Monthly Archives: February 2018

spring safety tips

Spring Safety Tips

The weather is getting warmer,  trees and plants are beginning to bud and bloom, and soon enough spring will have sprung once again. Along with better weather and beauty, spring also brings with it potential safety hazards in and around your home. It’s a good idea to observe the following safety tips and prepare your home and property accordingly for the additional risks of springtime.

Safety Tips for the Great Outdoors

  • Get a battery or crank-operated weather radio for severe spring weather like tornadoes and thunderstorms. The NOAA is still the best source for real-time weather and emergency services updates during natural disasters and storms that are prevalent in the spring.
  • Head inside when you hear thunder or see lightning. Try counting to thirty between the flash of the lightning and the sound of thunder. If you don’t make it to thirty, get to shelter quickly and remain there until at least thirty minutes after the last thunderclap.
  • Never attempt to cross flooded roads or streets on foot or in your vehicle. Even six inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet and sweep you away. If you are in your vehicle and water is rising around you, immediately get out and seek higher ground. Even large cars and trucks can be swept away by as little as two feet of rapidly moving water.
  • Keep a stock of emergency supplies like water, canned and dried food, a can opener, and other necessities handy throughout the spring in case severe storms or flooding knock out power and utilities in your area.

Safety Tips for Inside Your Home

  • Check the batteries in your smoke detectors, and remember to change them out every time Daylight Savings Time changes.
  • Sign up for a PO box at your local Post Office, and send and receive mail there to protect yourself against identity theft.
  • Ensure all your door locks are in good working order, and you should have a deadbolt on all doors with exterior access.
  • Keep shrubs, hedges, and trees trimmed and well maintained to protect sightlines on your property and eliminate places an individual could easily hide when breaking into your home.
  • Don’t leave your garage door open while working in the yard unless you can keep it in your line of sight the entire time.

Safety Tips for Vacation

  • Don’t post plans about departure and return publicly on social media before you leave, and do not post photos while you are traveling. Disable GPS features on social media apps to prevent your mobile device from advertising the fact that you are away from home, too.
  • Ask a trusted friend or neighbor to check out your home while you are away. Tell them to feel free to park in your driveway, and request that they pick up any flyers or papers that accumulate in your driveway in your absence.
  • Asking the post office to hold your mail deliveries until you return is highly recommended.
  • Turn off your garage door opener.
  • Use timers to mimic a typical lighting pattern for your daily activities inside the house.
  • Make sure your answering machine message on your landline phone does not imply that you are away for any significant amount of time.

Final Thoughts

Following these safety tips is a great way to keep you, your loved ones, and your home safe and secure during the warmer, more active months of spring. Remember to review your homeowners, car, and personal insurance annually to ensure your coverage is sufficient, and consider contacting Northeast Insurance should you require additional insurance. Let us help you protect your home and family during the spring and throughout the rest of the year.

dealing with identity theft

9 Tips For Dealing With Identity Theft

Identity theft is the term for what happens when a third party obtains your personal data and information that allows them to pose as you online. Typically, identity thieves apply for lines of credit or access your financial accounts and other sensitive information to steal as much of your money or open as many lines of credit as they can and leave you on the hook for their fraudulent activity.

Your personal data can be compromised if a financial institution is breached by hackers seeking to obtain usable identity information, and by the time breaches are discovered it may already be too late to save your credit. The good news is there are steps you can take to prevent yourself from being victimized by identity thieves. Here are 9 quick tips to protect yourself from identity theft.

1. Beware Shoulder Surfers in Public Places

At the ATM, on your phone, or even at your computer, people are on the lookout to steal personal information like passwords or PIN numbers by watching you enter them on a keypad or mobile device. Use biometric (fingerprint, facial recognition) security on your smartphone or mobile device to authorize apps that access your personal or financial data. Identity thieves often start looking for vulnerable or inattentive people in public places when choosing likely targets, so protect your information and keep your screen and keypad private.

2. Require Photo ID Verification

Don’t sign your credit cards. Write “CID” or “Ask for ID” on the signature line. It’s a small measure, but it can make all the difference in identity theft prevention if you don’t know your credit card has been stolen and someone is attempting to use it.

3. Wipe Out Old Data Storage

Selling or trading your old laptop, smartphone, or tablet? Wipe your data storage clean with an app like ShredXP to ensure that all sectors on the drive are set to 1 or 0, rendering any personal data whatsoever illegible. Identity thieves will often connect old hard drives taken from used computers to search for recoverable personal or financial information that has not been “digitally shredded”. 

Additionally, if you keep financial data on physical media like CDs, DVDs or magnetic tape backups, make sure you destroy them completely. There are specialized shredders that are designed to destroy optical storage media like CDs and DVDs as well.

4. Monitor Bank and Credit Card Statements Regularly

Check those charges and debits on your accounts. Someone may have access to your account and you may never know it until the charges start showing up. You have a limited time to dispute charges as fraudulent, so checking monthly is vital to preventing identity theft and maintaining your credit.

5. Shred Everything

Put anything with financial data on it in a crosscut paper shredder and don’t bag it up separately from regular trash. More identity thieves than you’d think go “dumpster diving” to find critical financial and personal information.

6. Encrypt Your Email and Messaging

Using end to end encryption ensures all messages you send or receive via email are invisible to any third party, up to and including government agency efforts to read your email and messaging. Hackers can’t access the contents of your email unless they somehow manage to get ahold of your private encryption key. It is an extremely effective means of preventing identity theft, and it takes minutes to configure.

7. Check Your Credit Annually

Everyone gets a free credit report once a year from the Big Three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion). Go over your credit report and verify that what’s on the report matches your records and accounts. If some unknown lines of credit or creditors show up, you may already be a victim of identity theft.

8. Always Use 2-Factor Authentication

This is a critical security measure to prevent identity theft via financial and social media sites and apps. 2-factor authentication sends a text or email to an account or number you have entered on the site every time you login from an unfamiliar location, device, or computer. If you are actually logging in, you can approve that login from your device. If not, you are now aware that your account is under attack and can shut that attacker out.

9. Keep Your Social Security Number Secure

As the defacto national ID number for millions of Americans, access to this number should be protected at all costs. Do not carry your Social Security card on your person, but keep it in a safe place where it isn’t susceptible to damage or decay. Any identity thief with your full name, home address, and even the last 4 digits of your SSN can assume your identity online and wreak havoc on your financial life.

Never use your SSN as part of a username or password either, and never give the full number via telephone or in reply to an email. If you must enter your social security number online (for example, when filing taxes or applying for financing), check to make sure the connection and site are secure by the lock symbol in the browser bar and “https://” at the beginning of the web address.

In summary, do what you can to protect yourself from identity theft, and be smart about how you protect and preserve your personal data. Use these tips to keep yourself from becoming “low-hanging fruit” for identity thieves, and remember to always protect your personal data when online and in the real world.

Have you been affected by Identity Fraud? How did you handle it? Comment below, we would love to hear your thoughts and any tips that helped you get through what can be a stressful time.