Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite!

Bedbug

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You can’t scroll the internet or listen to the news without hearing about  the harsh reality of bedbug infestations in hotels, planes, theatres, campuses, hospitals and office buildings.  This public health issue is quickly becoming a global crisis with sightings of these creepy critters from most U.S. cities  to the far reaches of Mumbai, India.

However, there are several measures you can take to minimize the risk of bedbug bites and infestation. Some include: checking your hotel mattress and keeping luggage away from soft bedding or upholstered furniture so you don’t transport the unwanted guests back home. Yard sale aficionados  need to think twice about snagging upholstered sofas  or chairs left at the curb.  These tips may help to minimize your exposure to bed bug bites and property infestation.

What happens if you do have an infestation? Will insurance pay the costly expense to eradicate the pesky pests? Unfortunately, insurance usually isn’t the answer here.   Most policies exclude insect infestation of any kind and do not include any coverage. “…The cost of getting rid of bedbugs, like other vermin, is considered part of the maintenance associated with owning a home and generally is not covered by standard homeowners’ and renter insurance policies,”  wrote Claire Wilkinson, Vice President for Global Issues at the Insurance Information Institute; “Most standard commercial-property insurance policies also have vermin exclusions for infestation”.

Most seasoned insurance agents will agree that insurance property coverage forms clearly exclude coverage for bedbug treatment; however, liability coverage may be a different  bug story. Ever think what would happen if a guest  is bitten by a bedbug at your home? Or perhaps your child has a sleepover and a young guest is bitten, resulting in infection and ongoing medical treatment. Before you know it,  you are being sued by the parents for negligence as a result of harboring the bloodthirsty buggers.  The good news is most homeowners liability policy forms do not exclude insects so there is probably liability coverage for this kind of lawsuit.. The same is true for commercial policies if the policy form does not specifically exclude insects. In addition, many businesses have coverage under business interruption forms if the need to close their business to properly exterminate the creepy crawlers arises.

Insurers may end up feeling the bite from bedbugs in other ways. New York state legislators became the first state to introduce a bill that would require bed bug coverage as an option for policyholders.  If NY passes this law, look for other states to follow suit.

It will be an interesting few months in the insect and insurance world as the globe grapples to safely avoid a 21st century plague. 

And for more relevant and topical insurance information, visit the A. G. Gordon, Inc. Website.

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Hurricane Preparation: Take 2

Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico near i...

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Hurricane Earl was not as bad for New England as weather experts anticipated. Where I was, there were 2-3 inches of rain and some light wind gusts; no apocalyptic storm was this. But that’s ok; it served as practice for the peak of Hurricane Season, which we have just begun to experience.   

I had gone to the grocery store and bought three cases of bottled water in anticipation of Earl; as frustrating as it was to waste time and money on preparations such as these, it was and is a good idea to prepare before any major storm. There is no time like the present to make a survival kit, draw up an evacuation plan, or check your insurance coverage. All these things become exponentially more difficult to accomplish when an actual hurricane is approaching.  

One of the most helpful things you can do insurance-wise is to take pictures/video of your house. Should a devastating storm occur along with damage, having photographic evidence of what exactly was damaged will facilitate your interaction with your insurance provider.   

One of the greatest tragedies of Hurricane Katrina was the amount of displaced animals after the disaster occurred. Before any sort of storm is forecast, make sure you have up-to-date pictures and paperwork of your pets, as well as immunization records. Should the need arise to keep a pet at a shelter or clinic following evacuation, it is vital to have all this paperwork and identification information at hand. Appropriately sized pet-carriers should also be purchased before hurricane season in case of evacuation (pet carriers should have enough room for pets to stand and turn around in). After a large storm, pets should be walked on leashes to become re-acclimated to their new environments. Avoid large pools of water, as downed power lands and displaced reptiles could pose a threat to household pets.   

After a storm is forecast, make sure automobiles have full tanks of gas. If evacuated, traffic and congestion will arise. Running out of fuel while waiting in traffic on the highway would only compound the danger of a hurricane or severe storm.
Lastly, KNOW YOUR INSURANCE COVERAGE. Most flood damage is not covered by homeowners policies.    

For more relevant insurance resources to save you time and money, visit the Andrew G. Gordon, Inc. website.    

Water, Water, Everywhere.

Water damage due to faulty rainwater downpipe

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Homeowner claims resulting from water damage are on the rise (no pun intended). Bob Passmore of the Property Casualty Insurance Association of America reports that “out of every $100 paid in insurance claims, $12 goes to water damage and freezing claims, not including water damage from flooding rivers and seas.   Flooding from ground water is not covered unless you have a flood insurance policy.  

Water damage, other than floods, is covered if the cause is sudden and accidental. A loose drain pipe from the bathtub that slowly leaks for months and buckles the bathroom floor is not covered.  However, the damage caused by a pipe that suddenly bursts is covered. The plumber’s repair to replace the pipe is not covered but the resulting damage is.  

