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9 Essential Steps to Identity Theft Protections

By Gary Sorenson, Insurance Brokers of Minnesota | May 1, 2017

I just wanted to share this blog post from “The Hartford Steam Boiler” with you on how to protect against identity theft as it’s a HUGE issue!

Your personal information is everywhere. No one can guarantee you will never be a victim of identity theft, but you can reduce your risk. By managing your personal information wisely, being aware of threats and educating yourself, you can help guard against identity theft.

Here are nine simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of your information being stolen and misused.

  • Guard your Social Security number.Do not carry your Social Security card with you; store it in a secure place. Avoid using your Social Security number.  Release it only when necessary, such as on tax forms, employment records and banking. When a business asks to use your Social Security number, ask if another identifier is acceptable. Don’t have your number printed on your checks and don’t supply it to merchants that want to write it on your checks. Finally, check your Social Security Earnings and Benefits statement each year to ensure no one is using your number for employment.
  • Protect your mail from theft.Mail outgoing bills from post office collection boxes rather than an unsecured mailbox. Don’t leave outgoing mail for your postal carrier to pick up. Pay attention to billing cycles and keep track of incoming mail, particularly tax forms, pay stubs, credit card bills and bank statements. If you don’t receive these statements on time, call to find out when the statements were mailed. Pick up new checks at the bank rather than having them sent to your home. Consider a locked mailbox to thwart mail thieves, and always have the post office hold your mail when you are away.
  • Destroy documents before disposal.Tear, or better yet, shred your charge and ATM receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements. Also, destroy expired credits cards and convenience checks or credit offers you get in the mail. If you don’t want mailed credit offers, contact the three major credit reporting agencies to “Opt Out” from pre-approved credit offers by calling (888) 5 OptOut (1-888-567-8688).
  • Shop online with caution. Only use a credit card when shopping on the web, not a debit card. And, designate a single, distinct credit card with a low limit for online shopping. Use a secure browser that complies with industry security standards before you provide any credit information over the internet. To determine if a site is safe, look for the “lock” symbols in the status bar at the bottom of your browser window. Look for the words “Secure Sockets Layer” or the acronym “SSL” in the merchant’s privacy statement. Never send payment information via e-mail.
  • Practice Safe Computing. Update your virus protection software Download and install security patches for your operating system or browser. Use a firewall, since high-speed Internet connections leave your computer connected to the Internet 24 hours a day. The firewall will help prevent persons from accessing your computer and accessing personal information.  Before you dispose of a computer, use a “wipe” utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive and make files with personal information unrecoverable.  Never store personal information on a laptop computer which is more easily stolen.
  • Pick your PINs carefully.Do not use any part of your Social Security number for any Personal Identification Number (PIN). Also, don’t use anything a thief could easily deduce, such as birth dates, pet’s name, mother’s maiden name, address, telephone number or consecutive numbers. Memorize all your PINs, and do not write them down anywhere. Finally, shield the PIN pad when you are entering the number in a retail establishment or at an ATM to prevent others from seeing it.
  • Secure important documents.Keep all documents with personal or account information under lock and key in your home.  Don’t leave them unsecured and accessible to visitors. Always keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work, preferably a locked drawer. Carry only the cards you need.
  • Record your credit and bank account information. Make a list of, or photocopy, all of your credit and debit cards, including the account number, expiration date, credit limit and the telephone numbers of customer service and fraud departments. Safeguard these lists; if one of your cards is stolen, you can contact card issuers and banks faster with the right information. Make a similar list for your bank accounts. Do not carry these lists with you. Keep them in a secure location.
  • Don’t take that call.Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or online unless you’ve initiated the contact. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of mortgage companies, banks, credit card companies, Internet Service Providers and even government agencies to get you to reveal your personal information. Request a call back telephone number for any telephone contacts requesting information from you. Never use the provided link in an email requesting information. Go directly to the company’s website.

© 2015 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is intended for informational purposes only.

