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Make your gift count: Tips for giving to charity

By Don Doyle, Jr.

Make your gift count: Tips for giving to charity

Giving to a charity should not be difficult. Unfortunately, it can be. It is estimated that charity fraud exceeds $20 billion each year…yes, BILLION! What can you do to ensure your charitable gift is going to a legitimate charity and being used most effectively? Here are some tips:

  1. Do your homework. There are reputable and independent charity rating organizations you can check to verify the legitimacy of a charity and where your charitable dollars will go, including:

    NOTE: Many legitimate charities – especially local charities – may be too small to be tracked by these services. Read on for additional tips to help your research.

  2. Give to groups you know. You remember the sage advice of your parents when you were young, “Don’t talk to strangers.” That same advice applies to your charitable giving – don’t give to strangers. When you know the charity you are giving to, you can have confidence in the organization and its cause.
  3. Review the charity’s expenses. This is a difficult one, but as a guide, efficient charitable organizations will spend less than 35 percent of their donations on expenses (such as fundraising and payroll for their staff).
  4. Give your time. Volunteer! One of the best ways to know how your money will be used by an organization is to donate your time. You will find out how well managed the organization is and have a direct understanding of the impact on the desired cause.
  5. Protect your privacy. Do not give personal information or credit card information over the phone, by email or to door-to-door solicitors. Request the information be sent to you so you can verify the recipient’s reputation.
  6. Be aware of signs of a scam:
    • High pressure sales tactics that press you for immediate donations
    • Refusal to provide proof that your contribution is tax deductible
    • Lack of details on the mission of the charity
    • A name of the charity that sounds like a well-known charity, but is spelled slightly differently
    • Offer of prize entries in exchange for your donation
  7. Do not give cash! While there are a few well-known, reputable, charities that collect via kettles around the holiday season, it is best …read more

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Don’t let unwanted guests spoil your get-together

By Cincinnati Insurance

Don't let unwanted guests spoil your get-together

Family gatherings often mean plenty of home-cooked food. If you host an event or just take a dish to share, make sure you are not bringing along a foodborne illness. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention infographic has tips and resources to make sure your food is safe and your guests stay healthy.

PDF version of the infographic

MORE INFORMATION

Conquer your summer cookout

Don’t let foodborne illness be unwanted guest at your BBQ

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Weathering the storm in an uncertain market

By Cincinnati Life

Weathering the storm in an uncertain market

An annuity can offer diversity as part of a complete investment plan.

Tired of watching the stock market and seeing the value of your investments fluctuate on a daily basis? Consider purchasing a deferred or immediate annuity to protect and grow your savings into the future.

An annuity is a contract with an insurer that provides an income for life, a specified number of years, or a combination of the two. Annuities can offer diversity and safety when part of a holistic investment plan and can protect your principal and interest earned.

Before you purchase an annuity, consult with your legal, tax, investment and insurance advisers, just as you would before making any changes in your investment plan. Understand the differences between the types of annuities available.

DEFERRED ANNUITIES

Deferred annuities offer several advantages, including a guaranteed minimum interest rate for the life of the contract, tax-deferred growth, no up-front sales charges or fees and flexible withdrawal options. Another advantage is that if you die with remaining funds, a typical annuity bypasses probate and passes directly to your named beneficiary. Flexible payout options allow you to choose a monthly payment for the rest of your life; for a specific time period (called period certain); as joint payouts that can pay a survivor after your death; or a combination.

IMMEDIATE ANNUITIES

Immediate annuities require an upfront lump-sum payment for a guaranteed lifetime income amount. These payouts can be arranged to go solely to the owner or can have a provision to pay for a specified period of time or to another person. The important thing to remember with a life-only payout is that when you die, no further payments are made. When purchasing an immediate annuity, consider your life expectancy and the necessity of money being passed along to heirs if an unforeseen death occurs.

No matter if you choose a deferred or immediate annuity, guarantees of interest rates, income or principal are the main advantages to purchasing this type of investment. Safety and peace of mind go hand-in-hand with incorporating an annuity into an investment portfolio.

