4 ways to keep identity thieves out of major life events

It seems every day you hear about picking a better password or avoiding suspicious emails to protect your identity. But there are other ways criminals can get your personal information.

Consider major life events like getting married, having children, enlisting in the military, or executing an estate. All of these increase the chance of identity theft. Learn the potential pitfalls so you can better protect your identity — or that of a loved one.

If you choose to change or hyphenate your name after marriage, apply for the name change in person at the social security office; don’t fax or email your personal details. Don’t show pictures of your marriage documents on social media, and store your old social security card in a locked safe or safe-deposit box.

Having a child 
A fraudulent credit report could be building, unnoticed until your child grows up. Don’t give out your kid’s social security number unless absolutely necessary. Ask how schools use and store your child’s personal details, and confirm what is shared via directories or activities.

Military personnel 
You can put an Active Duty Alert on your credit report for free. This lasts a year (with an option to renew) and makes companies verify your identity before granting credit. Plus, you won’t get any pre-approved credit card offers for two years (another way criminals can gain access).

Executing an estate 
If a loved one passes away, send a copy of the death certificate to the credit bureaus to get a deceased alert on credit reports and prevent future fraud. Notify any credit cards, banks, or other financial institutions. Also consider the obituary. Including too many details could give thieves an advantage.

Get help with identity fraud
SECURA MILE-STONE Gold policyholders automatically receive identity theft protection. Contact your independent agent to learn more.

Farmers markets: What kind of insurance do I need?

Insurance for vendors
Your booth at the farmers market is beautifully stocked with fresh produce and even a few homemade goodies. You greet each customer, welcome your regulars, and make recommendations on how to serve this week’s harvest.

But what would happen if a customer got sick from something you sold? Even careful farmers can end up with a listeria outbreak or other contamination. Food borne illnesses can be serious, and medical expenses add up quickly.

Product liability insurance protects you as an individual, should you get sued. With the right coverage, your customers will be able to get the medical attention they need — and you won’t risk losing the farm!

Talk to your agent about selling your produce and other goods so they can help you with general liability and product liability coverage. Getting the right insurance might be easier than you think.  

If you’re a farmer selling fruits or vegetables at a roadside stand or farmers market, you likely already have a farm liability policy. Farm liability policies often have language specific to when product liability is covered and when it is not. Talk to your agent to find out if your policy has limitations. 

Insurance for organizers
Those who host farmers markets need insurance, too. Commercial general liability insurance provides general liability, insuring you, as the organizer.

This insurance is not intended, however, to extend coverage to your vendors or their customers. That’s why it’s a good idea to require vendors carry their own insurance that includes product liability. If you don’t require proof of insurance, you put your own organization at risk. As added protection, you should require each vendor to name your organization as an additional insured on their policy.

With these tips, you're sure to reap the full harvest of benefits from selling your produce and goods.

College dorm theft prevention

A tablet, a computer, a gaming console…and a French horn. Your son or daughter packed a lot of stuff into their dorm room, and some of it is highly attractive to would-be thieves. Talk with your child about dorm room security and investing in a few security tools.

Dorm safes
Walk down the hallways of nearly any dorm and you’ll see lots of open doors and groups socializing. While open doors make for great community, they’re also an invitation for grab-and-run thieves.

The best advice is to close and lock your door every time you leave your room. But since you can’t always control what your roommate does (and because “I was only gone a second” moments are just part of life), invest in a dorm room safe.

Dorm safes are designed with anchor cables that wrap around furniture or closet poles. You can store valuables like a passport, medications, cash, or tablet in one secure place. For gamers, consider a safe big enough for games and controllers too.

Cable locks
Laptop leashes and cable locks can deter larger electronics from walking away. Many laptops have a lock slot designed specifically for cable locks.

Xbox One units come with a built-in Kensington security slot, and Kensington offers an adapter kit that can be bonded to other electronics. Gamers also can find acrylic security cases designed to lock their game system to a table — just don’t plan on drilling holes into any college-owned furniture.

Know your coverage
Your existing homeowners insurance will likely extend coverage to your son or daughter’s dorm room (and possibly off-campus, too), but there are limits and exclusions. Talk to your insurance agent to understand what’s covered.

The 3 top misunderstood insurance terms

For a newcomer to the insurance industry, or a policyholder who reads the fine print of their policy, both could be left scratching their heads over some of the terminology. Much of it is steeped in hundreds of years of history.

Check out these three commonly misunderstood insurance terms:

Inland marine

Back in the day — way back before the 19th century — most cargo was transported by ocean vessels. The owner of the items being shipped would purchase marine insurance to protect his property while it was in transit. As the rise of new transportation developed, a need for a new type of insurance coverage arose to cover the unique perils of transporting items over land versus the sea. Hence, inland marine came on the scene.

Most inland marine coverages are for property that is taken off the primary premises of the policyholder. Some examples may include a photographer who uses his camera equipment at a wedding reception, a contractor who takes his tools to a job site, or a traveling art exhibit.

We’re not talking about celebrity endorsements here. An insurance endorsement is an agreement that is attached to an existing policy that either expands or limits the coverage. Think of it as an add-on.

Perhaps you have a business that you run out of your home — you can add an endorsement to your homeowners policy to cover those extra risks. Or maybe you have a collection of expensive jewelry and its value exceeds your standard coverage limits — an endorsement can cover its replacement cost for an additional premium.

On a typical rainy day, you may get by with a raincoat. But when it pours, you need an extra layer of protection to shield you from the storm — that’s where an umbrella comes in handy. This is a good picture of how insurance works.

Most insurance policies cover typical perils that you may face — your home gets damaged, or you have a minor fender bender in a parking lot. But what happens if you’re at fault for that accident and the other driver sues for $1 million when your liability limit is only $300,000? If the other driver wins the lawsuit, you’d be responsible for paying the balance. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an umbrella to shield you from this type of storm?

A personal umbrella policy provides an extra layer of protection above the liability limits in your home and auto policy. The most common limit for an umbrella policy is $1 million. However, depending on your unique situation, higher limits are available.

Talk with your insurance agent to determine proper coverage for your individual needs.

Top 5 questions to ask before hiring a contractor

Whether you’re starting a new project or hiring a contractor for repairs, here are five key questions to ask before signing a contract.

1.    Are you licensed?
Licensing helps ensure your contractor will meet area building standards, and proof of licensure is usually required before a contractor can pull permits for your job. Be aware: hiring an unlicensed contractor could void your homeowners insurance, if a claim arises as a result of their work.

2.    Are you insured?
Ask for proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance. These policies protect you in case the contractor damages your home or a job-related injury occurs. Your homeowners insurance may be able to help if your contractor isn’t insured, but a claim like that could impact your rates or make it more difficult to obtain insurance in the future.

3.    Can you provide a list of references?
Past performance is a good indicator of future success. Angie’s List offers suggestions on what to ask when talking to a contractor’s previous clients. Also search other online ratings, including social media.

4.    How often will you be on site to oversee the job?
If your contractor is not actually doing the work, you want someone who will be checking in daily. A contractor should serve as a project manager, watching for mistakes, addressing complications, and keeping the job on track.

5.    Have you been involved in any legal disputes regarding a job?

Check with the Better Business Bureau or search local court records. In a perfect world, your contractor won’t have past legal disputes, but construction is a difficult business and things do go wrong. See if your contractor gives you an honest answer and then weigh his or her good referrals against any prior troubles.

Do your homework before you commit. Hiring a qualified, properly insured professional could save you a lot of stress in the long run.