Disaster Scams Make Damage More Devastating

Your property is in shambles. As you survey the damage, your heart sinks. You feel overwhelmed with the amount of work it will take to restore your business.

Where do you start?

It’s at this emotional low point that unscrupulous con artists often swoop in. Knowing you aren’t thinking clearly and may be a good target for a scam, these individuals and companies take advantage of your disastrous situation.

To avoid becoming their next victim, take the following steps.

Learn to recognize a scam. A common post-disaster scam involves convincing property owners that they must pay a large deposit before any work can begin. Desperate to get started, a property owner turns over the sum.

The scammer may start the job, but disappears before finishing it. Contractors who rush the process, demand unreasonable up-front funds, or otherwise attempt to make fast cash are likely trying to scam you.

Work with professionals. In a disaster situation, it may be tempting to work with the first person you encounter. Don’t skip the important step of vetting any contractor you consider.

Investigate their track record. Check references. Read reviews. Call the Better Business Bureau. Do not give any business a deposit until you are confident they are worthy of your trust.

Be cautious about temporary repairs. Consider it a red flag if a contractor wants you to spend significant funds on temporary repairs. Most temporary repairs can be made by the property owner.

Spending a lot on these repairs may result in a lack of funds to pay for permanent repairs. Consult with your insurance agent to determine what you can and should do yourself.

Close the door on door-to-door solicitors. Legitimate adjusters, attorneys, and contractors aren’t likely to go door to door soliciting business. Those who do are often looking to pull a quick scam.

Don’t give in to pressure or scare tactics. Before you hire anyone to handle your claim, do your research and make an informed decision.

Consult with your insurance provider. Often, you don’t need a public adjuster or an attorney to handle your claim. Keep in mind, you will probably have to pay a public adjuster 15% of your settlement, and attorneys charge as much as 30% of your settlement. Instead, go directly to your insurance company.

You may be able to settle your claim directly, without involving these costly third parties. Your agent can help you navigate the process, and will often provide an adjuster at no charge.

Your carrier can also help you find reputable service providers. It can recommend contractors with a proven track record whom you can trust.

Establish coverage in advance. Of course, the best way to prepare for disasters is to ensure you have appropriate policies in place before they strike. Contact your insurance provider to review your policies. Determine whether you have the appropriate coverage, and make any changes necessary to maintain suitable coverage for your current needs.

By partnering with your insurance agent, you can make sure any future disaster recovery is as smooth as possible.

BOP or CPP? Which Insurance Bundle Is Right for You?

Appropriate insurance coverage is essential for a business of any size. With multiple options available, which policies should you choose for your company? Many entrepreneurs opt for a BOP (business owners policy). However, many could benefit from a second option: a commercial package policy (CPP). Which is right for you? Here’s the difference.

Business owners policy: A BOP is typically designed for small and medium-size businesses. It bundles multiple coverages such as general liability and property insurance into one policy. The single premium reduces the overall cost of insurance.

Commercial package policy: For growing companies or those with complex or specialized risks, a BOP may prove insufficient. A CPP offers more options. It allows you to bundle several types of coverage into one policy, but is less limited in the types of coverage it can include. In short, it can be better customized to fit the unique needs of your business.

A commercial package policy typically includes property insurance, general liability, business income insurance, business vehicle insurance, business crime insurance, commercial umbrella liability, electronic data processing coverage, equipment breakdown coverage, employment practices liability, inland marine insurance, and pollution liability. While this list may seem exhaustive for many companies, it’s important to note that a CPP does not include all necessary coverage. A CPP doesn’t provide directors and officers liability; health, disability, and life insurance; or workers’ compensation. Business owners must establish separate policies for these items.

To determine which options are best for you, review your company operations with your insurance agent.

Attention Vacationers! Info about Insuring Second Homes

You enjoy the freedom a second home offers. You can escape cold weather or plan an easy getaway for a day, a week, or an extended stay. But owning two properties comes with additional responsibilities. One of the list-toppers is insurance. Maintaining proper coverage for both properties is essential. Here’s how it’s done.

First and foremost, consult with your insurance provider. They can recommend the best policies for appropriate coverage. For example, your homeowner’s policy may extend some coverage for a vacation rental property, but it’s likely insufficient for full coverage of a second home.

In most cases, it’s best to establish a separate policy for your second home. In doing so, you can set up the coverage to make it appropriate for each property. For example, the second home may face hazards that the first does not, such as flooding or tropical storms. Additionally, a vacation home may experience long periods with no occupants. This makes it more susceptible to burglaries and unchecked leaks.

If your second home will be used as a guesthouse or rental, this also affects the type of coverage you should maintain. In this case, you might be liable for injuries to tenants or damages they cause. A landlord policy would likely be the appropriate coverage for this situation, rather than a second homeowner’s policy.

To offset costs for multiple policies, you may be able to add a security system or other safety features. Your insurer can further advise you on how to reduce your premium for each property.

Does Your Insurance Cover Identity Theft?

They’re not you, but they’re using your credit card. They’ve also dipped into your bank account.

Identity theft can be a devastating experience. Victims may spend months or even years sorting through the disaster left in the wake of an identity thief. Educating yourself about this crime and how to protect yourself will help you avoid its damaging effects.

