We hate to be the Grinch – but this time of year ID Theft increases dramatically. Why? Shopping for the holidays is in full swing for starters. Shoppers are so focused on the mission at hand – finding that perfect gift, that they let their guard down.
We urge you to take these steps to make sure your holidays don’t turn into a disaster:
Women – Keep Your Purse Close & don’t take your eyes off of it!
Be sure to put it on a shoulder, across your chest, or use a backpack. If you don’t want to deal with it at all, simply place your credit card, debit card, or cash in your pocket.
Don’t leave your purse in a shopping cart – you are asking for someone to grab it. Sad, but true.
Hide Your PIN
When you swipe your debit card, use one hand to cover the one you’re punching the pin in with. Thieves are so savvy that they’ve found a way to snap pictures with their smartphones and then use the pin to clear out your accounts.
Use a Credit Card not a Debit Card
While using your debit card can be a good way to budget how much you spend, credit cards offer more protection. If someone steals your credit card number, you can usually call and have the card closed and the charges taken off your account. You don’t have to worry about waiting for the money to be deposited back into your account like you would with a debit card.
Consider Using a Credit Monitoring Service
A credit monitoring company will alert you of any strange activity on your accounts. You will be notified immediately if there is spending that is outside your normal routine. Traveling? It’s best to notify your credit card companies and banks so they don’t issue an alert!
It’s easy to think, “I’ll be careful. It won’t happen to me.” The reality is that someone becomes a victim of identity theft every two seconds. The hassle it brings is not worth it. Protect yourself as much as possible, so you can get to the New Year with your identity safe.
Personal Lines Account Manager – Founders Insurance Agency
The south is calling your name. The warmer weather and sunshine cannot compete with all of the cold wind, rain and snow that is headed our way in New England. Before you start blasting Jimmy Buffet tunes in the RV – run through this quick checklist to ensure your northern home is in tip top shape for when you come home in the spring!
Burglars are watching – they love snowbirds. They will look for homes that show no sign of life inside. Don’t let them have the satisfaction of knowing you are nowhere close. Put your lights on timers – interior and exterior ones.
A week or so before you leave, put a stop to mail or forward all of your mail, newspapers, and deliveries to where you’ll be staying. This way you don’t have everything piling up indicating that no one is home.
Don’t forget about all of that snow you are missing. Burglars will pay attention to how the snow looks in your driveway and yard. Schedule snow removal while you are away.
Protect Your Home – Don’t forget the obvious!
Test your alarm system a few times before you leave. If you don’t have a central alarm, you might want to consider it. Many insurance carriers offer credits on homeowners policies for them. It doesn’t hurt to install new locks on the doors, just in case someone has already started planning on robbing your house by taking a copy of the lock for a key. Make sure you check all deadbolt locks and that all frames are secure. Get some slide locks for your sliding doors too because that’s a favorite entry point for thieves.
Take Care of Your Plumbing
Pipes cracking or bursting could easily become your worst nightmare. If you’re leaving for a long time, turn off the water supply. Once you do that, turn on all of your faucets and flush the toilets to rid the pipes of the water. A trick that many homeowners use is to pour antifreeze down the drains. This will keep any remaining water from freezing.
For extra assurance, you may want to call a plumber to blow compressed air into the pipes. This will remove and dry up any additional water in the pipes.
If you don’t want to turn your water supply off, it’s best to keep your home warm. It should be at least 55 degrees. You should also turn off water to your washing machine and dishwasher. You can also install low temp meters that will alert you if the temp drops to the point where a pipe can freeze and/or and water meters that will alert you if a pipe should burst.
Take Care of Maintenance Before Leaving
Clean up your yard before you leave. If there are any bushes or branches that could break and lead to home damage, cut them back. Be sure to clean out your gutters as well, since they can become packed with leaves and dirt resulting in ice dams. Getting your roof and heating system inspected is also a good idea since any problems could lead to costly repairs.
It’s great to have a neighbor willing to watch over your home while you are away. Leave a phone number where you can be reached at any time, and have all of the emergency numbers for your local community saved in your phone. You never know when an emergency will happen, but you can prepare for one.
Founders Insurance Agency cares about protecting you and your home. If you have any questions on how to better protect your home – don’t hesitate to give us a call! We aren’t plumbers or HVAC folks but we can surely point you in the right direction!
Assistant Personal Lines Manager
Ahh…the holiday party. Tis the season for fun, laughter…and lawsuits. We don’t want to be “The Debbie Downer” for the holidays, but it is our job to make sure you are protected! So here goes: Anytime there is alcohol involved there is risk to a business or even to a homeowner!
The Liabilities and What You Can Do About Them
Did you know that in some states, employers are responsible for what their employees do after they leave a holiday party intoxicated? This means that if an employee’s blood alcohol level is higher than the legal limit, and that person gets in an accident that injures or kills someone, the employer could be held responsible. Scary? Of course it is.
