As we head into the most wonderful time of the year, cybercriminals are gearing up for their busiest season. And this year, with so many of us working and schooling from home, they are counting on a bonanza of unsuspecting online targets.
While you are carefully crafting your holiday gift list (and checking it twice!) these criminals are perfecting their cyber scams, online fraud schemes, and identity theft plans.
So before you join the millions of others searching out those perfect stocking stuffers, check out these 10 tips to protect yourself and your family online.
1. Secure your home network – Use strong passwords and WPA2 or WPA3 encryption (see tips here to secure your network). Change your router/modem’s default name and pre-set password.
2. Update your antivirus software – Antivirus software is always being updated (thanks to a continuous stream of new threats) so make sure yours is up to date on all your household’s devices.
3. Use a password manager – Create strong passwords on all your devices and use a password manager to keep track. Consider using two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of protection.
4. Update your devices – Operating system and software updates often include security updates. Make sure your computers, tablets, and phones are all updated. Turn on auto-updates so you don’t have to think about it.
5. Use one or two credit cards and monitor them – Using just one or two cards for your holiday shopping will make it much easier to track purchases and spot any fraud early on. Some lenders will even alert you when your card logs transactions that are out of your normal spending pattern and ask your permission before completing the purchase. Mobile pay options such as Apple Pay or Google Pay also offer good protection because they use secure tokens instead of an actual card number.
6. Only shop reputable websites – Big brands and companies are more likely to have strong security on their sites’ transaction platform. But no matter the website, if a link, landing page or online shopping cart looks suspicious, log off immediately.
7. Watch for phishing – Phishing spikes during the holidays. These emails and texts usually look like they’re coming from a source or company you know. They typically ask for sensitive information such as personal or bank information and ask you to click on a link or attachment. Remember that government agencies and reputable companies will never ask you to send sensitive information this way. Delete these messages without clicking on anything. If you’re on the fence about its legitimacy, you can open a separate browser and log in to your account fresh – or call customer service to double-check.
8. Be smart on social media – If you’re headed out of town during the holidays, don’t post plans or info publicly on your social channels. This could make your home vulnerable to a break-in.
9. Be savvy with donations – Many people generously open their wallets during the holidays to help those in need or causes they support. If you’re planning on donating this year, be extra cautious. Stick to reputable, well-known charities. Contact them directly to donate, rather than clicking on a link or giving your information over the phone.
10. Watch your front porch – More online shopping means more deliveries. Bring packages in as soon as possible so they don’t tempt thieves. Neglected packages may also make it look like you’re out of town, making your home a target for burglars.
Make sure all family members are on board with, understand, and carry out the above tips before logging on to find those hot holiday deals. This includes kids and teens who are at home and on screens all day – and who usually aren’t as savvy about security and scams. For more safety tips, check out our articles here and here.
If you’re a California Casualty member, take comfort in the fact that you’re automatically enrolled in ID theft resolution services — which provides free help if you are ever the victim of identity theft. Learn more about the services here.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
This afternoon Arlene Brown, California Casualty RUS Analyst, reaches a milestone in her career, that few ever see in their lifetime, as she celebrates her 50th anniversary as a full-time employee.
In recognition of this incredible achievement, Joe Volponi, President and CEO of California Casualty, honored Arlene in an email sent to all CalCas employees telling Arlene’s career story and highlighting the significant impact she has made at CalCas within her 50 years. Read an excerpt below.
“It is not often in this company (maybe never) that an employee reaches 50 years of service as a full-time employee. Arlene Brown will reach that incredible milestone and a well-deserved retirement on September 8th.
She started as a Coder, working with Assigned Risk paper files. She quickly progressed to become the Auto Coding Assistant Supervisor in charge of Assigned Risk and was given the nickname “Queen of Assigned Risk.” She worked with both agents, and customers, often remembering their names and policy numbers from year to year! Those were the days when every detail had to be transferred to a grid, which a keypunch operator entered. Rating was done by hand and with a 10 key calculator spitting out the answers on paper tape. Her other daily tool was a pro-rata wheel, a few relics of which still survive today, although they remain a mystery to those familiar with more modern devices.