RELATED INFORMATION

Fixed annuities

Contact your local independent insurance agent for more information about annuities and how they might fit into your investment strategy. Neither The Cincinnati Life Insurance Company nor its affiliates or representatives offer tax or legal advice. Consult with your tax adviser or attorney about your specific situation.

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Chip credit cards: Do they decrease fraud?

By Matt Johnson

Chip credit cards: Do they decrease fraud?

Guard your credit cards, even if they use microchips.

Banking cards with microchip technology are designed to protect against fraudulent duplication of magnetic strip cards. However, they do not solve all potential problems confronting consumers. It still pays to be cautious with your credit card information.

Unfortunately, as security measures increase, criminals find new ways to steal information. Chip cards can be read over a short distance using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. With the right equipment, a criminal could steal your data while standing next to you, without your knowledge. For that reason, consider using a protective sleeve or RFID-blocking wallet.

Although chip cards – whether used with a PIN or signature – help reduce some security threats, online and phone purchases with stolen card information remain an issue for the consumer. Continue to take the same security precautions with chipped cards that should be taken with magnetic strip cards:

  • Shop only on secured sites – look for the https in the address line
  • Guard your card information closely
  • Check statements for suspicious activity
  • Think twice before giving your information over the phone; make sure you’re talking to a legitimate merchant representative
  • Consider alternative payment methods, such as having merchandise delivered to a store where you can pay in person
  • Carry your cards separately from your wallet. It can minimize your losses if someone steals your wallet or purse. And carry only the card you need for that outing.
  • During a transaction, keep your eye on your card. Make sure you get it back before you walk away.
  • Never sign a blank receipt. Draw a line through any blank spaces above the total.
  • Report any questionable charges to the card issuer.
  • Notify your card issuer if your address changes or if you will be traveling.
  • Don’t write your account number on the outside of an envelope.

Continue to stay overly protective of your credit card information. It is still vulnerable.

MORE INFORMATION

Federal Trade Commission article: Protecting against credit card fraud

StaySafeOnline.org: Online shopping safety tips

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Winterize your driving: It’s more than mechanics

By Michael Harrold

Winterize your driving: It's more than mechanics

It’s as important to prepare yourself for winter driving as it is to prepare your car.

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 …read more

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Play it safe during your hotel stay

By Gina Spradling

Play it safe during your hotel stay

Don’t keep your key card in an envelope that identifies the room or any personal information.

Whether you travel for business or leisure, consider increasing your safety awareness when you stay in a hotel.

BEFORE YOUR TRIP
  • While most top properties are in safe areas, you may want to research before booking a room in an unfamiliar city or neighborhood to confirm. Call the community resource officer in the police jurisdiction responsible for the area where the hotel is located, or use free online research sites such as the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting tools or CrimeReports.com
  • Be careful about sharing your travel plans on social media. Make sure your settings are private; avoid making public posts to protect yourself while you are traveling and your home is unoccupied.
  • Choose a hotel that is adequately protected from fire. Check the U.S. Fire Administration’s Hotel-Motel National Master List to find hotels that have:
    • At least one single-station and hard-wired smoke alarm in each guest room
    • An automatic fire sprinkler system in each guest room if the building has four or more stories. More information about hotel fire safety is available in our blog, Planning a hotel or motel stay? Think about fire safety.
    • Pack a flashlight that you can keep on the hotel nightstand in case you need to escape in the dark.
  • Take only those valuables that you will absolutely need for the trip.
UPON CHECK-IN
  • Limit the number of times you say your name and room number during the check-in process. At any given time, a number of people could be within earshot of the front desk.
  • Do not keep your room key in the envelope provided at check-in. Securely discard the envelope, which may contain identifying information, such as room number and last name.
  • Keep a close eye on your luggage while in the lobby.
  • Upon entering your guest room, verify that all sliding glass doors, windows and connecting room doors are locked and secure.
  • Inspect mattresses for bedbugs. Check the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s article on How to Find Bed Bugs to learn how to inspect a mattress and accurately identify a bedbug infestation.
DURING YOUR STAY

Reducing liquor liability before the first drop is poured

By Bill Lecky

Reducing liquor liability before the first drop is poured

Training employees in safe alcohol service is one step a business can take to reduce risk.