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Be on Your Guard for Slips and Falls all Winter Long

By Gary Sorenson, Insurance Brokers of Minnesota | April 24, 2017

People in Minnesota don’t have the luxury of staying inside when the temperature drops below zero or there’s a foot of fresh-fallen snow on the ground. It’s easy to get develop a routine – bundle up in your parka, boots, hat, gloves and scarf before heading out the door. This routine may protect you from the wind chill, but don’t get too comfortable. With the increased risk of slips and falls in the winter, you need to stay on your guard every time you step outside.

Snow and ice in parking lots, on driveways and sidewalks can cause severe injuries at any time throughout the long winter season, which lasts from October through April.

Each year, hundreds of employees insured by workers compensation are reported as slipping and falling because of snow and ice – it’s one of the most common causes of injuries.

Keep outdoor safety in mind

When the first severe weather arrives in October or November, people may exercise more caution when walking and driving. These same precautions need to be taken throughout winter.

A new risk emerges as winter winds down. More slip-and-fall injuries are reported in March and April than November. That’s when warmer days and colder nights cause the snow to melt and then refreeze. This can create dangerous icy patches on sidewalks and in parking lots. The ice can catch some people by surprise because the temperature is rising.

Share the winter safety message

To keep your workers from getting too comfortable and letting their guard down, it’s important to continue to remind them of this safety message! That’s why at Insurance Brokers of MN we have so many different winter safety resources with unique messages to motivate employees to take it slow in the snow.

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How to Safely Navigate Icy Roads

By Gary Sorenson, Insurance Brokers of Minnesota | January 1, 2017

With winter weather in full swing you might encounter some snow packed and icy roads during winter season here in Minnesota. Let’s take a look at how you can keep yourself, your family and your vehicle safe when the roads become hazardous due to extreme weather.

Preparation is key
The first step in making sure you are safe on the roads this winter, is to ensure that your vehicle is prepared for icy roads. U.S. News & World Report, an online news magazine, suggests all vehicle owners follow several best practices to ensure their cars are ready. This includes maintaining the proper inflation of tires at all times, as well as having them rotated and aligned regularly. Good tire tread is very important as bald tires don’t grip just slide; also snow tires are also an option that should certainly be considered for the winter.

According to the news provider, brakes and brake pads should be regularly checked throughout the winter. Increasing the frequency of your visits to your car service center is also a smart idea this season, as you’ll want to know that all of the mechanical aspects of your vehicle are in optimal working order in case you encounter ice and heavy snow. Furthermore, if you are planning on driving through wide open areas that the wind can alter road conditions quickly and visibility.

Know how to handle ice
Now that you have your car prepared, you need to understand how to operate your vehicle on an icy road. Edmunds, an automotive publication, suggests easy breaking when you encounter ice. Slamming on the brakes can quickly lead to a complete loss of control. If you do begin to lose control, the website argues that you first take your foot off of the gas but not attempt to brake and allow the car to slow down.

No matter how seasoned of a driver you might be, an icy situation will test your mettle and the outcome will rely upon your instincts and reflexes. As such, Edmunds did note that taking a professional driving course that focuses on training for icy conditions can be beneficial. These courses are somewhat expensive, but can provide useful information to save your life (and your car). So consider taking a look at courses offered in your area.

Drive safely out there!

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Four Commercial Auto Endorsements Every Insured Should Consider

By Gary Sorenson, Insurance Brokers of Minnesota | August 21, 2016

Regardless of the industry or state of operation, the following four endorsements alter the availability of coverage for exposures common to most insureds:

Employees as Insureds

  • This endorsement closes these gaps and seeming inequities by altering the definition of “Who is an Insured” to include an employee while using an auto the “you” (the named insured) does not own, hire or borrow while it is being used on the named insured’s behalf. This extends insured status to the employee while using his personal vehicle on company (the named insured’s) business.

Fellow Employee Coverage

  • Bodily injury to any fellow employee of the insured arising out of and in the course of the fellow employee’s employment or while performing duties related to the conduct of your business.” In essence, if one employee through the use of a vehicle injures a fellow employee on the job, there is no coverage extended from the BAP to protect the “at-fault” employee.

