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Categories : Videos EN ESPANOL
(SFGATE.COM) These days, kids and even many adults think nothing of telling the world – or at least their 795 closest friends – that they’re not at home by posting their whereabouts or vacation plans on Twitter, Facebook or other social media.
Israel Hyman, an Arizona video editor who says he has close to 2,000 people following him on Twitter and also uses Facebook “a lot,” recently was burglarized while he was in Kansas City.
“We had mentioned that we were going out of town for an extended period and even Twittered about the trip as we drove for three days,” he told an Arizona television station. While he was gone, video-editing equipment was stolen from his home. Although he is not sure his tweeting tipped off the burglars, he says he will be more careful in the future about what he shares online.
“People just don’t realize the kind of information they give out in social-networking sites can be used on its own or with other information to commit identity theft and other fraudulent activity,” says Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
Most social-networking operations let users restrict access to people they approve. But many people fail to take this important step, especially if they are seeking a wide audience or trying to look ultra-popular.
Others assume they are safe because they restrict access to the kind of friends they would share their vacation plans with in person. What they forget is that these friends may share that information. “There is nothing to stop them from showing it to someone else or doing a screen capture and sending it on to somebody,” Stephens says.
According to the British government Web site Get Safe Online, 13 percent of social-network users report posting friends’ pictures without their consent and 7 percent report posting friends’ contact information without consent. Those most likely to give away their friends’ information are 18- to 24-year-olds.
Know your friends
If your kids tell you they are networking only with “friends,” beware. “What an adult thinks of as a friend and what a friend is in social media are two different things,” says Peter Spicer, communications manager with Chubb Personal Insurance.
Spicer says parents should remind their kids “not to post the fact that we are going on vacation. That’s a heads-up to criminals.” Tell them it’s OK to post pictures and talk about the trip after they’re home.
Joanne McNabb, chief of the California Office of Privacy Protection, says she hasn’t received any complaints from people who think they were robbed because they disclosed their whereabouts on social networks. But, she says, “It’s a risk in the online world just like in the offline world.”
Robbers have long been known to scour the newspaper for death or wedding announcements and target homes when families are likely to be at the funeral or on a honeymoon.
“It’s not that these Web 2.0 things are creating new crimes. They are providing some new vectors or venues for the crimes that can happen anyway,” McNabb says.
While you’re away
Stephens says vacationers also need to protect themselves against identity fraud when they’re away from home.
His Web site, www.privacyrights.org, offers these tips for travelers:
– Photocopy or make a list of the contents of your wallet. Keep it in a locked location at your hotel or with a trusted person at home whom you can contact if your wallet is lost or stolen.
– Don’t carry unnecessary credit cards, your Social Security card or other documents that could compromise your identity if lost or stolen. If you have a Medicare card, make a photocopy without the last four digits of your Social Security number.
– Carry two credit cards. If you carry only one and it is deactivated because of suspected fraud or the magnetic strip gets damaged, you’ll be in trouble until it is replaced.
– Use traveler’s checks or credit cards. Leave your checkbook in a secure locked place at home. Do not use debit cards (check cards). This reduces your vulnerability to having your checking account emptied while you are on vacation.
– When dining in a restaurant, try to keep an eye on your credit card. If the server removes your card from sight, he may be able to create a “clone” by using a portable card skimmer that will copy the information from the card’s magnetic strip.
– If you are bringing your laptop, be careful when using it to access online banking or other password-protected services from Wi-Fi networks. Be sure to use Wi-Fi hotspots that are secure. For Wi-Fi tips, see links.sfgate.com/ZHHR.
– Don’t access sensitive information from a cybercafe or other public computer because keyloggers (software that can track your keystrokes) may be tracking you.
– Don’t post your vacation plans or whereabouts on social-networking sites until you return.
– Ask the post office to hold your mail. Mail piling up in an unlocked box indicates to burglars that you are not home and puts you at risk for identity theft.
– Suspend (but please don’t cancel) your newspaper subscription.
– Ask a trusted neighbor to report suspicious activity around your house to the police and remove any free newspapers that pile up in your yard.
– Park a car in the driveway.
– Set your lights, TV or radio on a timer, preferably one that switches on and off at varying times.
– Have package deliveries sent to your office or make sure they won’t be left on your doorstep.
– Unplug toasters and other appliances; shut off the water to your washing machine.
– Don’t leave a voice-mail message saying you are out of town or your return date.
– If you must leave an out-of-office reply on your e-mail, don’t say you are on vacation or when you will return.