Failing to act responsibly when serving alcohol could be catastrophic for your business. You could be held accountable for any death, injury or damages caused by an intoxicated patron, resulting in expensive civil or criminal litigation, fines, increased insurance rates, loss of your liquor license – even the loss of your business. Safeguards can reduce the risk.

Consider that every two minutes a person is injured in a drunken driving accident, and driving while intoxicated cost the United States $132 billion in 2011, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In 2014, alcohol-impaired crashes accounted for nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Golf courses, hotels, restaurants, craft breweries and other hospitality-related service businesses are especially vulnerable.

Educate your employees by taking these steps to jumpstart this very important conversation:

  • Train your employees in safe alcohol service. Responsible drinking begins with responsible service. Enroll your bartenders, servers and staff in an alcohol service certification program.
  • Always card everyone. No matter how old your patrons appear to be, everyone should present their IDs if they look 40 years old or younger. You never want to risk inadvertently serving a minor.
  • Create official protocol for handling inebriated guests. This gives, your employees the knowledge and confidence to respond to difficult situations in a consistent manner.
  • Develop a call-a-cab program. Establish clear policies about when to give a restaurant, bar, or hotel customer an alternative to get home safely. There are many ways to establish such a program, and it is a business decision; some restaurants, bars and hotels may already have an arrangement with a local cab company.
  • Don’t give away free drinks. This encourages overdrinking. Instead, try giving away free appetizers that will help slow the rate of alcohol absorption.

While avoiding liquor liability entirely may not be possible, having a plan in place to control your exposure can help protect your business, employees, patrons and the public.

MORE INFORMATION

MADD 5th Anniversary Report to the Nation, 2011 (optional registration to read the report)

“The Economic and Societal Impact Of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, May 2014, DOT HS 812 013.

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What to put in your winter weather safety kit

By Troy Dohmeyer

What to put in your winter weather safety kit

Whether we like it or not, winter weather is inevitable in many areas of the country.

When a winter storm hits, you and your family may need to remain indoors for several days. A winter weather safety kit is an essential element in preparing yourself, your family and your property for a winter storm.

The contents of a winter weather safety kit should be placed into easily accessible storage bins that are transportable. Also consider keeping an emergency kit in your car for times when you may get stranded in bad weather.

AT HOME
  • enough water to last every member of your family at least three days (one gallon per person per day)
  • a three-day supply of dried goods, canned goods, energy bars and other foodstuffs that do not require cooking for each person (don’t forget your pets!)
  • first aid materials, including prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, eye wash kit, bandages, latex gloves and rubbing alcohol; the Red Cross has additional suggestions for items to keep in your first aid kit
  • gasoline or diesel fuel to operate a generator or portable heating device (Be sure to follow your owner’s manual for safe operating guidelines and proper fuel use, and remember to store fuel safely to avoid risks from fire or fumes.)
  • flashlights and extra batteries
  • battery- or crank-operated radio to listen to weather updates and notifications; find National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) station listings near you
IN YOUR CAR
  • blankets and extra clothing to avoid frostbite and hypothermia
  • flashlights and extra batteries
  • salt or sand to help prevent falls when moving about outside
  • snow shovels
AT YOUR BUSINESS

Create an emergency plan, and train all employees on procedures.

  • consider stocking blankets and urging employees to keep extra clothing to avoid frostbite and hypothermia if there is a chance they could be stranded for a period of time
  • flashlights and extra batteries
  • a first aid kit
  • salt or sand to help prevent falls when moving about outside
  • snow shovels
  • items on the Small Business Administration’s checklist for businesses

The Department of Homeland Security also offers tips for winter emergencies, including a checklist to help you decide whether it is safe to travel.

More information:

Prep your car for travel in winter weather

Snow can be hazardous to your health

Never too early to prepare for that blizzard

Lights out: Preparing for extended power outages

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of …read more

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