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Tips to reduce risk when shopping online

By Cincinnati Insurance

online-shopper

Take precautions when shopping online.

Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, has become the biggest online retail shopping day of the year. In 2012, Cyber Monday shoppers racked up $1.46 billion in sales, a new online record, according to comScore. Because of the explosive growth each year in online holiday sales, shoppers need to be extremely diligent in making digital purchases. Scammers with fake websites and emails are lurking out there to separate you from your money. Your identity is also at risk.

Remember that online shopping will never be completely safe. Pay attention to the following cyber shopping tips from the FBI (www.fbi.gov).

  • Beware of unsolicited (spam) emails. Don’t respond, and don’t click on any links within an unsolicited email.
  • Compare the link in the email with the URL (website address) to which you are directed and determine if they match and lead you to a legitimate website.
  • Log directly onto a retailer’s website for the business identified in the email, instead of following the link or calling a phone number in an unsolicited email. If the email appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer or other company you deal with, your statements and correspondence may provide proper contact information.
  • Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask you to provide or confirm personal or financial information.

The Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org/) has the following tips to help you stay cyber safe when shopping online this holiday season.

  • Protect your computer by installing the most recent updates for spam filters, anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall security.
  • Shop on trustworthy sites. Check the BBB’s website for the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction.
  • Take the time to read the retailer’s online privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If one isn’t posted, it may be a red flag that your personal information may be sold or used without your permission.
  • Confirm your online purchase is secure – Before paying, look in the address box for an “s” in the https:// (not just http://) and in the lower right corner of the screen for the “lock” icon. If in doubt, right click anywhere on the web page and select “properties.” This will let you see the URL and whether it’s encrypted.
  • Pay …read more

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Holiday shopping: 12 precautions to protect your property

By Cincinnati Insurance

holiday-shopping

Be aware of your surroundings when
shopping this holiday season.

With the holiday season fast approaching, many of us will be out shopping and enjoying the festivities. In this joyous atmosphere, we also need to be aware of our surroundings and develop a safe routine because unscrupulous individuals may be out to take advantage of our festive mood.

Some things to keep in mind when you are out:

  • Never leave valuable items in clear view in your vehicle ̶ thieves target your car for items they see; put your valuables in the trunk
  • Always lock your vehicle when you park
  • Park in well-lit areas
  • Park in an area with heavy foot traffic, not in an isolated spot
  • When stopping for fuel, always lock your vehicle if you leave it
  • When pumping gas, lock the doors on the other side of the car to prevent thieves from grabbing your purse or other valuables while your attention is diverted
  • Never leave your keys in your car or the ignition ̶ your car key ring usually has your house keys on it, and this could prove dangerous and costly

When you are out at malls, parking areas and ATMs, be aware of your surroundings:

  • Always make sure your valuables are secured.
  • If you carry a purse or satchel, make it safe from people taking it from you; don’t leave your purse in the seat of a shopping cart

If you do become a victim:

  • Immediately notify police and provide them with as much information as you can concerning the property taken
  • Immediately, while the information is fresh in your mind, note a description of the responsible individual and his or her vehicle, license plate number or other identifying information
  • Make note of the direction the thief fled, and pass that information to the authorities

Enjoy the holiday season, protecting your family and fun by taking good precautions.

Submitted by George Grossenbaugh

Filed under: Consumer tips, Loss control, Safety tips Tagged: Christmas, holiday, property, protect, safety, shopping
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When deer are in your headlights

By Cincinnati Insurance

deer-crossing-road

Deer collisions increase in fall and early winter.

As the outdoor temperature gradually drops, deer activity and deer-vehicle accidents increase. Every year across the country, deer-vehicle accidents account for billions of dollars in vehicle damage, thousands of injuries and hundreds of fatalities. These tips can help you avoid a collision with a deer and stay safe while on the road.

Be aware:

    • Dawn, dusk and night are the times you are most likely to encounter deer in the roadway.
    • The annual deer breeding season, also known as the rut, occurs mainly from October through December, but also can extend into January for some southern states.
    • Deer can be very active and unpredictable at these times while they are searching for mates.
    • Use extreme caution at these times of the day and year or when you’re in a location conducive to deer activity.
    • Country roads, farmland and heavily wooded areas are known for high deer populations, but it’s also not uncommon to encounter deer in suburban or urban areas.
    • Deer are herd animals. If you see one, more deer are likely to follow.
    • Headlights won’t necessarily scare deer. Sometimes they cause deer to stop in their tracks and on the road.
    • Don’t rely on vehicle-mounted whistles or reflectors designed to keep deer away from your vehicle. Studies show they are not effective.

