This is the season of joy, shopping, and unfortunately cyber thievery. While millions of Americans will be looking online for Cyber Monday bargains, crooks will be trying to steal their money, personal information and identity. Identity fraud reached a new high in 2017, with criminals stealing $16 billion from almost 16 million consumers. It’s estimated that a person’s identity is stolen every three seconds.
So how do you avoid the “bad Santa’s” lurking on the internet? To help keep this the most wonderful time of year, we’ve assembled these 10 tips from the Better Business Bureau and our identity theft prevention partner, CyberScout, to add to your holiday list:
- Only shop on secure sites – look for “https” in the URL and a locked padlock symbol and avoid doing so on public WiFi
- Install the latest security software to block the crooks
- Never give personal information, especially social security numbers or passwords
- Use a credit card, not a debit card, for payment (you might consider purchasing a prepaid gift card to use for online shopping)
- Click out of suspicious links immediately (AVG has a free LinkScanner that checks sites legitimacy for you)
- Beware of Santa scammers who promise to send a letter to your child; often they are collecting personal data for ID theft
- Don’t buy used electronics; many are preloaded with malware that can steal personal information and passwords
- Avoid downloading online coupons sent to your email or from websites you are not sure of
- Use unique passwords for every site
- Don’t buy that cute puppy via the Internet – scammers use the holidays to take money for puppies that don’t exist, often using the ruse to get banking and personal information
The quicker you catch a possible breach, the better. Credit experts like CyberScout advise consumers to check their credit card and bank statements weekly, request a receipt for any purchase you make and run a free credit check annually.
California Casualty wants to make sure your identity stays safe from online Grinches; every auto and home/renters insurance policy comes with Free ID theft protection and resolution services from CyberScout. Make sure to protect your property and identity this holiday, call a California Casualty advisor today at 1.800.800.9410, or visit www.calcas.com/identity-theft.
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This article furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters and nurses. Get a quote at 1.800.800.9410 or www.calcas.com.
The crunch of the fallen leaves beneath your feet and the chill of the autumn air are exciting reminders that Halloween is almost here. Super heroes, princesses, ghosts and pirates will soon be roaming the streets in search of their favorite sugary treats.
As you spend time planning, decorating and carving pumpkins, remember that a safe Halloween is a happy Halloween. Whether you’re headed out with the trick-or-treaters or manning the door to pass out candy at home, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:
For trick-or-treating with children:
- Make sure all swords, play knives, or similar costume accessories are soft, short, and flexible
- Never let children trick-or-treat alone. Make sure they walk in groups with a trusted adult
- Map out a safe route with your kids so you know where they will be
- Set a designated time for them to return home or check in with you
- If you are trick-or-treating with children, make sure you have enough other adults with you to keep a headcount as you go
- Fasten reflective tapes to costumes and bags to help drivers see trick-or-treaters – the brighter the costumes, the better
- Attach your child’s name, address, and phone number somewhere inside their costume
- Look both ways before crossing the street
- If possible, cross at a crosswalk or a corner. If traveling with a group of trick-or-treaters, have them link hands when crossing
- Try to walk on sidewalks as much as possible. If you have to walk along the edge of the road, stay as far to the edge as possible and walk facing traffic
- Carry a flashlight with you—and give one to each child–to help you and others see
- Encourage kids to walk from house to house, never run
- Check to make sure kids are wearing well-fitted masks (or better yet- face paint!), costumes and shoes to avoid tripping or blocking your vision
- Check over treats before letting kids start eating them- check to make sure they are still commercially wrapped and not tampered with and that they do not present a choking hazard
- Always test make-up in a small area first to check for allergies before applying it to large areas like the face. Be sure to remove all makeup before bedtime to prevent skin and eye irritation
- Remind kids:» Enter homes only if you are with a trusted adult
» Only visit well-lit homes
» Never accept rides from strangers
» Never walk near lit candles or luminaries
To prepare your home for trick-or-treaters:
- Make sure the outside areas of your home, especially the walking area and stairs, are well-lit and free of obstacles
- Be sure to turn on all your exterior lights
- Keep candle-lit jack-o-lanterns and luminaries away from doorsteps, walkways, landings, and curtains. Place them on sturdy tables, keep them out of the reach of pets and small children, and never leave them unattended. Use battery-operated candles in any outdoor or child-accessible decorations
- Drive slowly all evening
- Keep pets away from the door so they don’t scare—or get scared by—trick-or-treaters
- Report any suspicious or criminal activity to your local police or sheriff’s department
- Make sure you do not pass out candy that is a choking hazard to younger children
Have a Spooky, Scary, and Safe Halloween!