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Tags: ARIZONA INSURANCE, AUTO INSURANCE, Cristofer Pereyra, FARMERS INSURANCE, HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE, IDENTITY THEFT, PHOENIX INSURANCE, THE INSURANCE EXPERT
Categories : Automobile, Claims, Homeowners, INSURANCE NEWS, Personal Insurance, Umbrella
Ken Thomas (Forbes.com) Recent crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicate that even a minor accident in a minicar can require thousands of dollars to repair. On June 10 the institute reported that repairing damage to microcars in crashes of speeds as low as three to six miles per hour could cost from $474 to $3,701. The crash tests were conducted on the front and back bumpers and the front and rear corners of seven 2009 model year minicars. These cars have become more popular as a result of rising fuel costs in recent years. The Kia Rio sustained the most damage among the minicars, requiring $3,701 to repair the full front bumper. In the four tests the cost of repairing the Rio averaged $2,705. Of the seven vehicles, the Smart fortwo had the lowest average repair cost of $899.
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Categories : Automobile, Claims, INSURANCE NEWS, Personal Insurance
(Claims Magazine) A woman parked her late-model car just feet from the stormy Gulf Coast waters by Gulfport, Miss. as Hurricane Gustav closed in. She jumped into a waiting vehicle and zoomed off, leaving her car to the mercy of the raging wind and surging ocean.
Paula Parent allegedly sunk her 2005 Chevy Trailblazer in Lake Erie for insurance money in June 2008. According to investigators, the keys were still in the ignition, and a rock was tied to the gas pedal. The Buffalo-area woman later admitted that she wanted to buy a vehicle with better mileage.
Helen Marler, a Yuba County, Calif. resident, torched her Jeep Liberty to escape the $ 600 monthly payments, while her husband plunked his Nissan Titan into a river to collect a $ 29,000 insurance policy, prosecutors say.
As America’s economy sinks deeper into a trough, growing numbers of anxious drivers are illegally dumping unwanted vehicles in the hope that insurance payouts will help relieve the financial misery. Gas prices have surged, and credit has been perhaps all too readily extended. The nation’s sudden financial downturn has created a perfect storm of economic stress. People cannot afford vehicles that have suddenly grown too expensive, and their personal finances take a beating. Other economy-driven problems, such as untenable mortgages, may lead some to seek insurance money to ease the pinch.
Parting Is Sweet Sorrow
So-called vehicle give-ups have long been a common insurance crime. When a vehicle becomes too expensive or burdensome, a driver may torch it, drown it in a lake or a river, or simply abandon it in a remote location. The driver then tells the insurer that someone stole the doomed vehicle, demanding an insurance payout. Unfortunately, rapidly spreading warning signals suggest that this scheme may be spreading.
“Spikes in people dumping their vehicles are the norm in an economic downturn,” said Douglas Ashbridge, director of special investigations for Farmers Insurance Group. “The vehicles are easy to report stolen, and the fraud is more difficult to verify. It’s a way out, a way to get out from under vehicle payments and let the insurance company pay off the loan.”
The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud (CAIF) investigated nearly a dozen locales around the U.S. in the late summer and early fall of 2008. The data gathered are usually anecdotal and suggestive but do reveal warning signals. As Ashbridge put it, “We’re seeing more give-ups pretty much across the board.”
In New York, arrests for owner give-ups have soared 25 percent in 2008 compared to the previous year, according to the state’s insurance department. The department logged 101 busts for all of 2007, but had recorded 93 cases by August 2008. Most of the busts happened in New York City, including nearly two dozen that involved gas-gobbling SUVs.
“Owners are giving up their vehicles due to high leases, the economy, and prices of gasoline,” says Frank Orlando, head of the New York Fraud Bureau. “Some are high-end vehicles that are costly to maintain.” This problem persists in other states as well. For instance, in New Jersey, suspected vehicle arsons have risen steadily. The state fire marshal recorded 59 possible torchings in 2004; 76 in 2005; and 94 in 2007. “Fraud investigators noticed a spike in suspected auto give-ups this past summer, though firm statistics still are being compiled,” says John Butchko, special assistant with the state attorney general’s office. “We’re seeing the troubling signs of an increase in suspicious claims, which have especially been trending toward the larger, low-mileage vehicles.”
In Ohio, the state fire marshal recorded 3,168 vehicle arsons last year, which represented a 10 percent increase from the 2,872 reported in 2006. According to Columbus’ arson division, vehicle fires rose from 140 in 2005 to 202 in 2006, the year the subprime mortgage crisis first began exploding.
