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.

 

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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

 

The Counter-Intuitive Rhythm of Homeownership

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drive-1232913-639x423When you own a home, there is a rhythm to its upkeep and care dictated by the seasons.  Unfortunately, that rhythm is counterintuitive; if it’s hot out, think winter prep; if it’s sunny, think waterproofing and roof issues; if it’s fall, think spring gardens.

2015 gave us an historic winter that was rough on everyone and on our properties.  Ice dams, water damage, roof issues, and damaged landscaping, were just a few issues we may have had to deal with.  But we are New Englanders and we learn from it and take action against a future repeat.  We know that summer fixes can help ward off winter wallops.  Now that summer is in full swing, here are a few things that might pertain to your home that are best done in summer to avoid problems when it is colder and harder to access the areas needing help.

Weatherstripping – you don’t want to loose heat (or cold air from your air conditioners either) through cracks and spaces in window sills and doors.

Landscaping issues – transplanting areas that are overgrown, pruning trees and shrubs that can break when laden with snow and ice, even planting for fall gardens.  Driveways can be sealed, sidewalk issues fixed and any areas that tend to pond or flood can be corrected.

Buy supplies now for heating – oil, wood, pellets are usually less expensive now than when they are in high demand during winter months.

Roof and chimney issues – easier to access and correct when leaves are not falling, rain isn’t a constant factor and snow and ice are not present.  Ice dams created havoc last winter, prepare for them now so as to avoid a repeat.

Heating Systems – now is a good time for boiler inspections, furnace tune ups and cleanings so they are ready to work well when the time comes for their heavy usage.

General fix ups – sagging gutters, tilted shutters, cracked windows, chipping paint, rusting railings, leaning fences, cracking foundations and stairs – with a little maintainence now, you can avoid bigger fixes (and more money) later as they get worse.

Here’s hoping the upcoming winter sets new records for the perfect amount of snow for winter sports but not enough to cause traffic issues or problems with our homes!

 

 

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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

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

Fitts Insurance Is Moving On June 1st

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It’s an exciting time at Fitts Insurance!  On June 1st WE ARE MOVING to start a new chapter in our history!

Why, after all these years are we making this change?  Several reasons.

  • We are expanding and have outgrown our current office space.
  • We need a larger, more modern and professional environment to meet our needs.
  • Mostly because it will enable us to serve you, our clients, better.

Our new Southborough offices feature:

MODERN AMENITIES

CONVENIENT LOCATED OFF ROUTE 9, NEAR  MA 90, MA 495, Rt 30, Rt 85

AMPLE FREE PARKING

Our new location will be easier and more accessible to more of our client base and even our Framingham clients may find it quicker to get to us now.  We are only 5 miles from our Union Avenue office, just over the town line in Southborough.

2 willo side

Come visit us at our new location after June 1st!

2 Willow Street, Suite 102, Southborough, MA 01745

 

 

 

 

Click the blue link for directions from 40 Union Ave, Framingham, MA 01702 to 2 Willow St, Southborough, MA 01745       http://binged.it/1HOqE77

Grill Safety Tips for the Summer

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from the Hartford Insurance Company

 

grillGrilling has become as much a part of American life as baseball and Mom’s apple pie. It brings people together to enjoy the outdoors, gives food unique flavors, and keeps our kitchens cooler (and cleaner) in hot weather.

Still, it’s important to remember that an estimated 5,700 grill fires occur on residential properties each year in the U.S. And, more than half occur in the months of May, June, July and August. Remembering a few simple tips can help keep your grilling safe and enjoyable this summer, and anytime you grill.

  1. For Outdoor Use Only. While it may seem that everyone knows this common sense tip, the fact is that many people still don’t realize gas and charcoal grills can produce carbon monoxide in amounts that can result in illness or death if there is not enough ventilation. For both health and safety reasons, never use your grill indoors, or in a garage, breezeway or porch. If you’re grilling while traveling on vacation, don’t use a grill or hibachi in a tent, camper or vehicle.
  2. Grill Placement is Key. To help avoid the possibility of a structure fire, be sure to give your grill plenty of space, away from your home, condo or apartment. Move it out from under eaves, awnings, overhangs, or carports. Also move it away from brush, dead leaves and overhanging branches. Make sure the grill is on a level surface and stable.
  3. Have the Right Tools and Wear Appropriate Clothes. Use long handled utensils. Wear flame retardant mitts if you need to get close to burners or flames. Tuck in or avoid shirts with long-hanging tails. If your chef’s apron has strings, keep them tied in back of you.
  4. Clean Up the Buildups. To reduce the possibility of flare-ups, remove grease or fat accumulations on a regular basis from the bottom of the grill and the drip pans.
  5. Keep an Eye On It. Once lit, never leave a grill unattended and don’t attempt to move it. A grill can remain hot for up to an hour after use, so keep children, pets and any activities or foot traffic at a safe distance, even after the grill has been turned off.

Propane Grill Safety

  • Just Bought a New Grill? It’s worth a few minutes to read through the manual. Learn about how to properly use any features that are new to you, as well as any special instructions the manufacturer provides for cleaning, safety and maintenance.
  • Firing Up an Older Grill for the Season? Check the condition of your propane tank and look closely at gas tank hoses for cracks or other signs of wear and tear. Make sure burners and venturi tubes are clear of dirt and debris that may have accumulated while the grill was in off-season storage.
  • Light Cautiously. Keep the lid open to avoid build-up of gas. If the grill doesn’t ignite immediately, turn off gas and let ventilate thoroughly before trying again.