In the US, home break-ins occur about every 18 seconds. That’s pretty alarming. Not only can a thief steal your belongings, they can rob your peace of mind leaving you and your family feeling violated, scared and even angry.
By taking the time to educate yourself and following some simple precautions, you’ll be better prepared to protect your family and home from a break-in ever occurring.
Know it: A security system may prevent a burglar from even attempting to break in.
Do it: Have a security system installed and monitored – and display the yard signs and window stickers you are provided.
Know it: Thieves sometimes rely on the cover of night, but most burglaries happen between 10am and 3pm while many people are at work or school.
Do it: Keep bushes and shrubs trimmed back. Consider getting motion activated security. Leave on a TV or radio. A barking dog can serve as a great deterrent to thieves – while you get to enjoy a wagging tail and a wet nose when you arrive home.
Know it: Burglars are often familiar with your neighborhood or daily schedule.
Do it: Varying your routine will make it harder for the bad guys to tell when you’re not home.
Know it: Signs that you’re on vacation or out of town for an extended period can make your home an easy target for burglary.
Do it: Put your mail, newspaper and deliveries on hold. Have a trusted friend or neighbor watch your home. Put indoor lights on timers. Some police departments offer an out of town home watch. If your local authorities provide this service, be sure to sign up several days prior to going out of town. Be vigilant about what you and your family post on social media.
Know it: 34% of burglars enter through the front door. Another 30% take advantage of unlocked windows or other unlocked doors.
Do it: LOCK YOUR DOORS AND WINDOWS! Keep your garage doors closed, even when home.
Know it: The top three things a burglar is looking for are cash, prescription drugs and jewelry but don’t doubt that these criminal opportunists will take anything they can get their hands on. Unfortunately, this often includes your identity.
Do it: Don’t leave valuables, cash or items that can be used for ID theft in plain sight or hidden in obvious places. Keep an up-to-date home inventory with a record of serial numbers from electronics to aid in filing police reports and insurance claims. Be sure to have an identity theft protection and recovery service if burglars get access to your personal or banking information.
We can’t stop all criminals, but California Casualty is here to protect you with quality auto and home / renters insurance with exclusive benefits not available to the general public. Every policy also comes with free ID theft protection.
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Wildfires in California have burned faster and more intense than ever. The past two years have seen the largest and most destructive conflagrations in the state’s history.
Too many people have come back to find homes in ashes and twisted, melted remnants of prized personal possessions.
Here are five key actions to be better prepared if the next wildfire threatens your community or neighborhood:
- Create a home inventory. Sixty percent of homeowners and renters have still not documented the things they own, which can cause post-fire/disaster headaches
- Review and understand your insurance policy and what it pays and does not pay for
- Get extra protection for collectables and high-dollar possessions with a scheduled personal property endorsement (often called a floater)
- Get renters insurance if you are renting to protect your furniture and possessions
- Prepare an emergency kit with important documents (copies of banking information, insurance policies, home mortgage and deeds, etc.)
If the worst should happen:
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible
- Secure the property from further damage
- Contact creditors, banks and appropriate agencies about credit cards, tax returns, Social Security cards or other papers that may have been scattered in the disaster
- Check your credit report to make sure nobody is using your personal information
- Be very wary of fly-by-night work crews and contractor fraud
Be sure to download and print your copy of these Wildfire Preparation Tips here.
On September 7, Equifax, a nationwide credit-reporting agency, reported that a giant cyber-security breach has compromised the personal data of up to 143 million Americans.
This information may include:
– Social Security Numbers
– Birth Dates
– Driver’s License Numbers
In addition, credit card numbers were compromised for about 209,000 customers. Overall, this is one of the largest data breaches ever, and many consumers financial information is at risk.
What should you do now?
- Visit https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to determine if you may have been affected
- Keep a close watch on your credit report and credit card accounts
- Freeze your credit and set up fraud alerts
You can freeze your credit report and set up fraud alerts by calling the reporting agencies:
ALL California Casualty customers have ID Defense assistance available through CyberScout as part of their policy. Click this link to learn more.