Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

Got Valuables? Get Insurance!

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Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is the most famous painting of all time. It also holds claim to the largest insurance valuation for a painting in history. In 1962, when the Mona Lisa went on tour from Paris France to Washington DC and New York City, The Louvre assessed the cost to insure the painting for the duration of the trip. The valuation at the time was $100,000,000. Ultimately, The Louvre declined the insurance as the premiums to insure the masterpiece were greater than the highest security precautions available.

Today the Mona Lisa sits comfortably on display at The Louvre inside a sealed enclosure of 1.52″ think bullet proof glass and a permanent interior temperature of 43 degrees Fahrenheit and a consistent 50 percent humidity. With over 9,000,000 visitors each year and the Mona Lisa being the most popular exhibit in the Louvre, there’s no question the painting warrants some serious protection measures.

da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is secured inside an environmentally protected enclosure including nearly 2 inches of bulletproof glass.

 

It’s unlikely that you or I will ever require such extreme protection measures for our valuables, however anyone in possession of valuable artwork would be foolish not to expend some extra effort to protect it. A good home security system is a good start, however a smash and grab-type burglar who knows what he’s after isn’t likely to be deterred much by an alarm. Once that valuable item is stolen odds are that it’s gone for good. This is where insurance comes into play.

A standard homeowners insurance policy provides little protection for damaged or stolen valuable items. Never assume that your home insurance is going to properly cover you for valuable works of art, jewelry, furs or other valuable collections. The proper way to insure these items is specifically insuring each of these items on a valuable items schedule. Often referred to as a “rider” or a “floater,” this form of insurance not only insures specific valuables at predetermined limits, but it broadens coverage to include losses that would not ordinarily be covered on a homeowners insurance policy. When specifically “scheduled,” coverage options include mysterious disappearance and breakage. Additional coverage options may include an “agreed amount” or “appraised value” coverage.

For more information or to obtain a quote to properly insure your valuables, contact a member of our team at Fitts Insurance. We’ll be happy to take the time to explain your coverage options and place this valuable coverage for you.

 www.fittsinsurance.com

 

 

Seasonal Tasks and Preps

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CWF.Lakeview cem 1 10.15Each season comes with joys, events and a list of things to do while it’s here.  Fall is no different with its beautiful colors, fairs, harvest bounty, Thanksgiving, as well as changing temperatures, hurricanes, tornados, early freezes and the ever possible nor’easter with howling winds and driven snow. The gardens must be closed, outdoor equipment put away and the house gotten ready because we know winter is not far behind.  For us hardy New Englanders, we take these changes in stride; after all, we have chosen to live here. (Though after last winter, we are asking Santa for a milder winter and are praying to the weather gods for mercy this year!)Roof Ice

While we would love to be able to help ALL of you with your fall and winter tasks and then share a favorite beverage, the best help we can offer is our insurance expertise in the form of information and education about insurance coverages that can help when even the best preparations fail.  That is what this newsletter, the monthly emails, our Facebook posts and mailings are all about.  We can’t call and personally speak to ALL our insureds on every topic, so we use the other avenues available to us to keep you informed.  We promise that we will be here if you call us with questions or need more information or a quote on coverages.

 So here are some seasonal tasks that are good loss control measures and may help you avoid a claim:

  1. Clean gutters well & make sure they’re working.  Nothing grows an ice dam like a clogged gutter!
  2. Chimney and furnace cleaning make for more efficient heating and help avoid puff backs.
  3. Trim trees and bushes near the house.  Wind & snow can make them bang against the building.
  4. Service your car, do winter preps, check tires, fluids and have an emergency kit in the trunk.
  5. Tune up winter equipment – snow blowers, chainsaws, and drain summer equipment properly.
  6. Have your rock salt, snow rake, shovels in place or easily accessible.
  7. Check for good weather seals around your windows and doors.  Reseal any cracks.
  8. Check your policy if you are hosting a party.  Make sure Host Liquor Liability is included so you will be covered should any of your guests get too “merry.”
  9. Cyber Liability is not just a new coverage – it is a necessary coverage with all the media devices that carry our information.  Adopt early; don’t wait till you are hacked.
  10. If you will need a generator should the power go out, NOW is the time to buy one.
  11. Make a reasonable budget for holiday giving and keep track of spending and NO GOING OVER!
  12. Change your passwords on all your devices and digital accounts to help prevent hacking.