Auto Loan/Lease Gap

  • This endorsement pays the difference between the amount paid by the physical damage coverage and the amount owed and only when there is a total loss. Payment is limited to the value associated with the specific vehicle. Expenses such as overdue payments, high-mileage and usage penalties, security deposits, add-on costs (i.e. credit life, etc.) and balances from prior loans or leases carried over to the current financing agreement are excluded from coverage.
  • Vehicle values drop so quickly and the difference between the ACV and the amount owed can be substantial. Consider this endorsement for all insureds with leased or recently-purchased vehicles

Rental Reimbursement

  • Rental Reimbursement Coverage is designed, as the name suggests, to reimburse the insured for the cost to rent a replacement vehicle while a covered vehicle is being repaired following a covered loss. The policy is subject to three “maximums”: a maximum per day limit; a maximum number of days; and a maximum total per loss, per vehicle. Further, the policy contains a 24 hour “after the loss” time deductible.
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Auto Insurance: Why This News is Important to You as a Consumer!

By Gary Sorenson, Insurance Brokers of Minnesota | October 1, 2015

The auto insurance marketplace has changed. Claims frequency and the average cost of settling auto claims are rising, leading to higher loss costs and future auto insurance rates for insurance companies’ existing customers. These are industry-wide and countrywide issues, impacting all drivers. They are also reflected in the rate increases being taken by some of our largest insurance companies in the US.

There are several reasons for this.  Among them are:

An improving economy and lower gas prices have contributed to a significant increase in the number of miles driven. Miles driven have increased for 15 straight months. Highway deaths are up 14% nationally and severe injuries are up 30%.

There are more new cars on the road and they are often more expensive to repair and replace.  Aluminum bodies, rear bumper cameras and “light units” rather than simple light bulbs are among the innovations that can increase the cost of the average repair.

Distractive driving is a major issue!  I was recently driving down the road with my spouse during morning rush hour noticing a middle aged women texting while driving so it’s not an issue with just young drivers!  The humorous part was I was distracted by this lady texting and upset she was texting and driving that my wife said, ”You better pay more attention to the road so you don’t have an accident watching someone texting!!”

There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road;
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.

Distracted driving activities include things like using a cell phone, texting, and eating. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction.1

But because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.

The best way to end distracted driving is to educate ourselves, family members and all Americans about the danger it poses.

Together, we can help save lives!

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Create a Safe Driver Culture in your Business or Home

By Gary Sorenson, Insurance Brokers of Minnesota | May 3, 2015

Being a business owner involves a lot of responsibility. When you have commercial autos, you become responsible for the safety of your drivers and other road users.

That can be a lot to take on, so the best way to deal with it is to share the responsibility. To create a culture where everybody shares the need to do the right thing. That’s especially important for driving. If you can create a safe driving culture in your business, you make everyone responsible for road safety. So how do you create a safer driver?

Talk About Safer Driving

The first step is to open up an internal dialogue about driver safety. You can do this through internal newsletters, emails, brochures or even workshops. Include your employees in the conversation. Let them share their stories and their concerns. The more included your employees feel, the more they’ll get involved in pushing that safe driving culture.

Monitor Driving

It’s important that you understand how your employees drive when they are representing your business. Driver training can only tell you so much about how an employee drives on a daily basis. Arrange regular monitored driving sessions or use GPS driver behavior monitoring systems and get a read on how safe your commercial fleet really is.

Reward Safer Driving

You want your commercial drivers, and your staff that drive to work, to be safe on the road. So reward the ones who overachieve in this area. Drivers that demonstrate a clear commitment to safer driving or show real improvement earn prizes or work-related benefits.

Lead by Example

The most important thing is to lead by example. If you want to encourage safer driving  in your business, you need to drive safer too. Whenever you want to influence your employees, you need to practice what you preach. Any campaign to encourage safer driving will be derailed if you’re spotted speeding on your way into work. This kind of culture change needs to be all-inclusive and all-inclusive includes you.

At Insurance Brokers of MN, Inc. we have detailed programs we can assist you in implementing. Contact our home office and we will be happy to provide information.

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Insurance Brokers of Minnesota
900 East Main Street, Suite 100
Anoka, MN 55303
P: 763-323-3000

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