Be sure to remind employees to drink responsibly. Consider writing it down – in the invitation, on a poster or in inter-office email.
- Consider holding the party at a restaurant. If something should happen, some states will place responsibility on the restaurant’s owner.
- You could make employees pay for their own drinks – sure, this isn’t as fun for the employees but it may reduce the amount of alcohol that is consumed
- Ensure there is adequate food to offset the amount of alcohol consumed.
- Ask the bartender to stop serving anyone who seems drunk. This is really obvious – but better safe than sorry. Have someone within your company keep an eye on things.
- Stop serving alcohol about two hours before the end of the party. Serve coffee, tea, and other non-alcoholic drinks.
- Take car keys from everyone as they enter the party – and return them as people leave – only if they are capable of driving.
- Arrange for alternative transportation such as a taxi, bus, or limo service – free of charge!
- Leaders – limit your alcohol consumption. Few people will drink more than the boss – it just looks bad.
- Make sure alcohol is not served to minors. Again, this is obvious – but have checks and balances in place.
Before you have your holiday party, give Founders a call to ensure your insurance policy coverage will protect you. You made need to add a liquor liability policy or take out an event policy to make sure you are properly covered.
Just because there are risks when holding a holiday party, don’t rule it out. You can still show your employees a good time, just be safe about it. With a solid business insurance policy, you can protect your business, your employees AND have a great time.
P&C Operations Manager
As home technology gets increasingly sophisticated, need for personal cyber liability protection grows
Even if we ostensibly call a corporate office “home” for our workday, we are spending much more time working in our actual home, either after hours burning the midnight oil or telecommuting. We are also running businesses and complicated personal lives from a home office, and we’re enjoying a much more sophisticated home entertainment experience than we did even just five years ago.
As homeowners and luxury apartment renters increasingly rely on constant connectivity, wireless networks and technology infrastructure at home base are just as vital to overall infrastructure as proper electric, pristine plumbing, and sturdy beams.
The days of plugging in one desktop computer to one outlet on the back of a big bulky cable modem are long gone. With a dozen or more connected devices in play at any one time, the need for more complicated home networking solutions has grown.
High-end buildings in Manhattan like the Mima are recognizing this trend by offering technology concierge services that handle all aspects of setting up and optimizing a home network. An ideal amenity for busy folks who need to be plugged in at all times, this is also a great way to “outsource your life” and claw back some precious free time.
Once your network is on cruise control, you can expand on the “outsource your life” model by hiring a personal tech assistant (here’s just one NYC example) who will set up your devices, upgrade, troubleshoot, teach, and handle the hassles for you.
Though not as front and center a concern as which streaming services are a must, increased connectivity at home brings with it the need for cyber risk management. Founders can now help protect you against losses that occur when family members, staff, assistants, or anyone else on your networks compromises security that leads to a breach.
We tend to focus on hacks occurring on business servers, but if you’re working from home in any capacity — or just using your network to run a busy life — there’s a lot of information potentially at risk: think financial data, business records, medical data. Whether on a quiet road in Litchfield or sitting in the sky in Midtown, our networks are accessible to hackers outside our walls, either through compromise within or attacks from the outside.
Personal cyber liability coverage can help mitigate that risk. Get in touch with me today to learn more about this and all the services we offer to our Platinum Accounts Unit clients
Platinum Accounts Executive
It started as an unfortunate tale of a builder who wronged his client, which unfortunately happens too frequently in the construction business. Some customers can certainly be difficult, but we always counsel our construction clients to take the high road and resist any urge toward shenanigans. A recent Connecticut Supreme Court ruling really drives home why every builder, even if they are operating under the shelter of an LLC, needs to be aware of the personal liability they have.
Doing business under the aegis of an LLC or corporation provides substantial protection against personal liability, but it’s definitely not a license to willfully engage in unfair business practices and it does not shield individuals who do so, as the ruling in a recent Connecticut Supreme Court case involving a home builder demonstrates.
The Supreme Court’s July decision in Joseph General Contracting Inc. v. John Couto et. al. was a mixed ruling, with the Court finding that JGC owner Anthony Silvestri could not be held personally liable for breach of contract claims against his company.
However, the court found that under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Silvestri could be found personally liable for highly questionable tactics used with a customer.
In the case in question, the state Appellate Court found: “Silvestri and his companies [engaged in actions that] were indeed unscrupulous, oppressive, unfair and deceptive,” and upheld a $125,000 verdict against the company but also against him personally.
The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed. Citing the text of CUTPA, which reads in part: “No person shall engage in unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce,” the Court considered the question of “whether liability under CUTPA may be extended to an individual who engages in unfair or unscrupulous conduct on behalf of a business entity…In order for any individual liability to attach under CUTPA, someone must knowingly or recklessly engage in unfair or unscrupulous acts…in the conduct of a trade or business.”
