Be prudent about sharing vacation data online

(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,, 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

— Don’t access sensitive information from a cybercafe or other public computer because keyloggers (software that can track your keystrokes) may be tracking you.

Vacation tips

— 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.


Ken Thomas ( 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.


A dog driving

A dog driving

(KOTV – Tulsa , OK ) Some auto insurance companies are offering a unique type of coverage and it may not cost you a dime. It’s not unusual to take Fido for a ride in the car. And now car insurance companies are offering pet owners some peace of mind by allowing customers to add animals to their policy.

Besides making sure they get daily exercise, Cheryl Steckler, the owner of the Pet Limousine Service, drives her clients’ pets to important appointments.

“I pick up animals and take them to the kennel and to the groomer, places like that,” Steckler said. She knows how much the animals mean to their owners and makes sure they are safe inside the van and covered in the event of an accident.

But Steckler had a hard time finding an auto insurance company to cover the pets.

“It’s not something everybody offers,” Steckler said.

But now several large car insurance companies are offering at no extra charge coverage of $500 to $1,000 for pets injured or killed in car accidents.

“We’ve had several calls asking about the coverage for pet insurance,” Farmers Insurance agent Loretta Bond said.

Farmers Insurance is one of the companies that offer the unique coverage. Bond said unfortunately Farmers does not offer it yet in Oklahoma , but when it is offered she knows it will be a popular request because it will save owners money if their pet needs medical care after a car accident.

“It’s no different than a human being, they have bones that break, they need surgery and things like that,” Bond said.

Progressive Insurance does offer this free coverage.


USA Today (Grassroots Wire).- In these times of deep budget gaps, states have more incentive to take advantage of transportation grants that Congress has made available to those that enact “primary” seatbelt laws. The program expires on June 30. Currently 28 states and the District of Columbia have primary seatbelt laws, which allow law enforcement officers to stop people solely for not buckling up; 21 states have “secondary” laws, which permit police to ticket motorists for not wearing seatbelts only if they are first stopped for another offense. New Hampshire has no seatbelt law for adults. Florida and Arkansas recently enacted primary laws, making available about $35 million and $9.5 million in federal funds, respectively. Other states considering primary laws include Minnesota, Missouri, Vermont and Wisconsin. Proposals to strengthen seatbelt laws failed this year in Colorado, Kansas, Nevada and New Hampshire.

Safety Belt Laws in Arizona

Arizona’s Governor’s Office of Highway Safety

ARS Title 28-909 (A)

Each front seat occupant must have the lap and shoulder belt properly adjusted and fastened while the vehicle is in motion. If only a lap belt is installed, the lap belt must be properly adjusted, and fastened while the vehicle is in motion.

ARS Title 28-909 (B)

A citation will be issued to the driver for each passenger under 16 years of age that is occupying the front seat and is not wearing a seat belt.

ARS Title 28-909 (F)

Exemptions: persons with physical or medical disability waivers, mail carriers, and children under 5 years of age (child restraint required).

Child Restraint Safety Checklist

When traveling with a young child, you need to understand all the facets of child restraints.

At what age is a child restraint no longer necessary?
Is there still a weight restriction for child restraints?
How should I position my child restraint in the vehicle?

Correcting mistakes made when installing child safety seats could save a life. The most common mistakes are:

  • Never place rear facing infants in front seat with passenger-side air bags.
  • Infant (under one year AND 20 pounds) should always face the rear of the vehicle.
  • Child safety seat needs to be anchored in vehicle by a safety belt.
  • Child must be buckled in a child safety seat.
  • Child safety seat harness straps in slot at or below infant’s shoulder (rear facing) and at or above toddler’s shoulder (forward facing).
  • Harness straps need to be snug – no more than one adult finger should fit under harness.
  • Harness retainer clip must be at armpit level to hold harness strap properly over shoulders.
  • Vehicle safety belt must hold child safety seat tightly and be threaded through correct belt path of child safety seat.
  • Check child safety seat for correct size/type for child’s weight and age.

Child Restraint Laws for Arizona

Having our young children properly restrained in our vehicles is not an option, in Arizona it is required by law !

ARS 28-907 (A) and (B)

The driver will be cited if they fail to properly secure a child under 5 years of age in a child restraint device that meets federal standards.
NOTE: No weight limitation as of October 1, 1997

ARS 28-907 (C)

Driver is subject to a civil penalty of $50 plus court imposed surcharges, unless a person makes a sufficient showing that the motor vehicle has been subsequently equipped with a child restraint device.

ARS 28-907 (G)

Exemptions: Motor vehicles originally manufactured without seat belts (prior to 1972), recreational vehicles, public transportation, buses, school bus, transporting a child in an emergency to obtain medical care, or the interior design of vehicle makes use impractical for multiple child restraint devices.

Infant Seats

Birth to 20 Pounds (birth to age one):

Infants should be in a reclined infant car seat or convertible seat in the infant position to protect the delicate neck and head. All straps should be pulled snugly. The car seat must face the rear of the car and should never be used in a front seat where there is an air bag. The infant must face the rear so that in the event of a crash, swerve, or sudden stop, the infant’s back and shoulders can better absorb the impact. Household infant carriers and cloth carriers are not designed to protect an infant in a car and should never be used.
Please never place any toys or mirrors around or near the child’s face. During a crash these objects become flying projectiles and will injure your child.

