Smartphone on your wish list? Smart tips to protect your data

By Cincinnati Insurance

Smartphones can be great tools,  but be aware of privacy concerns.

Smartphones can be great tools,
but be aware of privacy concerns.

If you are among the millions unwrapping a slick new smartphone this holiday season, you’ll want to take steps to protect it and your privacy.

The Federal Communications Commission reports that more than half of all Americans have smartphones, and 20 percent have been the victims of mobile cybercrime. The FCC warns that mobile security threats have increased more than 350 percent since 2010.

Even if this is not your first smartphone, you’ll want to follow these safety tips from the FCC:

  • Set PINs and passwords
  • Do not modify or alter your smartphone’s security settings
  • Back up and secure your data
  • Install apps ONLY from trusted sources
  • Understand app permissions before accepting them
  • Install security apps that enable remote location and wiping
  • Accept updates and patches to your smartphone’s software
  • Be smart on open Wi-Fi networks; take extra care to secure your data
  • Report a stolen smartphone to your wireless provider and to local law enforcement

Many homeowner policies would cover a lost or stolen smartphone, but your policy deductible may be higher than the value of the device. Some wireless providers offer extended warranty programs that cover loss or theft as well as malfunction. Check with your insurance agent or cell carrier for additional information.

Before donating, reselling or recycling your old smartphone, follow these precautions recommended by the Federal Trade Commission:

  1. Perform a hard reset, sometimes called a factory reset. You may be able to save or transfer the information to your new device before deleting data from your old one. For detailed instructions on how to wipe your old phone, check your owner’s manual or the website of your mobile provider or the device manufacturer.
  2. Remove or erase SIM cards and SD cards as well as the device’s internal memory. If you’re keeping the same phone number, ask the mobile provider about transferring your SIM card and SD cards to the new device. These cards may contain and retain private information about you and your contacts.

Once you’ve deleted your personal information, double-check your phone to make sure the following additional information has been deleted. Check your device’s:

  • Phone book
  • Phone logs
  • Voice mails
  • Sent and received emails and text messages
  • Downloads and other folders
  • Search histories
  • Personal photos
  • Stored apps and associated data, such as passwords

Finally, to prevent unwanted marketing calls on your new phone, you may want to list your number on the …read more

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’Tis the season for giving…and insuring

By cinfin

Remember to add valuable gifts to your insurance policy.

Remember to add valuable
gifts to your insurance policy.

The holidays provide us with good reasons for presenting special – and often valuable – gifts to our loved ones. In the excitement of surprising someone with a gift that makes a big impression, remember that properly insuring expensive gifts can bring you peace and joy long after the holiday season is over. Follow these tips for insuring new jewelry and valuables:

  • Consider taking advantage of a store’s or manufacturer’s warranties or guarantees, but don’t mistake them for insurance. For example, some major jewelry chains offer limited guarantees on gemstone and diamond replacement or repairs.

This is a wonderful perk so long as the store is in business and you comply with regular inspections and the terms of the guarantee agreement. But in the event that your jewelry is lost or stolen, it is unlikely that the store will be able to help you. Talk with your insurance agent about your valuables and the best options to protect them.

  • Be sure to insure your expensive purchases to value, not just what you paid for them. Door buster specials during the holiday season may enable you to get a remarkable price on an item, but if you only insure for the price paid, you may not be able to get that same deal if you have to replace it later. The value of precious metals and gemstones fluctuates, so getting an appraisal can help you and your agent determine the appropriate amount of insurance. (And, don’t hesitate to ask your jeweler to provide an appraisal gratis as a way to close the deal. It never hurts to ask, and the cost of an appraisal may be worth it to the jeweler to make the sale.)
  • Take a photo of new, valuable items, and have it ready – along with any copies of the receipt, serial number, appraisal or certificate – when you talk to your agent about the right coverage for your items.
  • Get to know your policy’s limits. Coverage for expensive electronics differs from the protection for a diamond bracelet. Your agent can help you understand your policy and customize it to make sure it protects all of your valuables, whether the item is something you watch, listen to or wear.
  • It’s natural to want to bask in the warm feelings generated by giving someone special a present that wows, so consider insuring the gift as …read more

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  • Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow…

    By cinfin


    Allowing faucets to drip
    can prevent pipes from freezing.

    Did you know that letting your most weather-susceptible faucets drip during periods of extreme cold can keep your water pipes from freezing? Don’t let cold weather ice your pipes this winter!

    Because liquid expands as it freezes, pipes full of water are vulnerable, and those outdoors or running against exterior walls are especially susceptible. With a few preventive steps, you can save the expense and bother of burst pipes and water damage:

    • Insulate around pipes exposed to cold air by wrapping them with professionally approved heat tapes or other UL- listed insulation products.
    • Remove, drain and store outdoor hoses, and close inside valves that supply outdoor lines. Leave the outside valve open during winter months so that remaining water can expand without breaking.
    • Know the location of your shut-off valve for the water supply and consider shutting it down if you’re going to be away from your home or your business for an extended period of time.
    • If your garage has water supply lines, keep garage doors closed. Even a few degrees of warmth can make a difference.
    • When temperatures are very low, opening kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors gives indoor plumbing access to warmer air. Just be sure to remove any chemicals or cleaners you may store in those areas; these substances may be hazardous to children or pets.
    • If you travel for the holidays, keep your thermostat at 55 degrees F to help keep your pipes warm enough to prevent freezing.

    You can find additional information about keeping your home safe from frozen pipes and what to do in an emergency through the American Red Cross. These simple tips will help keep your pipes secure this winter season and allow you to focus your attention on staying warm!