The Court went on to say an individual may be held liable for CUTPA violations if the individual “either participated directly in the entity’s deceptive or unfair acts or practices, or that he or she had the authority to control them…[a]n individual’s status as controlling shareholder or officer in a closely held corporation creates a presumption of the ability to control.”
The moral of the story is that builders who play fast and loose with customers run the risk of not only alienating clientele and earning a bad reputation, but also could find themselves personally on the hook regardless of LLC or corporate status.
Besides avoiding willfully malicious behavior, well-intentioned builders must be extremely cautious, particularly at the contract stage, to avoid unwittingly subjecting themselves to personal liability. Careful customer relations need to be front and center of any builder’s risk management strategy.
Commercial Account Executive
On the hook for one of the most massive data breaches in U.S. history, the Target Corporation agreed to reimburse banks $67 million for losses.
Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service recently disclosed that a breach first reported in May is much, much worse than first thought, increasing the total number of potential victims to 334,000.
Though they make the headlines, bigger companies are by no means the only ones
dealing with data breaches and cyber attacks. Research by the Ponemon Institute shows that incidents involving lost or stolen data are growing in number and hitting organizations of all sizes.
No matter how much business an organization may do online, the reality is that everyone is a target. When it comes to a data breach, it almost seems like it’s not a question of if, but rather of when one will occur.
Follow these best practice tips to help prepare for a data disaster.
- Assess Your Cyber Risk
You may not be able to completely eliminate cyber risk, but getting insight into your organization’s vulnerabilities is an excellent place to start. Our friends at Travelers have created a helpful online tool called the Cyber Risk Pressure Test. By asking roughly two dozen insightful questions, this tool paints a portrait of your company’s risk profile and shows where you stand in relation to peers. The tool offers recommendations and compares your risk to similarly-sized businesses in your industry and location.
- Be Redundant
Is your data backed up? Good. Is the backup backed up? Even better. Redundancy in digital data is a good practice, and can be made better by having some backups stored offsite or in the cloud, separate from your network. In addition to data, consider having a separate backup systems network in place, even if it’s bare bones. It could help you survive the initial days of an attack if your primary network is offline.
- Know Your Response Plan
Don’t start figuring out what to do as a crisis unfolds. Instead, have a written response plan in place and perform practice runs. If you’ll need outside expertise, reach out to consultants ahead of time and establish those relationships in advance. Allow for the consultants to learn your system and guide your thinking during the planning stages. Then, make sure the experts are on speed dial, just in case.
- Know Your Communication Plan
Organizations often forget that bad PR is how many data breaches truly cripple an organization. Do you have in-house crisis management expertise? If not, do you have a firm at the ready you can turn to? How you manage communications about an incident is just as important as how you handle the technical response. Ted Kobus of BakerHostetler offers some excellent in-depth crisis communications advice.
Still confused about Cyber Liability – give us a call at Founders Insurance Agency and we can walk you through the process.
P&C Operations Manager
Attacks on corporate computer networks and theft of sensitive customer information are growing at a staggering pace. In 2013, 43% of companies reported a data breach, up 10% in just one year.
With eBay’s 145 million and JP Moran Chase’s 76 million compromised accounts leading the way last year, the Ponemon Institute labeled 2014 the year of “mega breaches.”
The cost of these data breaches is equally impressive…$194 per record in the United States in 2012, according to the Ponemon Institute, up from $188 the year before.
Many assume data breaches are the result of bad actors in foreign countries launching cyber attacks from afar, deliberately targeting high profile companies known to possess a valuable trove of information. While that attack profile is certainly common, the reality is that any company, of any size, is at risk…very often from negligence within.
With smartphones becoming ubiquitous (80% of Americans under 50 own one) and a basic necessity for workflow in most industries, employees now carry the risk of a significant data breach around in their pockets…to the bar, to the
gym, on the subway, etc.
Lost and stolen devices are increasingly a top source of data breaches. In the highly targeted health care sector, they are now the leading cause.
Cyber security training can help protect your company from a data breach that puts you on the hook for forensics, legal counsel, credit monitoring for affected customers, and much more. Employee training is crucial, and not just at the point of hiring. Annual refresher courses should be standard procedure.
Our partners at Travelers recommend a number of best practices to help you manage cyber risk. Examples include:
Shared responsibility — All employees need to understand that data protection is the responsibility of all departments, not just IT.
Knowing the signs — Is that security notice a legitimate warning or a phishing scam? When it doubt, check with IT. Never assume.
Punching up passwords — Strong passwords are cryptic but memorable. There are free tools online that can help create appropriate ones.
Checking before you install — Employees should not install software without approval. Besides the threat of a full-fledged data breach, some programs will quietly install adware, spyware, and other malicious software that can wreak havoc on a computer.
At Founders Insurance Agency, we can walk you through the steps of securing the best cyber security policy for your business. Talk to us today about how we can help you protect your digital assets.
Frank Buonocore, Jr. CPCU
Vice President, Founders Insurance Agency