Arlene’s reputation for accuracy followed her throughout her career. She was a strong underwriter who was frequently overheard teaching sales reps how to find the answer to their question in the underwriting manual (a large binder with hundreds of pages). Online reference tools didn’t exist back then, so it was a manual process. She didn’t just want to give an answer, but rather help them understand where to find the answer for next time.
Similar to the Guidewire conversion we are going through today, the company as gone through several system conversions in the span of 50 years. One such conversion to the Policy Management System (PMS), as part of that effort, she ultimately wrote much of the PMS manual that defined each field of entry into PMS. The effort of proofreading draft procedures for accuracy and consistency became known as “Arlene-a-sizing”.
Arlene was a founding member of the QAD team, a group formed to improve quality assurance of PMS (Series 2) entries. As things evolved, she was a natural to become part of the RUS team, when it was formed to oversee the automation of rating, underwriting, and system processing. She became an expert in writing QMF queries, and could apply them against different generations of the system since she was one of the few that had worked in all the different systems!
Aside from all her accomplishments on the insurance side of the business, she was a tireless worker on the In-Club committees that coordinated many employee events over the years. In addition to coordinating the details for these events, she put together photo albums to commemorate them.
Arlene considered California Casualty her family, and did everything in her power to bring success. In her half-century here, she’s touched many people in a variety of ways. People like her have made this company successful.”
Arlene’s successful career is full of many achievements, but one of her favorite memories in her time with CalCas is winning the well-deserved Carl G. Brown, Jr. Award of Excellence, which is an employee-nominated award given annually to an employee whose sustained excellent contribution to the company is matched by a substantial contribution to his or her community.
When asked what the secret is to her 50-year career, she says, “It’s true what ‘they’ say about loving what you do – the time just flies. When you love your job it leads to honing your skills, seeing opportunities to improve things (processes), and finding the needles in haystacks to resolve system/policy problems. That being said, I couldn’t do the job I’ve done without the support of my work family.”
And we couldn’t do it without you, Arlene. Congratulations, and thank you for all you have done for California Casualty. You have helped turn us into the company we are today. Your presence in the office will be missed each and every day. Have a great retirement!
It’s no secret; we have amazing employees at California Casualty. The Employee Spotlight is a series we created to highlight some of the talented individuals who are dedicated to making California Casualty a great company to do business with and a terrific place to work.
From human resource recruiters and learning and development trainers to claims adjusters, marketers, customer support specialists, underwriters, partner relations, insurance consultants, and beyond; we are one big family working together for a common goal – to serve you, our policyholders.
Below are just a few of our extraordinary team members who are continuously working to make sure our customers (and fellow employees) have a great experience with California Casualty.
Customer Care Specialist, Lori Ryan:
What made you want to work in Customer Service at California Casualty?
When I was applying for my job at California Casualty, I saw an exciting opportunity to work for a company that had “big corporation pay”, with the feel of a smaller “mom and pop” company, that was really focused on customer satisfaction and employee retention.
What is your favorite part about your job?
I enjoy the different ways in which I can impact my customers, whether it’s counseling them on coverage limits or just making the whole experience of dealing with insurance more enjoyable.
I LOVE working for California Casualty because I love our customers. We have such a unique and amazing customer base with our group members. I get to hear their stories of heroism, compassion, and commitment to community, all while helping them navigate and understand their insurance needs and how to protect their assets.
Tell us some fun facts about yourself!
I like to thrift shop and enjoy painting and repurposing old furniture.
I’m a transplant from Texas who is addicted to coffee and makeup.
I love my job so much, I commute 45 miles to work (one way) just to get here! During that drive, I like listening to podcasts about History, True Crime, and Philosophy
What made you want to work in Human Resources at California Casualty?
I wanted to work in this position because it makes such an impact on the company. Finding and selecting the right employees for all of our different positions is very challenging yet very rewarding. When you work hard with a candidate, build relationships, get them engaged in our organization and then watch them grow into their role and become a success, it is very rewarding.
What is your favorite part about your job?
I have many favorite things about my company. I am a proud employee – in staffing, you have to be. A HUGE part of your job is selling the company to candidates who have never had any contact with us what-so-ever, and you have to truly love the organization you represent. Luckily, I work for the BEST business and it is very easy for me to do.