Hackers Gonna Hack, Scammers Gonna Scam – Be Smart, Be Safe

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We admit it.  We love social media!  From Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest (yes, we confess, even those food pics that make us hungry) e-mails, Skype, Face Time and so many new modes that are being created, we say “bring it on!”

Social Media Pic2Because during our busy days, when we can not be present with the people we love, these modes of communication are what link us to our families, our friends, our business dealings – let’s be honest – OUR LIVES!  So it makes sense that something so important, so vital to our daily lives, would be something that we should guard, protect and keep safe.

But hackers, scammers, phishers, trollers and assorted other nefarious people know that when you are busy, harried, and stressed by the demands of life and the new demands of staying connected on all these social media options, they can slip right in and rob you of it all – with disasterous results that can have long term effects.  We don’t want that for our insureds.

So here is an email we just received from one of our friends and we post it for you as a cautionary tale in hopes that you will never have to go through the same situation.

A person I follow on Facebook sent an email today:

I received a message from Facebook along with their logo, stating that my account would be suspended because I violated their policy and that I needed to verify my account or they would temporarily shut it down.  I filled out the form – with my login information.  Stupid—I know better than that!  But it looked real and I didn’t take time to really think it through because I was in a hurry and just wanted to resolve the problem.

That night I could no longer access my administrator account.  Then, when I went to my Facebook page, I found posts for all sorts of unrelated products THAT I DID NOT POST and posts from friends who also received some of those posts.  So I set about getting rid of them all only to find my password was changed and I could not delete the posts.

The end of the story is still being worked out by our friend and we hope it is only their Facebook account that was hacked and that the info taken was not enough to open other accounts or give the hackers access to additional private information or their online accounts.

We advise you NEVER to respond to an email request for account information through a link within that email or call a number provided in that email.  Instead, go directly to the public address or phone number and contact the inquirer directly on a secured line to see if they actually contacted you.  We want you to be educated, be aware, be careful, and be safe.

For more ways to protect yourself, see the following article on phishing:  www.wikihow.com/Prevent-Phishing 

 

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Fitts Insurance Agency, Inc.

2 Willow Street, Suite 102

Southborough, MA 01745

 

888-697-6542

508-620-6200

(f)508-481-0227

www.FittsInsurance.com

www.facebook.com/fittsinsurance

https://twitter.com/fittsinsurance

 

Tis the Season: Hail and Wind Claims

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Hail Stones Sciencekids.co.nzThe recent storms have generated increased hail and wind claims.  For these and for future reference when dealing with property (home, auto, landscaping) repairs, we want to put some light on activity we are hearing about so that you don’t become a victim.

Hail events in the past have led to homeowners being visited by roofing contractors and company sales representatives; many of whom are from out of state. These contractors swarm affected neighborhoods, going door to door and leaving promotional fliers, cards and brochures at residents’ doorsteps. The company representative may offer to inspect the roof for hail or wind damage, repair the car dings and dents caused by hail or clean up and trim trees harmed in the storm.

Please be careful about any company that uses door to door sales tactics and please be cautious about allowing unsolicited contractors access to your home. Our best advice: if you did not call them, do not let them on your roof, in your car, or in your yard.  If they are not insured and they fall, you are liable.

If you are concerned about the potential for hail damage to your roof, look around your property. Hail does not only impact the roof. Is there damage to the shrubs, tree leaves, siding or vehicles? If not, damage to the roof is highly unlikely. If you are still concerned and wish to report a claim, call us and we will advise how your company will be handling your type of claim.

Hiring a local, well established, licensed contractor is the optimal solution should damage exist. Please make sure all estimates and contracts are in writing and NEVER pay up front for work to be completed.

 

Fitts_logowithtag_JPG_60pct

Fitts Insurance Agency, Inc.

