4 Types of Identity Theft and How to Prevent Them

With most of our transactions happening online and the vast majority of our records accessible through Internet-based services, it’s no wonder identity theft is rampant. Below are four types of identity theft and how to prevent them.

Existing account identity theft. Thieves will hack into your existing bank or credit accounts and either steal your cash or use your available credit to make purchases or cash withdrawals. Protect your personal information by never giving out your bank account number to anyone except an authorized representative of a business or other professional. If you doubt someone is who they say they are, hang up and call the business directly.

New account identity theft. Thieves will open new accounts in your name using your Social Security number and begin to draw on the lines of credit or loans to acquire as much as possible before being caught. Never give your Social Security number out to anyone except a trusted professional, such as an accountant, a human resources manager, or another similar person.

Tax identity theft. Thieves will not hesitate to file a fraudulent return on your behalf and claim your refund. Unlike with credit accounts, you will not know until you go to submit your legitimate tax return and the IRS rejects it.

Employment identity theft. Some people will resort to stealing your Social Security number to get a job, and, to your surprise, you will owe taxes on the money they earned.

It’s vital to protect yourself from identity theft. Many credit cards offer free alerts so you can stop unauthorized transactions and theft. Consider investing in a paid identity monitoring service, which looks at your credit and finances. Protect your personal information. Never give it out over the phone to out-of-the-blue callers. Secure documents with sensitive information, and shred them when you no longer need them. Check your credit reports regularly. Call us today so we can work with you on finding the best product that fits your budget to protect yourself from and prevent identity theft.

Taking a Road Trip in Your RV? Here’s How to Prepare

Summer is in full swing, and that means road trips in your RV to enjoy the season. Below are a few tips to make sure you’re prepared for your road-tripping fun.

Before you go anywhere, check that your RV is in tip-top shape with this maintenance checklist:

1. Check your RV’s batteries to ensure they are fully charged

2. Check appliances and tires (including the spare) and inspect all seals

3. Check engine and generator fluids and change as necessary

4. Flush and refill the water system

5. Do a full safety check

6. Thoroughly clean the inside of the coach and freshen up toiletries

What to pack:

For an RV trip, pack what you’d need for a regular trip (clothes, shoes, accessories, and the like), but also pack as if you’re furnishing a home. Include items such as towels (bath and kitchen), plates and mugs, cups, silverware, cooking pots and utensils, sheets and pillows, cleaning supplies, and anything else that makes you feel at home.

What to do if you break down:

Breaking down happens to even the most experienced RV owner. The important thing is to have a plan that you follow. Make sure you have phone numbers you need to call for emergency and accident services. Have our office’s number handy, too, and be sure to share your itinerary with a relative or friend so someone knows where you are.

Not all RVing is the same. Before you hit the open road, contact us to discuss your travel plans and how to properly protect your RV so there’s nothing to worry about.

Out-of-Network Medical Bills Can Hit Your Budget Hard

Seeing a doctor or undergoing a medical procedure is stressful enough without adding an unexpected medical bill to your worries, especially since once you face a hospital admission, you can’t always choose your medical providers.

Some surprise bills can be mistakes. For example, you make an appointment with your primary care physician, but she’s not available when you arrive, so you see another provider. If that doctor or nurse practitioner is not an “approved provider” for your health plan, you may face an unexpected bill. Or if the anesthesiologist the hospital uses for a surgery you’ve scheduled is not approved by your plan, you may receive another unexpected bill.

How do you avoid surprise medical expenses? When you schedule surgery, talk to your insurance carrier to make sure all who will care for you are approved providers. Don’t ask if your health insurance “accepts” each provider; instead, ask if the providers are in your “insurance network.” Following this procedure can help ensure that your health plan approves all your providers.

If you do get an unexpected bill, call that provider’s billing office and ask if they are network providers. If they are, they will resubmit the billing to your insurance for proper payment. These errors often happen upon the first submission of a medical bill.

If your provider sends you out of network, you have a case for payment by your provider. Your providers should verify they make referrals only within your plan’s network if possible. If you must see an out-of-network provider, ask for an estimate of all costs before you see that provider.

If all else fails, your state department of insurance may have some solutions. As many as 28 states have enacted legislation to fix this costly problem, and both the US House and Senate have considered similar legislation.

Disability Insurance Can Protect Your Income and Your Home

With many Americans losing their jobs and the population aging, the need for disability insurance has never been greater. If you or your loved one experienced a job loss from a benefited position, you’ve lost your disability insurance. If you’re a sole practitioner and you can’t work, you may fall behind on your bills.

