Safety on the water

As the temperature rises, so does the itch to go boating. Visions of cool water, the smell of sunscreen, and the rumble of a healthy motor have taken over. Avid boaters have been yearning for this season for months.
In the midst of the anticipation and excitement, it's easy to forget boating safety measures. Review these tips before you launch:

• Prepare your boat and know the law
    • Take a boating safety course.
    • Have complete knowledge of the operation and handling of your boat.
    • Make sure your boat is in top operating condition.
• Have the proper items on board
    • State registration, numbering, and letters.
    • Personal flotation device for each person on board
    • Visual and sound-producing distress signal
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Navigation lights, required from sunset to sunrise
• Operate your boat safely
    • Never operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
    • Maintain a safe speed at all times.
    • Keep an eye out for changing weather conditions
    • Maintain focus; most boating collisions are caused by lack of attention.
• Tell a family member, friend, or neighbor where you are going and when you plan to return.

Before you choose a policy, choose an insurance agent

Choosing an agent should be about finding the best options to fit your needs. You'll notice a difference when comparing quotes between independent insurance agents who represent many insurance companies and a multitude of insurance products, and a captive agent who represents one company.
It can be confusing and time consuming to shop for custom coverages, great deals, or exceptional claims service. An independent agent is an expert advisor who can be your best resource for this.
There are 37,500 independent insurance agencies in the U.S, according to a 2010 report from the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Inc. Each one offers a broad selection of insurance and financial services.
An independent agent can help you:
Compare a variety of companies and products to help you find the most effective coverage at the best value. Because an independent insurance agency has access to multiple insurance companies, they are able to offer you competitive pricing.
Choose your insurance policy among a vast field of offerings.
Evaluate services offered. Comparing apples and oranges is never easy. Each insurance company offers something slightly unique, and an independent agent can help you sort out which are best suited to your needs.
Customize coverage for your home or business. An independent agent is an expert in the nuances of policies and coverages, and understands how best to leverage these products to your advantage.
Navigate claims and other unfamiliar territories. While captive agents are obligated to watch their insurance company's bottom line, independent agents are free to represent you, and advocate on your behalf. They value you as a person, not a policy, and they'll look out for your best interests.

Unsecure cargo causes more than accidents

The evidence is everywhere: a cooler on the side of the highway, a mattress in the median, a ladder clacking on the side of a work truck going down the road. Drivers who don't secure their cargo put us all at serious risk.
Agent Steve Kolb, from Green Bay Insurance Center in Wisconsin, is all too familiar with that risk.
While driving back to college, Steve's daughter was seriously injured when a piece of particle board broke free from the truck in front of her and crashed through her windshield. Instinctively, she shielded her face, the board nearly severing her left arm, shattering her right hand, and smashing her mouth.
"It was the worst thing I could imagine hearing — 'Your daughter has been taken by Flight for Life,'" Steve said.
After five years that included reconstructive surgeries, plastic surgery, a dozen pins in one hand, and intensive physical therapy, Steve's daughter is doing well, has graduated from college, and is working in the microbiology field.

Lessons from that day linger

The driver carrying the board did not stop. When he eventually was identified, he had no insurance and minimal assets. Medical bills stacked up quickly, devouring Steve's coverage limits.
Steve learned that everyone should purchase higher limits for liability, uninsured motorists, and underinsured motorists coverage to have adequate protection for situations like this.
Another lesson is that we're not in control of all the exposures around us.
When it comes to vehicles carrying cargo:
• Never assume a load is secure.
• Maintain a safe driving distance.
• Stay alert for debris coming out of dump trucks and garbage trucks.

Hijacked bank accounts. Now what?

Sheryl Baier, a SECURA agent and MILE-STONE Gold policyholder with Vaaler Insurance in Bismark, N.D., was getting ready for vacation with her two daughters when she learned a thief wiped out their bank accounts.
"We didn't have access to any money, except some change they left so the accounts wouldn't be flagged for being closed," said Sheryl. "It was a really sickening feeling."
Her bank was able to trace the account activity. The thief transferred the funds from her daughters' accounts to hers, then took all but a few coins and transferred it to an unknown account.
Typically with this type of fraud, the thief passes the money through several accounts before withdrawing it, often overseas. Fortunately for Sheryl, the bank recaptured the transfer within the week.
The bank got Sheryl's money back, but ID Theft 911® - a feature of her SECURA home and auto insurance policy - gave back her peace of mind.
"Their service is excellent. So helpful. I'm glad SECURA offers it," she said.
Donna Miller was Sheryl's caseworker from ID Theft 911. She and her colleagues have the expertise to help with everything from protecting people's accounts and identities to helping policyholders recover from fraud and identity theft.
"We take the load off — do the leg work and the paperwork," said Donna. "We want people to be as protected as they can be."
Since 17 identities are stolen every minute, you can feel confident knowing ID Theft 911 has vast resources to help protect you against and recover from fraud.