“I’m sure more give-ups are coming,” says Michelle Brugh, head of Ohio’s Insurance Fraud Bureau. “I wouldn’t be surprised, so we’re taking a proactive approach.”
In Mississippi, police have unearthed dozens of vehicles suspiciously abandoned on piers, beaches, and other places near seashores, where surging waters and high winds from Hurricane Gustav could easily wreck them. In California, the state fraud bureau reported that insurers referred 40 percent more suspected give-ups to the state’s insurance department during the 2008 fiscal year — which ended June 30, 2008 — than the previous year. California also had a jarring 5.4 percent unemployment rate in 2007, according to federal figures. In addition, RealtyTrac reports that the state ranked second in the nation for foreclosures through August 2008.
Cases in San Bernardino County and San Joaquin Valley also have increased in recent months, according to news reports. In Fresno County, prosecutors charge that 12 people ran an insurance fraud ring that burned vehicles for clients.
Actual arrests, however, have remained fairly steady statewide, though investigations often are lengthy and could yield more arrests later, said Dale Banda, former head of the state fraud bureau, who retired this fall.
Meanwhile, mixed messages are flowing from Florida. Recorded vehicle fires have dropped, according to the state fire marshal. Vehicle give-ups also have decreased slightly, according to the state fraud division’s Maj. Jack Kelley. However, local police in Miami also recently told reporters that give-ups were rising in their city. State Farm said it has noticed a statewide uptick.
“We’ve seen a substantial increase in vehicle fires in Florida and New York,” said Dennis Schulkins, claim consultant with State Farm’s investigative unit. “How much you can attribute to arsons based on the economy is unclear. Clearly, when there’s an economic downturn, you’ll see an increase in opportunistic fraud. I think that’s the situation we’re in now.”
Utah’s Fraud Bureau, which normally has a caseload of one or two suspected give-ups, is now investigating 30 cases, said Joe Christensen, head of the state fraud bureau. The troubled economy, along with a new state rule requiring insurers to report cases, may account for the spike, he said.
The Arkansas Fraud Bureau is seeing similar trends. It normally investigates a few suspected give-ups each year but logged 18 cases in July and August this past year, including three arsons, according to Cory Cox, director of the unit.
In Nevada, about one in every four cases investigated by an auto-theft task force covering the Las Vegas metro region involved suspected owner give-ups.
“Those are picking up,” said Las Vegas Police Lt. Robert DuVall, who is on the city’s task force. “The national average is about 18 to 20 percent. In my professional opinion, we’re a little higher than the national average. We’re seeing more of it as a result of the economy.”
Coincidentally or not, the unemployment rate in the Las Vegas area stood at 7.1 percent through August 2008, which was among the worst rates for metro areas in the U.S.
Lastly, in South Carolina, a survey of insurers conducted by the South Carolina News Service indicated that suspected arson schemes of all kinds — including vehicle torchings — rose as much as 200 percent from 2006 to 2007. Many dumped vehicles around the United States are gas-inhaling SUVs, investigators say. Overall, SUV resale values have plunged 50 percent in the last year, which is triple the normal depreciation, according to Kelley Blue Book prices. Lured by easy credit, drivers often owe more on their loans than their SUVs are worth in trade-in value.
In fact, the environment for a yet another SUV give-up spike may already be emerging. SUV sales are firming up, thanks to recent drops in gas prices as well as sales incentives averaging around $ 6,000 as of August 2008. Are yet more overeager drivers buying more vehicle than they can afford? How many will want to unload their SUVs if the economy keeps tanking or gas prices skyrocket again? Only time will tell, but preparation and vigilance can help mitigate the problem.
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Categories : Automobile, Claims, INSURANCE NEWS, Personal Insurance
Dear friends & colleagues:
A lot of us have plans to drive out of town for the holidays, please keep this tips in mind when preparing your vehicle for the trip. Let’s have a safe holiday season.
Farmers Insurance Group® Survey Shows 14% of those Surveyed Never Check Their Tire Pressure
— While most vehicle owners provide regular maintenance to their cars’ engines, batteries and other under-the-hood parts, a Farmers Insurance Group® survey shows that many drivers ignore one of the most important safety features on their cars: their tires.
In a national survey of 1,001 individuals, more than 29 percent of the respondents said they do not check the treads on their tires more than once a year, nor do they have their wheels aligned and tires balanced more than once every two years.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tire failure and blowouts contribute to approximately 414 deaths and 10,275 non-fatal injuries each year. Under inflated tires are one of the leading causes of tire failure, and since tires may naturally lose air over time, maintaining tire pressure is considered integral to tire safety.