One thing I love about my company is all the different levels of management and how there is no division within the rest of the company. Everyone from the CEO to Executives to Upper Management are all warm and approachable people. We are all on the same playing field and it becomes obvious as we get to know each other. It is great to be in a company where everyone is connected that way.
I love the people I work with and the audience we represent. All of them. These are some of the best people in the business, and I love to see all the positive attitudes and appreciative people that I interact with each and every day.
Tell us some fun facts about yourself!
I like to run, do yoga, watch movies, and cook!
I have two awesome daughters who are also brilliant. One was passionate about becoming a lawyer and has recently passed the bar. She is now a Public Defender for the State of Colorado. My oldest daughter is a CPA for a respectable firm in Downtown Denver. I am very proud of both of them. They are the best thing I have ever done in my life.
What made you want to work as an Insurance Consultant at California Casualty?
I really just enjoy talking to people. It especially feels great when you’re also assisting a customer with a life necessity such as insurance.
What is your favorite part about your job?
Besides knowing that we’re helping our teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses! I enjoy really getting to know our customers, I talk to each person on the phone like I’m talking to one of my family members. I don’t want to under-insure my family and I also don’t want to over-insure my family; I want to make sure that everyone is paying for what they need to help take the best care of themselves as possible.
Tell us some fun facts about yourself!
I enjoy my family and my church family. Anytime we can all get together that is a good day!
I love going camping and enjoying the wilderness, I would say I go fishing, but I have yet to catch anything this season, so we’ll just skip that….
I also enjoy working on updating my house and working in my yard with my small farm.
What made you want to work in Social Media at California Casualty?
Well, when I first started at California Casualty I had taken a job as an Administrative Assistant for our Service Department.
I had big plans to work a more low-key job while I got my Masters in Marketing, and then I discovered that there was a Marketing position open here, and I had some experience, so I interviewed for it and the rest is history. Now, I’ve fallen in love with my job and I cannot imagine myself anywhere else.
What is your favorite part about your job?
There are so many things that I love about my job. Our audience, the creative freedom, my work family, all of it!\
There is no better feeling than giving back to the heroes in our community, my mom is a dispatcher, so I grew up always being around first responders and going to the sheriff’s office (I still do). AND my aunt and my brother’s girlfriend are also both Teachers. Any profession that puts someone else before themselves, will always have my gratitude and respect. I feel so good knowing that we are putting these heroes, and their needs, first here at CalCas – as they do for others.
Another reason I love my job is the complexity I have as a marketer. Social Media Marketing is often confused with just posting on Facebook and Instagram, but it’s SO much more. Aside from normal social duties, we run mini-campaigns, research and write blogs, communicate with our insured, partner with groups and individuals, strategize creative brand initiatives, sponsor events, design graphics, do video and editing, run our HR Linkedin account, and so much more. Every day is different, and because social is ever-changing, our calendar could literally change at the flip of a switch and you just have to roll with the punches. I love it!
And lastly my work family; we have our own little group of “creative weirdos” in the marketing department here at California Casualty. They make, even the most stressful day, enjoyable. AND we all are absolutely obsessed with our dogs – dog people are the best kind of people.
Tell us some fun facts about yourself!
I’m from Southeast Kansas, and I went to college at Pittsburg State University (Gooooo Rillas!).
I’m engaged and getting married in November! My fiancé surprised me by proposing in Seattle last fall in front of the Space Needle AND hired a photographer to capture the whole thing.
I LOVE Christmas and I’ve been to Rockefeller Center at Christmas time – it was amazing.
I will dance terribly to any song that is playing 100% of the time.
Whether it’s a flood, tornado, hurricane or earthquake, a natural disaster can turn your world upside down in a matter of seconds. Besides stress, adrenaline, and fear, there may be injuries to deal with and damage or loss of property. Many people don’t know what to do in the wake of a disaster, which can hinder their coping efforts and recovery.
Here’s a list of the 6 main steps to take immediately following a natural disaster and in the days, weeks, and months that follow.
Deal with the Immediate Aftermath
Make sure all household members are accounted for. If anyone is missing, seek help from first responders.
Attend to physical injuries or emotional distress. In cases of serious injury, summon professional help.
If you and your family need to evacuate, follow your family’s evacuation plan, grabbing emergency kits, go bags, and essentials as assigned.