Many Americans rely on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) when they become disabled. However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to qualify for SSDI. Even if you qualify without the lengthy wait for a hearing, the waiting period for benefits once Social Security approves you is five months. Most Americans don’t have the resources to pay their bills for that long.

While you may have group-sponsored disability insurance through your employer, many thousands have recently lost their disability coverage through layoffs or plant closures. Losing your job can mean losing your disability, life, and health insurance coverage. Without your annual income, your home, bills, even your children’s education may be at risk. A disability policy can help partially fill the income gap should an illness or injury lead to your inability to work.

As a small business owner, you may not carry workers’ compensation coverage. A disability policy can help you continue to meet payroll and other continuing expenses, even if your business closes temporarily.

The Types of Disability Coverage

There are two types of disability insurance: short-term disability (SDT) and long-term disability (LTD) coverage. STD insurance covers you when you’re temporarily unable to work due to an accident, injury, or illness. LTD covers you for longer, more prolonged injuries or illnesses. You can purchase SDT, LTD, or both.

In today’s world, disability insurance coverage can help protect your future income and prevent bankruptcy. Contact us for more information about disability coverage.

Two-Factor Authentication: Why Is It Important?

Businesses today face a litany of threats from attackers, both within and outside the organizations. In one fell swoop, what used to take months or years to cripple a business can be done in a matter of minutes or seconds. One of the most crucial and commonplace ways to protect your business’s secrets and preserve your IT infrastructure is incorporating two-factor authentication into how you and your employees access email, data, company websites, and other Internet or cloud-based resources.

What is two-factor authentication?

Two-factor authentication requires two methods of verification to ensure that one compromised passcode does not expose your network to a hacker or other malicious attacker. The first step is always fairly common: providing a username and passcode for the device or to access the necessary files. Next, another factor of authentication is implemented, such as:

Secret question: questions only the user would know, such as where you were born, who your second grade teacher was, or the make and model of your first car.

Verification code: a code sent to your mobile device that you must enter within a specified time period.

Biometrics: in some cases, a fingerprint scan may be necessary.

This second step is crucial to stop someone who may have guessed a username and passcode or obtained it through untoward means from accessing all data available to you. No matter which method you choose to secure your business using two-factor authentication, any method is preferable to no method at all.

Why is two-factor authentication a good idea for my business?

As corporate espionage increases and hackers try to attack IT infrastructure to exploit weak points, two-factor authentication is one of the catch-all safeguards that can stop an attack before it happens. Hackers will log into your system and cripple it or ransom your data for a large payment. Without paying the ransom, your business is effectively stopped dead in its tracks. If you pay it, you still run the risk of the hackers not delivering on their promises.

If a rival business obtains your sensitive information, years of planning may go to waste in a few minutes as your trade secrets, product lines, and plans for future acquisitions or expansions suddenly become de facto public knowledge. There are many software and hardware options available to a business looking to protect its investment and development plans. Not instituting two-factor authentication can cost you quite a bit of money in the short term and millions in the long term.

How can insurance help?

Insurance is here to help ensure your business doesn’t miss a beat, even if the worst happens. Working with our office, we can help you identify the right insurance products for you, from business interruption insurance to cyber insurance and everything in between. Call our office today so we can review your needs and make sure you are covered.

Consequences of Letting Business Insurance Lapse

When your business suffers an unexpected financial setback, the first place you look is where to cut expenses. If you haven’t had the need to use your business insurance policy, you may be tempted to let your business insurance policy lapse to save on the payments. Below, we’ll detail the reasons why this is a short- and long-term mistake.

No safety net. Without insurance, you totally and completely own any mistake and the liability that comes from it. There is no one to turn to in times of trouble and no way to get reimbursed for something that your business insurance policy would have easily covered.

Loss of discount. When you decide to restart your coverage, you may be surprised to find out you start from “zero” again and your long-term customer discount is gone. The clock may have restarted, and your original coverage might cost you much more without more benefits.

No long-tail coverage. Maintaining constant coverage with the same insurance company has its advantages, such as long-tail coverage. If you carry a liability policy that includes a standard completed operations portion, the work your company performs is typically covered for the entire duration of the policy.

Reputational harm. Uninsured businesses are often viewed as “fly by night” and not as trustworthy as insured businesses. Ask yourself: Would I want to do business with an uninsured merchant? There can be consequences much larger than just saving money at play for your business when you let coverage lapse.

Even if you find your business in a desperate financial situation, we’re here to help. Call us today so we can work with you on the right amount of coverage for your business and your pocketbook.