Posts Tagged ‘security’

Frozen Pipes

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Water FaucetHere at Fitts Insurance, we took MANY water pipe claims this week.  Our mild winter came to an abrupt end with the record freezing temps this past weekend.  Frozen pipes, burst pipes, flooding, water damage, and the resulting clean up were on tap for some clients. And though we may be out of the deep freeze at the moment, there is still some winter left to weather. 

The following information on how to prevent or deal with frozen pipes may be needed next week or next winter.  In either case, this is information that homeowners, tenants, and businessowners alike should know or have on hand as a reference for when it is needed.

There are three common causes of frozen pipes according to the American Red Cross and any one, or a combination of them, can cause a pipe problem:

  • Rapid drop in temperature
  • Poor insulation
  • Thermostats being set too low

Not all pipes need special care but those that are exposed to the outdoors, nearest the building’s outer walls, or under the foundation are the ones that are most at risk.  And since Mother Nature is beyond taming, that leaves us with doing our best to protect ourselves and our property from her harsher moods.  So what can you do?

  • Set your thermostat to the same temp day & night.  Nights are usually colder, so turning down the heat is not a good idea
  • Use heat tape, heat cables or foam sleeves to wrap the pipes
  • Remember water freezes at 32 degrees. When it’s in the 20s and teens, we are already well below freezing!
  • Make sure you have enough insulation in the outer walls to keep the cold out
  • Check to see that your garage door and other exterior doors are closed
  • Open hot & cold faucets to a slow drip
  • Seal any leaks or cracks that allow the cold air in
  • Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open to allow heat to reach un-insulated pipes near exterior walls (remove any household cleaners and chemicals out of the reach of children)
  • Know the location of your internal shut off valves in case a pipe bursts or leaks
  • If you are going away, shut off the water supply line to your washing machine
  • Drain and shut off all outside spigots
  • Mark the shut off to the main water supply line so it can be easily identified
  • If you are going way, set the thermostat to 60 degrees
  • Have someone check on your house when you can’t be there
  • Use a temp-controlled thermal convection powered hot water recirculation valve
  • Use a product called ICE LOC which prevents pipes from rupturing by taking up the expansion of the frozen water
  • Use a RedyTemp, a device which utilizes an internal water contacting temperature probe to monitor the temp of the water inside the pipes

Having done all you can, you still may find it was not enough and your pipes have frozen.  Now what?  Here are a few options to try:

  • To thaw a frozen pipe, first check the pipe for  the area where frozen
  • Heat the area around the frozen part with an electric space heater, a hand-held hair dryer, or a heat lamp with a reflector to prevent a fire.  NEVER use a blow torch or open flame!
  • DO NOT use electrical appliances in or near standing water
  • If there is flooding, turn off the main water valve and call 911

Should you find that in spite of your efforts, the pipe remains frozen, keep the faucet(s) open and call a plumber immediately.

You can find more information, pictures, diagrams, step by step instructions and video at:   http://www.wikihow.com/Prevent-Frozen-Water-Pipes

Should you have a claim from a frozen pipe or have a question, you can call us at 508-620-6200 or email us at info@fittsinsurance.comYou can also put a claim in directly by contacting your company.  Claims information for your company can be found on our website: 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 

 

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

 

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

 

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.

Tax Season Riddled With ID Theft Scams

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LAdyThe IRS says more than 3,000 taxpayers have been victimized by phone scammers claiming to be IRS agents and demanding payments by either by pre-paid debit cards, or by deposit into online payment accounts.

The IRS says it doesn’t call taxpayers to discuss their accounts, so anyone receiving such a call should hang up quickly.

Another potential danger for taxpayers is identity thieves using personal information to file fraudulent tax returns, and stealing their refunds. A number of states have enacted stricter identity verification methods to try to reduce this threat.

Tax season also brings with it an increase in email phishing scams in which criminals send emails claiming to be from the IRS, in the hopes victims will enter personal information into a false IRS or banking website.

Scammers are also trying to exploit confusion about the Affordable Care Act by demanding people pay ACA-related tax penalties to them.

All these scams highlight the importance of taking active steps to protect your identity, and the need for heightened vigilance during tax season.

Maria Cordeiro is client services manager for Chubb Personal Insurance.  Posted: 17 Mar 2015 08:34 AM PDT

Steer clear of car breakins

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car break inOne Saturday, Jenny stopped by the mall for some afternoon shopping. The parking lot was packed, but she found a space at the very back of the lot. After she ate some lunch and shopped for a few hours, Jenny strolled back to her car—only to find that her passenger window was broken, and her laptop and iPod were missing. Her heart plummeted into her stomach, and she wasn’t sure what to do. If you’ve ever walked into a parking lot or your own driveway to discover a thief has broken into your car, you’re probably all too familiar with that terrible sinking feeling. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to stop car robbers in their tracks. These criminals go for the simple jobs, so they usually choose vehicles that are parked in remote areas and have valuables in plain view.

Don’t make yourself an easy target. Follow these five easy tips to steer clear of car breakins: More

Think twice before you “Check-in”

 

There’s been plenty of warning in the media about security risks associated with various social media sites and the types of posting people do on them. One major security risk is the “Check-in” feature on facebook. Simply put, people should never use this feature.

Think about it. When you head out for summer vacation, you set your burglar alarm, shut off the mail, ask a neighbor to check on the house or water the plants. We do this to keep our home as secure as possible while we’re away from it. So why is it so many people travel hundreds of miles away to the beach, the lakes, the mountains, etc and the first thing they do is “Check-in” to Joe’s Bar and Grill on the Jersey Shore? More