Notify family and friends that you’re safe. If you can’t connect directly, you can register with FEMA’s emergency family locator online or by calling 1-800-588-9822. See more FCC & FEMA communication tips here.
Be aware of any new safety issues created by the disaster, such as damaged roads/bridges, chemical spills, downed power lines, and washed-out roads. Inform local authorities if possible.
Find Temporary Shelter or Housing
If your home is damaged and rendered uninhabitable, take photos of the damage, remove any valuables you can, and secure the property. Call your insurance company as soon as you’re able.
If you need to find an open emergency shelter near you right away, you can text SHELTER and your 5-digit zip code to 4FEMA. You can also use the FEMA Mobile App.
If you need to secure a hotel or other short-term housing, check FEMA’s resources for interim housing.
Remember that COVID-19 safety and health precautions may still be in effect so be sure to protect yourself and your family and stay informed on general guidelines.
If you have a pet, be sure to ask all sheltering or housing inquiries if pets are allowed.
Keep all your receipts from temporary housing costs, as you can most likely submit them for reimbursement.
Emergency Food and Water
Listen to local radio or television to find disaster feeding sites.
Check with local agencies, emergency shelters, and food banks for food assistance.
If you have to boil or otherwise disinfect water, follow the proper guidelines.
Seek Disaster Assistance
Check local radio and media for information on housing, food, first aid, clothing, and financial assistance.
The American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other volunteer organizations also provide assistance, supplies and help with clean-up efforts.
FEMA helps homeowners and renters who have lost their homes as a result of a presidentially-declared disaster. Assistance includes temporary housing, counseling, low-interest loans and grants, and other assistance. Register at gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA. You’ll need your:
social security number
insurance information, address (location of damaged home and current address)
total household annual income
routing and account number for bank account
a description of damage and losses
Wait until your area is declared safe.
If returning at night, use a flashlight to inspect your home and property. Keep an eye out for animals, including dangerous ones such as venomous snakes.
Inspect the property and perimeter first, checking for hazards such as gas leaks, downed power lines, and structural damage. Do not enter if you smell gas, see floodwaters, or if there’s fire damage.
If you do enter your home, you’ll need to be extremely cautious. Follow the dos and don’ts of inspecting your home in FEMA’s guide here.
Replacing Lost Records & Protecting Your Property
Ideally, your important records and financial documents were part of your emergency kit.
If you need to replace records such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, marriage certificates or social security cards, follow the instructions at USA.gov here.
Contact your creditors to inform them of the situation and work with them for current and ongoing payments.
If the disaster is a declared Federal disaster, you may be eligible for federal income tax deductions. Check with your tax planner.
If a member of your family is injured and you’re caring for them, check with your employer to see if you’re eligible for the Family Medical Leave Act or disability benefits.
While checklists and logistical aspects all need to be dealt with, also keep in mind the mental toll that natural disasters exert. Seek help if you can, take breaks and walks, and practice self-care. Remember that children are especially affected. Community and support networks are especially important in times like these — lean on them when you need support, and offer help to others when you have some extra energy to give.
Our streets and freeways are coming back to life after having been empty for months. And right now, we are at the end of the season known as the “100 Deadliest Days” for teenage drivers (Memorial Day through Labor Day). Add to that the excitement of back-to-school and socializing with friends beyond the virtual connections enforced by stay-at-home orders. It’s the perfect storm for poor decision making and inattentive driving by many 16 to 19-year-olds.
While COVID-19 poses a threat to our communities, teenagers are nearly four times more likely to die in a car crash than from the virus.
One of the biggest contributors to this “other” growing pandemic is distracted driving. Distracted driving is anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, mind off driving, or keeps ears from being alert to surroundings.
Did you know that reckless and distracted driving is the number one killer of young people?
Recognizing the need to proactively address these 100 percent preventable crashes – mistakenly called accidents – Impact Teen Drivers (ITD) launched a Create Real Impact Creative Contest. The contest hinges on the idea that needless teen deaths can be avoided if young people are given a platform to – in their own words – urge their peers to adopt safer driving attitudes and avoid the tragic result of bad choices behind the wheel. This year’s Fall Create Real Impact Contest gives educators and students a chance to win their share of $27,000.