First, understand how identity thieves typically get their hands on someone else’s secure information. The most common methods include stealing physical documents (wallet, checkbook, credit card, bills or statements), stealing hardware (thumb drives, laptops, tablets), obtaining information via phone calls (scammers posing as legitimate professionals), and obtaining information online (email scams, hacking).

Take steps to protect your personal information from each of these methods. Keep all documents secure and never give out personal information to unverified sources. Appropriate security software can also help prevent online breaches.

Even with the proper precautions in place, you may suffer from a determined identity thief. In this case, it is important to have proper coverage. Many credit cards provide some liability relief, and homeowner’s or renter’s policies often include some limited protection for loss of cash or credit cards. However, this is not sufficient coverage if your identity is stolen.

To protect yourself from the financial loss, reputational consequences, and credit issues that can result from identity theft, look to insurance products that cover these costs. Policies vary, and can cover everything from minor assistance to major restoration services. Your coverage can provide a consumer fraud specialist or case manager, replacement of government-issued identifications, reimbursement of attorney’s fees, assistance with credit restoration, and assistance with hearings and charges related to fraud.

Extending beyond basic coverage, these restoration services can be life-changing. Consult with your insurance provider to learn what options are available for you.

Vision Insurance: A Clear Choice to Focus on Future Health

As we age, vision care becomes critically important. This makes vision insurance coverage increasingly essential. Yet exploring vision insurance online is a lengthy and often confusing process. Here’s a quick overview.

What it is: Vision insurance covers or reduces costs associated with maintaining and improving your vision.

What it covers: Vision insurance covers annual eye exams, contact lenses, or frames and lenses. If you’re considering surgery to improve your vision, some plans offer reduced rates on refractive procedures.

How to get it: While group coverage may be available where you work, coverage is often minimal. A stand-alone vision plan may be a better option. If you currently have a group plan, contact your agent to review its benefits. An agent who specializes in vision plans may be able to provide a better solution for about the same price as your group plan.

Who to see: If you have an eye doctor you prefer, you can choose a plan that includes your professional. With some vision plans, using the insurer’s network of approved professionals ensures you pay less than going out of network.

Why it’s important: Even if you have great vision, annual eye exams are vital to protect against age-associated eye problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Those with chronic health conditions, like diabetes or hypertension, are more at risk for eye problems. Vision plans can cost just dollars per month and can greatly reduce your chances of undetected vision problems.

Your local insurance agent can provide a comprehensive explanation of coverage and provide a personalized vision coverage quote.

Should You Revisit Dental Insurance?

Many individuals won’t skimp on what they consider essential medical care. However, dental care is the most frequent health cost consumers skip to save money – despite the fact that dental care is critical to good health. The challenge is the additional increasing cost. According to the Consumer Health Alliance, dental care costs increase about 5% annually.

Still, dental coverage can offer significant savings, and you may be able to receive dental insurance through your employer at a decent rate. For example,CostHelper.com reports the average cost of a root canal and crown without dental insurance is about $1,200. With insurance, the average drops to around $650.

Many dental plans are available, with varied coverage. Basic plans usually require a co-pay and cover two cleanings per year, which average $127 without insurance. Most plans cap coverage at a preset annual limit. Other types of plans may be more generous, so it’s a good idea to check with your local agent for more information on available plans.

The next step is finding a dentist. Remember, you must be sure your provider is in your plan. HMO or PPO plans restrict you to specific dentists. You can visit out-of-network dentists on some PPO plans but will receive reduced benefits. Dental indemnity plans are the most comprehensive option, allowing you to visit any dentist. They typically cover between 50% and 80% of the visit’s cost.

Whichever plan you choose, be sure it covers any specialty work you might need. Many dentists now replace missing teeth with implants in lieu of bridges. Orthodontia can also be expensive. Additionally, keep in mind that Medicare doesn’t cover most dental procedures unless you receive certain services while hospitalized.

Navigating on your own, the options for dental coverage can feel overwhelming, but your agent can provide a no-obligation quote and explain the pros and cons of various plans.

What Should You Do with an Old Life-Insurance Policy?

Life insurance is easy to forget when you don’t need it.

As you near retirement, it might be a good time to reevaluate your needs. Is your old policy – possibly purchased decades ago – still serving a purpose?

Life insurance is important as we start our adult lives – get married, buy homes, have children. That’s because we want to provide for our loved ones should a tragic accident or illness prohibit us from providing financial assistance.

But then life goes on. Our children grow up. We pay off our mortgages. We retire, and we’re living (hopefully) comfortable lives provided by our Social Security income and retirement savings. But we have these old life-insurance policies, and we’re still paying premiums for them. What should we do?

One option is to simply stop paying premiums and let the policy lapse. The money you paid in premiums could be used in a number of other ways that are more beneficial given your current life circumstances.

For example, you could use the proceeds to pay down any debt you have. You could use the money to add to your nest egg, investing it in a manner that will, hopefully, grow over time.

Or you could invest it in long-term care insurance (or a dedicated “rainy day” fund to be used for long-term expenses, should you need them as you age).

Of course, the policy may still benefit you. Just because you have no children living at home doesn’t mean you don’t need life insurance. Think of all the ways the people in your life could be affected by your death, and ask yourself how your life-insurance proceeds would help them.

If you can come up with enough ways, it might be worth keeping your policy in effect and reevaluating in another one to five years.