    Tips that can help you stay safe:

    • Always wear your seatbelt.
    • Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.
    • Drive at or below the speed limit when in areas with large deer populations.
    • Use high-beam headlights when it is safe to do so in order to enhance your visibility.
    • Be aware of Deer Crossing signs. These signs are strategically placed in areas frequently used by deer to cross the road.
    • Reduce speed in areas with high deer traffic, as well as situations where terrain, weather, darkness or other conditions impair your ability to see and react to deer in or near the roadway.
    • Slow down or stop if it’s safe to do so as you approach deer in the road or on the roadside.
    • Don’t swerve your vehicle to avoid hitting a deer. This could cause you to lose control and hit another vehicle or object.
    • Contact the local emergency services if anyone is injured.
    • Notify the local law enforcement agency of the accident.

    If you hit a deer:

    Winterize your driving

    By Cincinnati Insurance

    winter-driving-warning

    Prepare yourself for winter driving hazards.

    Most of us understand the importance of preparing our vehicles for winter ̶ making sure tires are in good shape, wipers are good, brakes properly serviced and snow scraper in the car. We diligently address the mechanics in anticipation of expected winter extremes.

    But it’s just as important to prepare ourselves for winter driving. We must be ready to adjust our habits to better face the unpredictable challenges that often come with winter driving.

    Please consider the following tips before driving during inclement weather:

    • Conduct a pre-trip check. These are extremely important during the winter. Get into the habit of making sure windows and mirrors are clean and wipers are cleared before you start out. Clean all lights; make sure your heater and defroster are working properly. Carry an extra jug of windshield washer fluid.
    • Carry a blanket and/or extra clothing in your vehicle. Pack a water bottle and some high energy food bars in case you become stranded. Always ensure that your cell phone is fully charged prior to heading out.
    • Give yourself plenty of time. A 30-minute trip in good weather conditions may require double or triple that time in poor conditions. Warm up your vehicle so that windows are clear and you’re not looking through an “ice tunnel” in the windshield.
    • Have an exit plan. If conditions become hazardous, get off the road at the nearest exit, gas station or other safe place and wait out the storm. Let someone know where you are.
    • Be prepared to be stranded. In most cases, it’s better to stay with your vehicle. Keep a window cracked for ventilation, and make sure the exhaust system is clear of snow. Ration fuel if faced with the prospect of a long wait for rescue.
    • Beware of “snow hypnosis.” Driving and continuing to stare into onrushing snowflakes can cause a state described as the “1,000-yard stare,” when the eyes become unfocused and mental alertness wanes.
    • Take it easy! If your mind and body are telling you it feels safe at 40 mph, drive at 35 mph. Drive 5 mph below what you think or feel is safe.
    • Make gradual directional and lane changes. Signal well in advance, then slowly complete the maneuver. Extend the distance interval between yourself and the vehicle in front of you; it takes longer to stop in sloppy weather.
    • Pay heed to road conditions. Remember, condensation freezes on bridges, overpasses and shaded areas before the …read more

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    How much life insurance do I need?

    By Cincinnati Insurance

    meet-life-agent

    Your agent can use software to help you determine how much life insurance you need.

    Once you have decided to purchase life insurance, the next question to answer is how much to purchase.

    Some people select coverage based on an arbitrary amount: $100,000 or $200,000. Others purchase enough to pay off a home mortgage or other major bill. And some stick to the tried-and-true measure of 10 times salary.

    But there are other methods to consider. You can complete a fact finder/needs list or use a life insurance calculator.

    Using a fact finder ̶ something you would complete with a life insurance agent ̶ is a fancy way of saying making a list. The list would include things you would want the life insurance proceeds to cover in the event of an untimely death: car note, college tuition, income replacement, etc. Then prioritize the list based on need and importance.

    If you are computer savvy ̶ and you probably are if you are reading a blog ̶ I would recommend the life calculator on lifehappens.org. Life Happens is a life insurance educational site independent from any life insurance carrier. You can find out about the different types of life products available, for example, permanent vs. term, universal life vs. guaranteed whole life and other options. Once on the site, select the Calculator tab, then the Life Insurance Needs Calculator. By investing just 5 or 10 minutes of your time, you can receive a calculation of the amount of life insurance you need.