“It only takes about five minutes to check the safety of your tires,” said Farmers spokesperson Jeffrey C. Beyer, chief communications officer & senior vice president. “By doing so, you can reduce the risk of a tire failure accident, increase the life of your tires, improve your car’s handling and even save money on fuel.”
In the survey, nearly one fourth (24 percent) said they do not check their tire pressure more than once a year, and 14 percent admitted they never check their tire pressure.
Furthermore, one-third (33.3 percent) of those polled said they do not even keep a tire pressure gauge in their vehicle.
“You can’t usually tell if your tires are properly inflated just by looking, kicking or pressing on the tire,” Farmers spokesperson Beyer said. “It’s a good safety practice to keep a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle at all times.”
To get an accurate reading, measure tire pressure when the tires are cold; that is, when the vehicle hasn’t been driven for at least three hours. Even driving one mile can heat up the tires, making an accurate measurement difficult.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tires should be replaced when the tread wears down to 1/16 of an inch, which can be easily measured using a Lincoln penny. Insert the penny so that Lincoln’s head is pointing toward the tread. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace the tire.
Farmers Insurance recommends the following tire safety checklist:
- Keep a tire gauge in each vehicle and make sure tire valves have valve caps.
- Check tire pressure at least once a month, including the spare. Always fill tires to the pounds per square inch (PSI) number recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
- Inspect tires for uneven wear patterns on the treads, as well as for cracks or other signs of wear or trauma. Also, check for stones, glass, metal or other objects that may be wedged in the tread.
- Check tire pressure before going on long trips. Do not “bleed” or reduce air pressure when tires are hot — it is normal for pressures to build up while driving.
- Make sure the wheels are aligned and the tires are properly balanced. Check your owner’s manual for information on how often your tires should be rotated and the best pattern for rotation.
- Old, worn tires can cause accidents. Replace any tires that have been damaged or that have badly-worn tread.
- Do not overload a vehicle. Check the tire information placard or owner’s manual for the maximum recommended load for the vehicle.
- When towing a trailer, remember that some of the weight of the loaded trailer is transferred to the towing vehicle.
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Categories : Automobile
John Weiss. McClatchy – Tribune Business News. 2008/11/19. Fred Richardson and Bill Burk are already seeing signs of increased deer movement. But they’re not talking about hunting. Richardson owns Richardson Auto Body in Lake City and Burk owns Chatfield Auto Body. They say they are already seeing vehicles come in banged up, dented or wrecked because the drivers hit a deer. Michelle Gappa, on the other hand, is an agency producer for Lynn Broadwater’s Farmers Insurance Co. in Rochester. The big rush of claims is still to come, she said. Deer are in their breeding season, meaning that bucks lose their typical wariness and does are moving to find bucks. Hunters know that and like to be out in the woods when the deer aren’t as wary. What is unusual this year, so far, is that hunters haven’t been seeing or shooting as many deer, though the state Department of Natural Resources said there were plenty around. Conservation officer reports from across the state, however, generally indicate a slower harvest this fall. Richardson said he gets about 50 such deer-damaged vehicles a year, about two-thirds in fall. But it’s more than mating that gives him business, he said. “It seems people are driving more and further and faster,” he said, giving them more chances to hit deer. He’s seen about the same number of damaged vehicles this year. The deer-collision time is one of his busiest, along with the first snow when drivers seem to have to relearn how to drive on slick roads, he said. Burk averages 35 to 40 deer-damaged vehicles a year. “This year it seems to be a little slower,” he said. “I haven’t seen that many deer out … but they are still hitting them.” Maybe deer are staying in corn until it’s picked; the harvest has been generally later this year. Last year he saw more damage, as deer first came out in August and the problem lasted throughout the winter and into spring and summer. “We had people constantly hitting them,” Burk said. Not this year. “(We) haven’t seen it pick up yet this fall. We’re just waiting.” When the corn comes down, however, Gappa expects claims to go up. But maybe worse is first, icy roads. “I’m still dreading that one,” Gappa said. “It’s an education every year.”
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Tags: ARIZONA INSURANCE, AUTO INSURANCE, CHEAP INSURANCE, Cristofer Pereyra, DEER COLLISIONS, FARMERS INSURANCE, GOOD INSURANCE, Insurance Agent, INSURED DRIVER, PHOENIX INSURANCE, THE INSURANCE EXPERT
Categories : INSURANCE NEWS