Protection strategies for holiday shopping

You’re in line when a woman cuts in front of you. You politely tell her that she wrongly took your place; she then threatens to shoot you or anyone else who objects.

It sounds like a violent scene from a movie, but this event happened outside a Toys ‘R’ Us store only last year during Black Friday shopping. The day is filled with anticipation for the best deals and the greatest holiday gifts for our friends and family. But participating in the festivities can be risky on several fronts.

Here are a few things you can do to avoid the perils of in-store holiday shopping:

• Always be aware of the people around you. If activities and behaviors seem to be escalating into a violent or dangerous situation, get out immediately.

• Keep your cell phone handy in the event you need to notify police of an incident.

• Make sure you aren’t followed to your car; thieves have been known to take purchased merchandise from shoppers in parking lots.

• Put your cash or cards away immediately after using them, which will decrease your risk of dropping them – right into the hands of an identity thief. Keep your wallet or purse with you at all times, rather than in a shopping cart or basket.

Or you can shop online. It’s safer, and you can do it in the comfort of your pajamas. Follow these tips:

• Use credit before debit. Credit cards are more likely to cap fraudulent charges if fraud is reported. A thief could wipe out your checking account before you know it, and you might have no recourse.

• Consider using disposable credit cards so your number cannot be traced – and re-used – by identity thieves. You likely can order them through your financial institution.

• Don’t store your credit information on a shopping site. It’s faster the next time you check out, but store sites are big targets for hackers who want your credit information.

• Watch out for spamming ads, deals that are too good to be true, and e-mails from unknown senders claiming they need bank information from you. Do not respond to these solicitations!

More tips to prevent identity theft.

SECURA donates to breast cancer research in honor of loved ones

It started with a desire to do something meaningful. To make an impact in an area that affects millions. And so we launched our annual One by One campaign.

Our promise was to donate to the cause of breast cancer research for every new MILE-STONE® home and auto policy written Aug.1 – Oct. 31. As such, we will give more than $13,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, making our three-year campaign total more than $71,000.

What makes this even more special is that we donated these funds in honor of our agents and community friends. See the list of those honored with the donations for the past three years.

Throughout the campaign, brave women helped us build awareness by telling us about their experiences with breast cancer. Their stories were ones of trials, tribulation, and triumph. We invite you to read their inspirational stories.

This year’s campaign may have ended Oct. 31, but our desire to raise awareness about prevention and early detection of breast cancer perseveres. The battle against breast cancer can be won, by the action of each of us, one by one.

Prepare your vehicle for winter weather

Whether it was the October snowstorm shocking the East coast, this week’s snowfall across parts of the Midwest, or the blizzard pounding Alaska full force — early winter weather is surprising people across the country. If these unexpected signs of winter hit your area today, would you be ready? Follow these tips to prepare your vehicle for whatever weather winter might bring.

In your vehicle:

• Check the tread on your tires and replace them if they are too worn. Good traction is key during winter driving. Also, check your tire pressure often — your tires start to lose pressure as temperatures drop.

• Make sure your windshield wipers are in good condition to handle ice and snow. Use windshield washer fluid that’s intended for cold temperatures.

• Check your antifreeze level and aim for a 50/50 mixture of distilled water and antifreeze.

• Change your oil. Clean engine oil helps protect your motor when you start it in the cold.

• Keep your gas tank at least half full.

• Always keep an ice scraper and shovel in your car, and prepare an emergency kit that includes warm gloves and a blanket.

• Get your car waxed to prevent corrosion from road salt, and wash it throughout winter to get rid of any salt buildup.

When winter weather hits:

• Plan your driving route ahead of time and tell someone your plan.

• Avoid quick stops, turns, or lane changes that could send you skidding across icy roads.

• Always drive with your lights on.

• Clear the snow or ice off your car each time you drive to ensure maximum visibility. Don’t forget to scrape off your lights, roof, and hood.

• Leave extra room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you to allow enough stopping time.

Six tips to prevent ice damage to your home this winter

Those sparkling icicles hanging from your gutters may look beautiful, but they point to a sign that your roof is headed for disaster.

Icicles come from ice dams, a potentially dangerous blockage formed from melting snow that freezes along the shingle edges and gutters of your roof. As ice builds on these eaves, it can trap water, which eventually will seep through the seams of your roof shingles. That water can then leak into your attic and living area, and cause significant damage.

But if you insulate and ventilate your home properly, you can prevent major repair bills this winter. Here are six steps you can take now to keep ice dams from forming:

1. Make sure your attic floor has the right amount of insulation at the appropriate R-value for your climate to keep heat inside your home. If you’re unsure what R-value you need, visit the U.S. Department of Energy.

2. Add soffit vents if your home doesn’t have them. Air that travels into the attic from the house below carries water vapor that, unless vented away, can condense on the cold insulation, framing, and sheathing.

3. Make sure your attic insulation doesn’t cover any part of your soffit air-intake vents.

4. Have sufficient air-exhaust outlets, also known as gable vents, in your attic. (Peak-mounted ridge vents maximize air flow in the attic areas.)

5. Keep your gutters clean so water can flow easily from your roof. Fall is the best time to remove leaves and debris – before the snow flies.

6. Remove the snow and ice buildup on your roofline before it melts. You can find a snow roof rake at your local hardware store. After a snowfall, remove the first two or three feet of snow above your gutters for best results. Please note that this work can be very dangerous under certain conditions. If you are unsure about the proper procedure for raking your roof, SECURA recommends you hire a professional to do the job.