Charcoal Grill Safety

  • Getting Started. Use only starter fluid made specifically for charcoal, never gasoline or kerosene. Once lit, don’t add starter fluid to coals. Keep your charcoal fluid stored away from the grill and out of the reach of children.
  • Keep Your Distance. Use long-handled utensils to move coals around and for cooking to help keep a safe distance from heat.
  • Cool Down. Be sure to let coals cool completely before disposing and make sure you have a designated area for disposal.

Drive Green: Help the Environment—and Your Wallet

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from The Hartford Insurance Group

 

8 Easy Green Driving Tips

 

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You don’t need to spend a fortune on a hybrid to drive green. Making even a small improvement to your car’s fuel efficiency can make a big difference to the environment. Here are a few green driving tips to reduce the carbon footprint of the car that’s already sitting in your driveway – and in the process, to save money.

 

Get a tune-up for the environment Proper maintenance can have a big impact on how much gas you use. The payback for repairs varies, but fixing a serious problem like a malfunctioning oxygen sensor can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 40 percent.

Pay attention to your tires The next time you need tires, consider buying low rolling resistance (LRR) tires. Rolling resistance is essentially the energy that your tires consume as they compress under the weight of your vehicle, and LRR tires can improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 to 4.5 percent.Even with standard tires, proper inflation can make a big difference: The Department of Energy estimates that underinflated tires waste 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline per year. Once a month, use a gauge (not your eyes) to check each tire’s pressure. (Most hardware and auto supply stores carry them for around $15.) You’ll find the correct inflation number (noted as PSI, or pounds per square inch) in the owner’s manual—don’t go by the number listed on the tire itself, as that reflects the maximum pressure the tire can withstand.And remember this green driving tip: The tire pressure fluctuates with the temperature. For every 10-degree drop in outside temperature, tire pressure goes down 1 PSI. So you may have to treat your tires differently in January than you would in June.

Lose the junk in the trunk Those miscellaneous items that we all haul around can add up to lots of extra weight—and a hundred pounds equals about a 2 percent reduction in gas mileage.

Update your oil Engines on newer car models (those less than 10 years old) often require lightweight oil such as 0W20 or 0W30. (The lower the number before the W, the easier the engine will start in cold weather. The number after the W represents the oil’s thickness.) Not only will thicker oil reduce your car’s fuel efficiency because more energy is needed to push through it, but the heavier oil can fail to lubricate the small spaces in a modern engine.

Adjust your octane Many drivers (9 million by some estimates) mistakenly believe that pumping premium gasoline in their tank will help their engines run better; some drivers periodically opt for higher grades (91 octane and above), thinking it will help them clean out the car’s fuel system. In both cases, this is a wasted effort. If your car wasn’t designed to run on high-octane gas (94 percent of cars on the road today are designed to run on regular), using it will cause more unburned fuel to get into the emissions system, interfering with its ability to prevent noxious fumes. Premium gas also requires more energy to refine, so buying it when you don’t have to is bad for the environment at both the production and consumption ends of the market.

Go green when you need to cool off On short trips and when driving around town, keeping your windows down is more efficient than using the air conditioner. At highway speeds, use the air conditioner, as open windows and sunroofs create drag when you’re moving fast. A green driving tip: Using the vents is the most fuel-efficient cooling option of all.

Drive gently “Jackrabbit” starts and screeching stops are hard on your automobile and increase fuel consumption. Flooring the gas pedal just once can emit as much carbon monoxide as half an hour of normal driving. And slow down: Every car has an optimal range for fuel economy, generally from about 25 to 65 mph. (Check your owner’s manual for this range.) For every 5 mph over this range that you drive, you’re reducing fuel efficiency by about 7 percent.

Be eco-friendly, even when parked Gas can evaporate even from a closed tank—and heat speeds up the process, so park in the shade when possible. By doing so, you’ll also reduce the amount of energy needed to cool your car when you start driving.

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.

 

 

Be Prepared For Volatile Spring Weather With a Home Emergency Kit

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Heavy rains, floods, hurricanes and tornados can all threaten your home and family this spring. While no amount of preparation prevents volatile spring weather, a home emergency kit helps you prepare to be safe and survive.

Survival Essentials

A warm blanket, spare set of clothes and matches could make the difference in your survival. Pack these and all other essential supplies you might need in an airtight container that’s easily accessible.

Food and Water

The Red Cross suggests families store two weeks’ worth of food and water, which means you’ll need one gallon of water per person per day and a variety of easily prepared, non-perishable foods. Don’t forget to stock baby and pet food if necessary, too.

First Aid

Minor bumps and bruises can occur as your family rushes to safety. Your first aid kit should include basic first aid supplies like bandages, antibacterial cream, burn cream and pain reliever. Pack prescription medications, hearing aid batteries and other specialized medications if needed.

Hygiene Items

Toilet paper, toothbrushes and diapers are essential. Hand sanitizer and bleach should also be included in your emergency kit.

Stay Connected

You’ll want to stay connected to the outside world and signal for help, so include a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, your cell phone and chargers in your emergency kit. A flashlight and whistle for each person is also a good idea.

Tools

Whether you have to dig out of the basement or open a soup can, tools come in handy. Stock a multipurpose tool, work gloves, scissors, shovel, screwdriver set, hammer and manual can opener in your kit.

Important Papers

In the rush of an evacuation, you may forget to grab your purse or wallet. Copy important papers like your driver’s license, birth certificate, insurance policies and medical information. Store them, extra cash and your family’s emergency contact information in a waterproof bag to keep them safe.

This home emergency kit will play a big role in keeping you safe when volatile spring weather strikes. Update your insurance policies, too, as you stay protected and prepared.

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.