2 Willow Street, Suite 102

Southborough, MA 01745

 

888-697-6542

508-620-6200

(f)508-481-0227

www.FittsInsurance.com

www.facebook.com/fittsinsurance

https://twitter.com/fittsinsurance

 

Insurance and Divorce

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i-love-you-1310934-640x480Statistics tell us that over half of married couples end up in divorce.  This is sad, sobering news and even with the use of a pre-nup, the process of divorce is both emotional and difficult.  There are large issues to decide when your relationship ends up in separation or divorce, and insurance may not be on the top of the list.  Nonetheless, break ups have insurance issues to be resolved and so it should be on the list of items to be discusses and decided.  While not all divorces are contentious, it is human nature to have anger, selfishness, revenge and pettiness sometimes show their faces when unraveling the marital assets.  The courts and lawyers may hammer out the final decrees, but here are the insurance areas that need to be considered.

Health Insurance

If you had your health insurance through your spouse’s employer, then once your divorce is final, you have to get your own coverages.  It is important that there are no gaps in the date of coverage from the time you leave the company plan to the time you start your own plan.  The kids can stay on the company plan or go with your new plan depending on the custody agreement.  The court may decide this for you as well as who will pay premiums if that becomes a new expense for you.

Providing COBRA for the party no longer covered by the company plan is required of the employer for up to 36 months.  The company must be notified within 60 days of the divorce.  If you choose to go with the COBRA coverage offered by your ex’s company, you are 100% responsible to pay for those premiums unless the court assigns payment to your ex as part of the support agreement.  It would be wise to shop around for a new plan before you just accept COBRA as prices for Health Insurance do vary.

For a legal separation, it is the same as divorce but make sure you check to see what the company policy is when it comes to separation.  Some companies only recognize a legal divorce, others treat separation and divorce as if they were the same.  You or your lawyer should have the conversation with Human Resources before you start making any changes.  If you find yourself in legal separation mode and the divorce is dragging, you are not obligated to keep the insurance on your ex unless the court orders it.  If the court orders your spouse to keep the insurance in place, you can keep your current plan with the employer, unless the employer says no and then the spouse must get and pay for COBRA or another plan to not be in violation of the court order.

Finally, for both separations and divorce – make sure you update the name and address on all documents and policies.  If there are health proxies in place, next of kin notices, and contact names involved, these must be changed too.

Life Insurance

The purpose of Life Insurance is to protect the income of the providing spouse, with the beneficiary of benefits usually being the receiving spouse.  Life Insurance replaces income to the surviving spouse if the providing spouse dies.  Ownership is key on a life policy as only the owner of the policy can change the beneficiary and they have control of the policy’s cash value.  This can become an issue with remarriage as there is no way to know what the ex-spouse/owner has done – even if actions were courted ordered because there is no method to monitor their actions.  It may be best to take control of the life policy AND pay the premiums – which could be part of the divorce settlement.

Again, names, addresses and beneficiaries should all be changed when the divorce is final.

House / Homeowners / Tenants Insurance

The house is always a big item to deal with in divorce.  At the very least, one of you will have a new location in which to live soon.  Home/tenant insurance must change from the one policy location you share, to now two policies covering where you both will live, contents you have with you and your personal liability exposures.  Floaters or schedules should reflect the actual items each party ends up with when the divorce is final. An ownership change in the property requires a name change on the main policy.  If the woman keeps the house but changes her name, that must be reflected on the policy too.  If the change involves removing a name from the current policy, BOTH people should sign the request and it should be made in writing to avoid issues and one spouse removing another without their knowledge or consent.  You lawyer should be able to help you with this if it becomes nasty.

Car Insurance

If each of you owns a car, titled in your own name, then it is an easy change.  Each person will get their own policy in their name with the car they own.  Update the name on the policy, the mailing address, garaging location and billing method.

If both own a car, the title must be changed to show only the new owner.  That person will have the insurance policy in their name for that car.  If you have both owned the car and been on the same policy, you can not remove the other without their consent or remove the vehicle with their consent.

Don’t make changes until the divorce is final.  Change requests should be in writing, signed by both parties and include name changes, address changes, ownership change, garaging and usage change, and billing method change.