    Submitted by Kurt Hamler

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    A gift of prevention keeps holidays memorable

    By Cincinnati Insurance


    Keep your holiday merry. Be cautious with
    candles, Christmas lights and fireplaces,

    You want your holidays to be memorable, but for the right reasons. Help ensure your holiday is safe and happy by observing these simple – but essential – tips to help safeguard your loved ones and belongings.

    Celebrate with a live tree – safely

    • Choose the right tree! Healthy trees have green needles that do not fall off easily and supple, not brittle, branches.

    • Water your tree daily, and keep your tree indoors for no more than two and a half weeks.
    • Remove the tree immediately if it stops taking water or if needles become brittle or begin to drop.

    Light the way to a careful holiday

    • Test each strand of holiday lights in an outlet before hanging.
    • Inspect strands for frayed wire and bulbs that are cracked, broken or missing.
    • Touch each strand to be sure the wire and bulbs are not heating up. Discard any warm strands.

    Watch and tend to open flames

    • Decorate trees only with ornaments and electric lights, avoiding candles.
    • Display candles away from curtains, paper and other combustible items and pets.
    • Always extinguish candles when you leave the room, and monitor and trim wicks as you enjoy the candles’ warmth and aroma.
    • Use a dish or container designed to catch melted wax.
    • Always lock up candles, matches and lighters to protect children.

    Maintain your fireplace and smoke detectors

    • Before you get toasty in front of a fire, have your fireplace and chimney professionally cleaned.
    • Use only aged, hard firewood to start and fuel your fire. Wrapping paper and tree needles and branches burn unpredictably and belong in the trash.
    • Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, replacing batteries regularly.

    While the holiday rush may keep you busy, taking the time to protect your family and home from fire is a valuable investment, ensuring more happy occasions for years to come.

    Submitted by Kurt Hamler

    Filed under: Consumer tips, Loss control, Safety tips Tagged: candle, fire, holiday, light, safety, tree
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    Don’t be surprised by the cost to rebuild your home

    By Cincinnati Insurance


    An inspection can help identify special features in your home.

    Many people don’t know where to start to estimate home value when purchasing homeowner insurance. For some, the first instinct may be to insure the home based on mortgage value. Others may look at real estate market value, property tax basis or some other factor. But any of these values could be far less than the actual cost to rebuild, and that is the key consideration when buying insurance to protect against a loss.

    There is no way to guarantee the cost to reconstruct your home in the event of a loss at some future date, but there are a couple of tools that can point you in the right direction.

    Estimator ̶ Many insurance agents run your home through estimating software designed to consider specific details of your home, along with construction costs in your community. For best results, list as many individual details of your home as possible. Estimators often have built-in defaults – such as the architectural style or quality of construction – that can have a huge impact on the home’s value. Make sure these items are correctly entered:

    • square footage
    • architectural style
    • year of construction
    • type of construction (frame vs. brick)

    Remember to include any special features, such as custom cabinetry or a theater room. We discussed some of these items in our Aug. 15 blog, 7 factors to help nail down your home’s reconstruction cost.

    Inspection ̶ If you have a custom home with features that may not be adequately addressed by the estimator software, your insurance company may offer to send a professional inspector to your house to determine the reconstruction cost. The inspector usually measures the square footage, takes inside and outside photos and records the details of each room.

    Once you determine your home’s correct insurance value, many insurers can automatically increase the coverage amount each year based on local inflation factors. Your homeowner policy may have other coverage options to help make sure you have enough insurance to rebuild after a loss. One option covers your home for an additional amount, usually a percentage, over the amount listed on your policy. Another option covers you for the full amount of rebuilding your home, regardless of the amount you purchased. These options may not be available from all insurers, so check with your local independent agent to discuss the best ways to ensure adequate coverage …read more

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    Of cars, choices, consumption and crashes

    By Cincinnati Insurance

    December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, and traffic safety organizations around the country are stepping up advertising to remind citizens of the hazards of drinking and driving.

    Learn more about alcohol-impaired driving

    In 2011, a person died every 53 minutes from a motor vehicle crash that involved an alcohol-impaired driver, totaling 9,878 deaths in the United States. These preventable accidents cost each adult in the United States approximately $500 per year for a total of $132 billion, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults drove impaired 112 million times in 2010 – almost 300,000 incidents each day. In 2011, 226 children were killed in drunken driving accidents, and over half of those children were riding in the vehicle with the drunken driver.

    Who has the highest risk?

    • Young people:
      • Among all drivers involved in fatal crashes with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than the legal limit of .08%, one out of three were between 21 and 41 years old.
      • Motorcyclists:
        • Twenty-eight percent of motorcyclists killed in fatal accidents in 2010 had a BAC of .08% or higher.
        • Drivers with prior convictions for driving while impaired:
          • Repeat offenders account for approximately one-third of all drunken driving arrests, crashes, injuries and deaths.

    Make responsible choices to prevent injuries and death

    Injuries and death caused by drunken driving can be prevented and everyone can do their part to stay safe. Ways to decrease your chances of being in an alcohol-impaired crash include:

    • Designating a sober driver before you begin to drink
    • If you don’t have a designated driver, take a cab or public transportation
    • Don’t let your friends drive impaired – take away their keys

    When you get behind the wheel of a car after consuming alcoholic beverages, you are a danger to yourself and others on the road. Be responsible for your actions and encourage others to do the same.

    Submitted by Stephanie Borg

    Filed under:
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