphone in the car on a hot day Mechanical abuse, such as dropping or denting the phone Manufacturing defects, such as those that made the news for causing fires, resulting in product recalls TIPS TO STAY SAFE In addition to using the manufacturer-provided charging cord, follow these tips when you store and charge portable electronic devices: Never charge devices overnight. While most portable devices are designed to stop charging once the battery is full, a fire could occur if the charger overheats. Place the device being charged on a hard flat noncombustible surface to allow for adequate ventilation. Don’t place laptops, tablets or cellphones unattended on couches or beds or in areas where they might overheat and come into contact with flammable materials. Inspect chargers for wear or damage. Frayed or damaged cords should be discarded immediately and replaced to prevent sparks and fires. Charge devices in short bursts rather than for extended periods. Former recommendations to fully deplete batteries and then charge do not apply to lithium ion technology. Remove the charger from the outlet when not charging. A charger left plugged in is still drawing electricity from the outlet, and a fire can occur if a wire short circuits or contacts water. Shut off battery-powered devices when not being used. Don’t leave devices exposed to excessive hot or cold temperatures. Overheating the battery and device can lead to battery failure...

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5 tips for getting organized

Posted by on Jan 3, 2017 in blog

For many of us, one of our New Year’s resolutions is to be more organized. The good news is that unlike that other resolution we all seem to make each year, improving organization doesn’t require hours at the gym to see results. Here are five simple ways to have a more organized new year. Keep Lists Reduce the stress of having to remember everything by writing it down. This works well for groceries, errands, and general “to-do’s.” You’ll be amazed at how much you get done. Technology today offers so many convenient options, it’s easy to find a solution that’s right for you. Between smartphone and tablet apps for taking notes and creating lists, 2017 is the year you should give something a try. It won’t take long to get hooked, and you’ll wonder how you managed without it. Reduce Paper Clutter Take advantage of the electronic delivery and online payment services that your banks, utilities, credit card and insurance companies offer. If you already pay online, but still receive paper statements, it’s time to turn them off. I know you like the control, but you’re missing the convenience of auto-payments where bills are paid automatically … and on time! Not only do you eliminate late fees and paper files at home, you also reduce the risk of identity theft and make a positive impact on the environment. Start Prepping for Your 2017 Taxes Yes, I know you haven’t even started on your 2016 taxes yet, but imagine not having to search high and low for all of your charitable donation receipts and other documentation. Create an annual folder for medical expenses, business receipts and tax documents so that as you receive items throughout the year, you have a place to keep them. When you make the donation to a local charity in July, simply drop the receipt into the folder. You will rejoice next January when all of your tax documents are in one place. One Bite at a Time Commit to putting down the smartphone or tablet for 15 minutes each day to keep organized. Use the time to sort the mail, put away dishes or clear the clutter from that spot in your home where everything seems to collect. Tasks seem more manageable when done in smaller chunks and, chances are, you can find a little time each day. Organize Photos on Your Mobile Devices Most of us have more pictures than we know what to do with on our mobile devices. Make it a habit to delete the photos that aren’t worth saving. It’s an easy thing to do while you are standing in line or waiting to meet a friend for lunch. Be sure...

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