These changes may cause you to lose policy bundled discounts like: Multi-car; Auto and Home credits with the same company; Occupational / Affinity Group discounts

Disability & Long Term Care 

This can be a big issue for the now single party because they will not have that automatic next in line person to care for them if something occurs.  Changes here will depend on how the disability components are set up.  Was it set up to compensate for lost earnings due to a disability or is it used in place of retirement benefits from work during the marriage.  Review these issues with your lawyer to best decide on how or if the disability benefits will continue now.

Long Term Care plans are individual policies and usually not impacted by divorce except for a name and address change and a married discount will be lost.

Divorce is by no means an easy season, but there are plenty of people who have passed this way and they can give you great emotional support.  When it comes to the legal issues, don’t hesitate to depend on your lawyer for help.  And when it comes to insurance issues, don’t hesitate to call us to help you through it all.

 

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Fitts Insurance Agency, Inc.

2 Willow Street, Suite 102

Southborough, MA 01745

 

888-697-6542

508-620-6200

(f)508-481-0227

www.FittsInsurance.com

www.facebook.com/fittsinsurance

https://twitter.com/fittsinsurance

NEW MOTOR VEHICLE LIGHT LAW IN EFFECT

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wet cars

If you have day time running lights…manually turn your lights on to avoid a ticket or surcharge.

Massachusetts has a new law for all drivers to remember.  The law involves the use of both head and rear lights whenever the use of the wipers is needed.  As of April 7, 2015 you can be stopped for non-compliance and ticketed.  Although the ticket amount is nominal, it is a surchargeable violation that will impact your insurance premiums for up to six years. The law is intended to increase safety and visibility of vehicles on the Commonwealth’s roadways.

Mass General Law Chapter 85, Section 15, signed into law in January, requires that front and rear motor vehicle lights be activated in all of the following conditions:

  • When windshield wipers are on;
  • When low light or weather conditions prevent other vehicles or persons from being seen at 500 feet; or
  • From ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise.
  • Relying on daytime running lights for these conditions is not sufficient under the law.

The law is fairly easy to comply with; just turn on your wipers and lights during the appropriate situations.  It may be a bit trickier if you have daytime running lights.  Typically, running lights do not activate your rear lights, just the headlights. You will have to check to make sure that both the front and rear lights are ON if you intend on relying on your daytime lights.  Check with your car manual, vehicle manufacturer, or maybe easiest of all, with a friend who can see the back of your vehicle as you drive and be able to tell you if the rear lights are on when the daylight running lights are activated.  If they are not, then to comply with this new law, you will have to manually turn on your lights so that both the front and back lights are lit.

 

 

Five Effective Landscaping Tricks That Protect Your Home From Burglars

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Roughly two million burglaries occur each year. Protect your home and family when you implement five landscaping tricks that don’t compromise your home’s exterior appearance or value.

1. Place Hostile Plants by Entryways Burglars typically target easily accessible windows and doors. By placing hostile plants loaded with thorns, briars and brambles near these entryways, you discourage potential burglars. Several hostile plants to consider include roses, holly, raspberries, bird’s nest spruces, needle bushes and Spanish bayonet.

2. Trim Shrubbery Near the House Overgrown shrubs, bushes and flowering plants look untidy, and they give burglars plenty of places to hide. They also prevent neighbors and anyone on the street from seeing suspicious behavior near your home. Protect your home when you keep shrubbery trimmed to lower than three feet tall all along the exterior of your home. Remember to trim plants away from the sides of your home too.

3. Use Noisy Ground Cover Burglars try to be as quiet as possible, but noisy ground cover around your windows and doors alerts you to their every move. Pea gravel or other crunching stones do the trick, and you can find these burglar deterrents in colors that match your existing landscaping.

4. Install Short Privacy Fencing Tall fences and tree barriers increase privacy, but they also obscure burglars. Install short fencing with an open design instead. If you already planted trees or shrubs, trim them so that the canopy starts at eight feet or higher off the ground.

5. Turn on the Lights Most outdoor landscaping includes lighting of some sort. Opt for strategically placed motion-activated lighting as you reduce your chances of being burglarized. Place these lights near all your doors and windows and along pathways. They frighten burglars away and warn you when someone walks near your home.