There are measures you can take to prevent and lessen the amount ofwater damage and their resulting claims. Here are some that come to mind:  

  • Ice dams are caused by the melting ice in your gutter that backs up under your roof shingles, causing water damage to your ceilings, windows and walls. Use an ice dam rake on your roof when snow accumulates.
  • Have a licensed plumber periodically check your plumbing pipes.
  • Replace your washing machine and dishwasher hoses with ‘no-burst’ hoses. Unlike rubber hoses that can burst over time, these are made of a metal sheath that protects against bursting.
  • Periodically check around and under your hot water heater for any signs of leakage – a small drip from the tank can turn into a ruptured tank in no time at all!
  • Never run your dishwasher or washing machine when not at home (easier said than done, I know).
  • Check your toilets and under your sinks for any signs of water leakage.
  • At the first sign of freezing weather, turn off your outside water spigots (from the inside of the house) then drain from the outside. Newer spigots are designed to prevent freezing do not have to be shut off from the inside during the winter months. These can be replaced by a licensed plumber.
  • Check your ice-maker and its water line for any signs of leakage.
  • When on vacation, especially in the winter, have someone check your home daily.
  • Water alarm sensors are available to detect the presence of water in your basement
  • A temperature monitoring device plugs into your phone outlet and can alert you via cell phone that the temperature has dropped to the danger point of freezing. Use such a device when vacationing in the winter.
  • Newer gas furnaces operate with an electronic pilot. Older models have a gas flame pilot that can blow out from a draft. No heat means freezing pipes! Before going away on vacation, familiarize which type of pilot you have. If the former, this is another good reason to have someone check your home daily or have a temperature monitoring device!

Please watch for our future blog, “How to minimize further damage if you sustain water damage to your home “.  

And for more relevant insurance information, and resources to save you time and money, visit the A. G. Gordon, Inc. Website.  

Identity Theft – Tricks of the Trade

Credit cards

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Use of credit cards, bank accounts, and other electronic monetary transactions are a convenience and a necessity in today’s world. An unfortunate side-effect of this otherwise wonderful technology is the prevalence of identity theft. Previously a small and isolated type of crime, this type of theft has become ubiquitous in a world where money is wired from account to account, and most personal information is handled digitally. News of medical records ending up in landfills reminds us of that our privacy is not always within our control. Let’s face it. No one keeps all their money under their mattress, and safe-crackers are facing a tough employment market.    

But just because this is a problem does not mean you can’t be vigilant and prepared.  Here’s a great checklist from reader’s digest developed by former ID thieves to show you discreet ways that thieves can help themselves to your money. 

(For the full story and webpage, click here

“13 Things an Identity Thief Won’t Tell You” 

  1. Watch your back. In line at the grocery store, I’ll hold my phone like I’m looking at the screen and snap your card as you’re using it. Next thing you know, I’m ordering things online—on your dime.
  2. That red flag tells the mail carrier—and me—that you have outgoing mail. And that can mean credit card numbers and checks I can reproduce.
  3. Check your bank and credit card balances at least once a week. I can do a lot of damage in the 30 days between statements.
  4. In Europe, credit cards have an embedded chip and require a PIN, which makes them a lot harder to hack. Here, I can duplicate the magnetic stripe technology with a $50 machine.
  5. If a bill doesn’t show up when it’s supposed to, don’t breathe a sigh of relief. Start to wonder if your mail has been stolen.
  6. That’s me driving through your neighborhood at 3 a.m. on trash day. I fill my trunk with bags of garbage from different houses, then sort later.
  7. You throw away the darnedest things—preapproved credit card applications, old bills, expired credit cards, checking account deposit slips, and crumpled-up job or loan applications with all your personal information.
  8. If you see something that looks like it doesn’t belong on the ATM or sticks out from the card slot, walk away. That’s the skimmer I attached to capture your card information and PIN.
  9. Why don’t more of you call 888-5-OPTOUT to stop banks from sending you preapproved credit offers? You’re making it way too easy for me.
  10. I use your credit cards all the time, and I never get asked for ID. A helpful hint: I’d never use a credit card with a picture on it.
  11. I can call the electric company, pose as you, and say, “Hey, I thought I paid this bill. I can’t remember—did I use my Visa or MasterCard? Can you read me back that number?” I have to be in character, but it’s unbelievable what they’ll tell me.
  12. Thanks for using your debit card instead of your credit card. Hackers are constantly breaking into retail databases, and debit cards give me direct access to your banking account.
  13. Love that new credit card that showed up in your mailbox. If I can’t talk someone at your bank into activating it (and I usually can), I write down the number and put it back. After you’ve activated the card, I start using it.Sources: Former identity thieves in Kentucky, Florida, Indiana, Virginia, and New York.
    From Reader’s Digest – September 2010  

If you should become a victim of identity theft, be sure to contact your financial institutions to report the problem.  Many insurance companies offer ID Theft Recovery coverage either as an automatic coverage or for a small charge.    

“13 Things An Identity Thief Won’t Tell You | 13 Things | Reader’s Digest.” Reader’s Digest Magazine Articles. Sept. 2010. Web. 31 Aug. 2010. <http://www.rd.com/your-america-inspiring-people-and-stories/13-things-an-identity-thief-wont-tell-you/article184109.html?epid=F73D5CA1-13D0-4289-9BFE-AA9047516F64&trkid=ERDI22938-1&gt;. 

Even if all these steps are noted and taken advantage of, there is a chance you may still become a victim. Fortunately, many homeowners’ insurance companies offer assistance in reclaiming your identity.  If you’re not sure that your homeowners insurance includes ID theft coverage, contact us.  It isn’t expensive and will save you a ton of time and money if some sly thief absconds in the middle of the night with your identity. 

For insurance resources and relevant information, visit the A. G. Gordon Website

Hurricane Earl

Hurricane Rita

Image by alpoma via Flickr

 

With the cloudy pall of a Hurricane looming in the distance, a curtain of anticipation and apprehension has fallen on the South Shore. And while Earl is a storm that we’ll all inevitably ride out, we should all (as the boy scouts say) “Be prepared”. Fortunately for those without the ability to control the weather, there is an abundance of internet information about Hurricane safety that we have conveniently accumulated here for your viewing pleasure.  

Microsoft Word – Hurricane Preparation Checklist 

Stay safe during the storm, and for more insurance information and relevant resources, visit our website.