    Regardless of calculation method, you may be overwhelmed by the size of the need number. Don’t be. Think of it as only a starting point. Show your calculations to a life insurance agent, who can help fine tune your numbers.

    You also want to consider your budget. You never want to be insurance poor, meaning that you purchased so much insurance it caused a major change in your lifestyle. However, would eliminating one fancy coffee or unnecessary trips to the snack vending machine disturb your routine much? There’s nothing wrong with working backwards, first determining the amount that fits within your budget, then determining the coverage type and amount.

    And one final thought: any insurance is better than none. Remember that the death benefit is TAX FREE. A little gift would still go a long way for your family.

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    The premium audit: Calculating a fair price

    By Cincinnati Insurance

    calculator-and-ledger

    Insurance coverage you select now covers your business during a future term. The rates you pay for coverage are intended to reflect your business’s actual exposure to risk during that future term.

    For some lines of insurance, like workers’ compensation, general liability or garage liability, exposure is measured by your payroll and sales and other factors that can be difficult to predict precisely. What happens if you overestimate – or underestimate – future payroll, sales, subcontracting cost or other variables? How can you be sure of paying a fair price?

    Premium audit is the answer

    When insurance policies are issued, an advance premium puts coverage in force based on estimated payroll and sales. Your insurance carrier will provide for a premium audit that makes it possible to continue your protection during the policy term and adjust the premium later, if necessary, according to audit results.

    Pay only for coverage you need

    At the end of the policy term, an audit may show that the basis of premium for your policy, such as payroll or sales, was actually higher or lower than estimated. If so, protection at the appropriate level is funded by an additional premium payment when your payroll or sales are higher than estimated. Or, you receive a return premium when those factors were overestimated.

    Preparing for your audit

    Don’t worry about your audit: the professional auditors who inspect your records treat all information confidentially. With their cooperation, your normal office routines can remain undisturbed.

    You can save time and money by providing good records and arranging them to your advantage. You will need:

    • Payroll records, including your payroll journal and summary, state and federal tax reports or individual earnings cards.
    • Cash disbursements and expense records.
    • Sales journal or receipts records for all goods or products sold, rented and/or distributed as well as for all service, installation and repairs.
    • General ledger and financial statements.
    • Certificates of insurance for any subcontractors or hired truckers used during the policy term.
    • Copies of executed subcontractor agreements.

    The more accurately you estimate your risk exposures at the beginning of the policy term, the less likely the audit will reveal underpayment or overpayment. While no one can predict the future, here are a few suggestions to prepare for your audit throughout the year:

    Friendly fires: Tips to safely use a fire pit

    By Cincinnati Insurance

    fire-pit

    Use fire pits away from
    any structures.

    Fire pits and chimeneas have become very popular and are widely available for sale at garden and home stores. As you enjoy these products on a cool, fall evening, it is important to use them safely. Please keep these guidelines in mind:

    • Please check with your local municipality to determine if these devices are legal or whether a permit is required. Determine whether a cover is required for a fire pit.
    • Observe any burning bans or Red Flag warnings in your area, and comply with any ozone warnings that may be in place.
    • Place a chimenea or fire pit securely on a flat surface that is non-combustible. Do not place directly on a wooden surface.

    • Never use lighter fluid or other flammable liquids such as gasoline, diesel fuel or kerosene.
    • Burn seasoned firewood. Do not burn trash, leaves, cardboard or plywood.
    • Avoid using in windy conditions.
    • Be sure any lit fire is attended. Chimeneas and fire pits get very hot and could present a hazard to both children and pets.
    • Place the chimenea or fire pit away from other materials that could catch fire, for example, tree branches, sheds and fences.
    • Always use a chimenea or fire pit outdoors. They are not designed for indoor use. In addition to the fire hazard they present, combustion creates carbon monoxide that can cause death or injury.
    • Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose handy, just in case.
    • Dispose of ash properly. Allow wood or coals to cool completely before disposal.
    • Prevent your kids from poking or playing with the fire or from throwing things into the fire.

    The Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District in Monument, Colorado, has regulations that are typical in many communities. Its tip sheet on outdoor fireplaces offers additional information. Firesafekid.org offers additional considerations to prevent burns from outdoor fires.

    Submitted by Marty Skidmore

    Filed under: Consumer tips, Loss control, Safety tips Tagged: burn, chimenea, fire, fire pit, safety
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