Your home’s landscaping adds beauty and value to your property. It also deters burglars. Talk to your insurance agent today and discuss additional landscaping tricks that deter burglars and protect your home.

Why is Life Insurance So Important?

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You probably don’t sit around with your friends and discuss life insurance, but it’s an important part of your financial portfolio. Learn why as you decide whether life insurance is right for you.

What is Life Insurance?

A life insurance policy provides a financial payout to your survivors if you die. It’s a valuable tool in your estate planning portfolio since it protects your loved ones from financial stress or devastation after your death.

What Does Life Insurance Cover?

Purchase a life insurance policy, and your surviving beneficiary can use the money for a variety of purposes.

1. Cover funeral expenses. The average funeral cost $7,045 in 2012, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Reduce your survivors’ financial strain with life insurance funds that cover this necessary expense.

2. Replace income. Because your survivors depend on your income for basic living expenses, they’re at risk of losing their home, vehicle and other assets after your death. Your life insurance policy can provide your survivors with financial stability.

3. Repay debt. Student loans, credit cards, vehicles, mortgages and other debts can burden  your survivors. Purchase life insurance, and the policy can repay debt and reduce the financial strain your survivors feel.

4. Pay estate taxes. After your death, your survivors will owe estate taxes on any assets you own. Instead of affecting their budget, they can use your life insurance funds to pay this expense.

5. Save for the future. Fund your children’s college education, help your partner start a business or support your parents’ retirement. Your life insurance policy can fund these and other future plans.

Who Needs Life Insurance?

Many people think life insurance is necessary only for parents of young children. After all, those survivors could face severe financial strain without adequate resources to provide for their basic needs. In reality, anyone who’s single, married, young or old benefits from the financial peace of mind a life insurance policy provides.

How Much Life Insurance do you Need?

Everyone’s life insurance needs differ, so you’ll want to evaluate your finances and situation as you decide how much life insurance to purchase. Consider what your life insurance funds will cover, how much money your survivors need to live comfortably and the premium amount you can afford. Your insurance agent can work through these details with you to ensure you have adequate protection that secures your loved ones’ futures and gives you peace of mind.

Why Each Roommate Needs a Renters Insurance Policy

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You and your apartment, dorm or house mate might share living expenses, but you each need your own renters insurance policy. It’s an investment that replaces your possessions if they’re damaged, stolen or lost. Learn why this $15 per month policy is an important part of your living arrangement.

Be an Individual

Whether you and your roommates are strangers, best friends or cousins, purchase separate policies. Most renters insurance companies won’t include two or more unrelated people on a policy, so be an individual and purchase your own policy.

Cover Deliberate Damage

Maybe you and your roommate get along great until you have a big fight and he or she deliberately damages your valuables. If that happens and you and your roommate share a policy, you won’t receive a payout to replace the damaged item.

Protect Your Future Insurability

Let’s say your roommate’s car is vandalized. Your combined policy pays the claim, but since your name is also on the policy, your ability to purchase affordable insurance is negatively affected for the next three to seven years. Separate policies protects your future insurability.

Keep the Payout

Joint insurance policies include payout checks made out to both parties. So when your valuable electronic equipment is stolen, both you and your roommate have to sign the check. Purchase separate coverage to ensure you receive the full amount you’re due.

Cover Liability

When a visitor trips or falls and decides to sue you, renters insurance can cover the liability. Slander and libel may also be covered. Have your own policy to cover your liability.

Know the Limits

Despite purchasing separate policies, your renters insurance might include financial limits. Discuss coverage caps with your insurance agent to ensure your vintage guitar or art collection is covered.

Purchase Adequate Coverage

You don’t know how much your possessions are worth until you create an inventory list. Then, purchase replacement value coverage. Although it costs about 10 percent more than cash value coverage, it allows you to replace the damaged, lost or stolen item at its current cost rather than the purchase price minus depreciation.

The decision to share living space with an apartment means you share expenses too. Make sure each roommate purchases a separate renters insurance policy, though, as you protect your possessions.