Here’s How it Works:
Students, ages 14-22, can submit one entry into one of the four categories — creative writing, video, graphic design, or music — to showcase their original idea for a solution or strategy to end reckless and distracted driving.
Individual Prizes are awarded in a variety of ways:
$500 to the entry with the most online votes within each category
$1,500 to the grand prize winner in each category (as determined by CRI judges*)
$1,500 for a Spanish language award within the video or graphic design category
*Judges will determine the Grand Prize Winners based on the following criteria: 25% concept/creativity, 25% execution of the idea, and 50% effectiveness of the message. Online voting in no way influences the decisions of the panel of judges.
In addition to the individual student winners, high school teachers and advisors are invited to submit a distracted driving social media campaign developed and implemented by their student leaders. The High School Distracted Driving Social Media Campaign contest gives students the chance to develop critical thinking and rational problem-solving skills through conducting research, advancing technical and creative writing skills, and developing communication with peers and community members across multiple media.
Projects can be developed through distance learning or in-person.
The social media campaign prizes are as follows:
$10,000 for the first place winner
$5,000 for second place
$2,500 for third
Contest Opens: Monday, August 24, 2020, at 8:00 a.m. (PT)
Contest Entry Deadline: Thursday, November 12, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. (PT)
Online Voting Begins: Friday, November 13, 2020 at 8:00 a.m. (PT)
Online Voting Closes: Thursday, November 19, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. (PT)
Grand Prize Winners and Top Online Vote Getter Winners will be announced by the week of November 23-27, 2020
No one understands teens the way their peers do. By leveraging their creativity to spread resonant messaging on safer driving and better decision-making behind the wheel, young people can be a powerful force in reducing needless teen deaths.
Fall is the perfect time of year! The summer heat begins to fade, leaves don their annual colors, football games take over the weekend, and pumpkin-flavored everything hits the shelves. fall preparation
However, it also serves as a reminder, that as the days grow shorter and the leaves start to fall, now is the ideal time to look around your home and get prepared for the oncoming winter. Fall’s mild temperatures and adequate daylight provide an opportunity to check the heater, repair gutters, and add extra insulation to the attic. An early autumn storm or blizzard is no time to learn you have leaks or other problems.
TheInsurance Information Institute estimates that winter-related damage causes over a billion dollars in insurance losses annually. So, enjoy the nice weather and your pumpkin spiced latte while you can. Just don’t forget to look ahead. Prevent your home from being a winter-storm statistic and make the necessary preparations to your home this fall.
Fall Preparation Checklist:
Have your heating system checked and cleaned.
Inspect ceilings, windows and outer walls for cracks.
Change air filters.
Check your pipes and plumbing.
Inspect your roof for wear or damage and clean the gutters.
Install weather stripping and caulk around windows and doors.
Seal up foundation and driveway cracks.
Check your fireplace and chimney for cracks or leaks.
Look around your deck or patio and yard. Now is the time to clean and store seasonal outdoor furniture and flower pots, drain sprinkler systems, trim trees and shrubs, fertilize lawns and mulch gardens. Before your lawnmower goes into hibernation, schedule a time to have it serviced. If your snowblower needs some TLC after its summer break, bring it in with your mower and tackle two chores at once.
During the fall it is also important to make sure your home is fire safe. Hundreds of fires break out each day during the autumn and winter months. Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and make sure everything is working properly. The National Fire Protection Association warns carbon monoxide poisonings also climb during the fall and winter months.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector Preparation Checklist:
Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area, and on all levels of the home.
Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace the batteries.
Have all heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected.
Keep all flammable material at least three feet from heat sources.
Check fire extinguishers. Replace or have them serviced as needed.
Know and practice home escape routes.
A vital preparation step for any season is to review and understand your homeowners or renters insurance policy. Make sure you know what is covered under your policy, if you need to up your coverage, or add additional coverage for the coming winter months.
This article is furnished by California Casualty. We specialize in providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
Get a $25 gift card when you complete an auto quote with a representative.
*Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. One gift card per household, per year. Offer not valid when a California Casualty policy is already in force. Offer not valid in FL, GA, MD, NC, ND, TN and UT.
Offer not available to United MileagePlus® Members.