Convertible Seats

5 to 40 Pounds :

The convertible car seat is placed in a reclined rear-facing position until an infant is 1 year and 20 pounds.
After children reach at least 1 year and 20 pounds, the convertible seat can be turned forward and placed in the upright position in the back seat of the vehicle.
Fasten the convertible car seat with a vehicle seat belt, properly inserting the belt through the car seat frame according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Read the vehicle owner’s manual for specific instructions. A locking clip is needed when using a vehicle lap/shoulder belt with a latch plate that moves freely along the belt.

Booster Seats

40 to 80 Pounds :

When a child outgrows the convertible car seat or weighs about 40 pounds, either a belt positioning (backless) or high-back booster seat can be used with a lap/shoulder belt in the back seat of the vehicle. For those vehicles that do not have lap/shoulder belts, the options are limited:
1.) Retrofit the vehicle with shoulder belts,
2.) Use a harness or vest system,
3.) Purchase a new booster seat with harnesses that secure to the vehicle seat with the lap belt.
Feel free to contact GOHS for current product information.

Buckle Up Baby Campaign

If you observe a child under the age of 8 not properly restrained while riding in a motor vehicle, you can do something about it.
Call the “Buckle Up, Baby” hotline number 1-800-505-BABY, a GOHS program supported by the Phoenix Police Department.

How the program works: Persons may call the 1-800 number and leave the following information:

  • Vehicle license number and state.
  • City observed in.
  • Where the child was sitting in the vehicle.

A packet of useful information is mailed to the registered owner stating that their vehicle was observed transporting an unrestrained child. The material describes the hazards of transporting unrestrained children under the age of 8, and encourages the owner to purchase a child restraint system. This information is not provided to any law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, or the Arizona Motor Vehicles Division. The purpose of this program is to provide information to those who might need it most.


(TMC News)      In a study published by Geoscape, several revealing facts about the auto insurance market came to light. The publication of this 2009 auto insurance syndicated survey database, called “BehaviorBase(TM) Auto Insurance”, draws upon 1,400 carefully sampled survey respondents across demographic and economic segments nationwide. The first of its kind, this database provides a multi-dimensional view of the large and fast growing Latino population and their adoption of auto insurance as well as their impressions of the underwriting companies and coverage options.


With the steady-resident U.S. Hispanic population reaching 48.6 million this year, insurance companies are looking more closely at where to find policyholder revenue growth. With multiple wage earners and drivers per household along with increasing adoption rates, Hispanics are now an attractive target for insurance companies (particularly auto insurance).

“BehaviorBase Auto has validated some of our hunches and has shed light on behaviors that can help us hone the strategies and tactics within our Latino initiatives…the competitive intelligence was a big eye-opener, as we drilled down on language segments,” states Luisa Acosta-Franco, Vice President of Multicultural Marketing for Farmers Insurance.


Among the insights borne within the study is the finding that unacculturated (assimilated) Hispanics focus more heavily on customer service than price, relative to more acculturated Hispanics. Both aided and unaided brand awareness reveals which companies have managed to gain mindshare within the Hispanic community and switching behavior data provides insights to avoiding policy churn.


“BehaviorBase Auto Insurance is first in a series of industry-specific consumer behavior resources that Geoscape will develop to provide actionable insights to our clients,” according to Cesar M Melgoza, President of Geoscape.

An executive summary of the database will be available at no charge from the company’s website and the full database along with tabular and graphical information and interpretation of results is available by subscription. During the summer of ’09, BehaviorBase Auto will be available within the Geoscape Intelligence System (GIS) which offers a suite of databases and analytic modules within an online software-as-a-service platform.


About Geoscape Geoscape serves its clients by providing business strategy, analytics, databases and automated intelligence systems. The online Geoscape Intelligence System (GIS), the DirecTarget database enrichment system and a variety of geo-demographic, consumer, business and media databases enable actionable insights that lead our clients to gain significant business advantages. Geoscape is a portfolio company of Goldman Sachs, Inc. with principal offices in Miami. Geoscape is pleased to have served most of the Fortune 500 corporations over the last several years.



Auto thefts in Valley drop; insurance rates could, too

Valley residents are more likely to see something in their driveways this morning: their cars.

In 2008, 25,794 cars were stolen in the metro area, according to National Insurance Crime Bureau data released this week. That’s a decline from 2007, when the number was 34,182. In 2006: 39,535.

The car-theft rate is one factor insurance companies use to set rates, which could mean lower costs for drivers, according to the Arizona Insurance Information Association.

The bureau’s Frank Scafidi says the drop in car thefts is the result of law enforcement, legislators and prosecutors taking the issue more seriously.

In 2003, the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority began funding bait-vehicle programs.

Bait cars, donated by insurance companies, are placed in high-theft areas and equipped with tracking devices and video cameras.

“Bait cars work,” Scafidi said. “They get the most prolific thieves off the street because there is audio and video (of the crooks).”

Phoenix / The Arizona Republic.          



The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drowsy driving is a factor in over 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in at least 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries. Darrel Drobnich, chief program officer of the National Sleep Foundation, estimates that the figures are considerably higher: 5,500 deaths and 71,000 injuries a year. Efforts are underway to make people more aware of the problem, which, unlike drunk driving, cannot be easily tested. Carol Ash, medical director of a sleep program at Somerset Medical Center, said, “Years ago, we didn’t think anything of getting in a car after having a few drinks. Sleep deprivation has the same impact. Your judgment becomes impaired, whether you realize it or not. We’re starting to understand that drowsy driving is the same as driving intoxicated.” According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 54 percent of adult drivers said they had driven while drowsy and 28 percent said they had fallen asleep at the wheel during the past year.

Larry Copeland. USA Today. 2009/04/02. Page A3.