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car ins driver sideviewNew Year's is Especially Dangerous for Drivers

According to experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and AAA, significant numbers of traffic accidents on New Year's Eve involve drunk drivers, and there are more pedestrian fatalities on New Year's Day than any other day of the year.  So, if you will be driving on either day or night, be sure to exercise extra caution whether or not you will be drinking alcohol.

New Year's Eve Safety Tips

If you're planning a night out on the town or just a party at a friend's home and you plan to be drinking alcohol, you'll want to plan ahead to best protect yourself and your property.  Here are a few tips to help you stay safe:

  • Catch a ride with a friend or group of friends, and decide in advance who will be the designated driver -- the one who will commit to not consuming alcohol for the evening.
  • Leave your car at home in case you do consume alcohol during the evening. Plan to order a rideshare to get home. This way, you won't have to leave your car overnight and risk theft or vandalism.
  • See that your phone is fully charged before leaving home so that you'll be able to reach a friend or call a ride service when the evening is over.
  • When you drink alcohol at a party, be sure to also eat enough food to offset the effects of the alcohol during the evening.

If you plan well, you will be able to enjoy the festivities, confident that you'll arrive home safely.

Auto Insurance Tip

If you accept the responsibility of being your group's designated driver for the night's festivities, you'll want to be sure that your vehicle is in good working order and that you know in advance that your #AutoInsurance policy has you covered for transporting passengers in this situation.  If you have not done so in a while, review your policy with your Insurance Agent to be sure.

Feel free to contact any of our very capable and experienced agents at the William M. Sparks Insurance Agency here in Lutherville/Timonium, MD to discuss your insurance questions.  We can help you review your current insurance policy and explore your options to be sure you have the best coverage and protection according to your circumstances. 

Saturday, 28 December 2019 19:05

Start online shopping on Cyber Monday with these tipsChances are that you, like many other shoppers, are already making your holiday purchases online.  Retailers have noticed an increasing trend in online shopping over the past few years, and this is not likely to change.

As shoppers grow weary of braving the cold and standing in long lines to buy this year’s hot products, those who are computer savvy are increasingly opting for the convenience and great deals that they find online.

The result is the rise of Cyber Monday. Even those who venture into the mall on Black Friday or small business Saturday welcome the following Monday as a time to log on to the internet and see what sales are taking place to finish or perhaps start their shopping.

Unfortunately, cyber criminals know this and are finding that targeting victims online is not only easier but does not pose as much risk as capturing shoppers’ ID information and scamming them at the mall or on the phone. 

What’s at Risk During Online Shopping?

In fact, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) cautions that shoppers will likely face a variety of risks during this holiday season, such as the following.

·         Falling prey to online deals even though they seem “too good to be true”.

·         Paying for purchases with debit cards instead of credit cards, thus putting not only their credit card accounts at risk but their bank accounts as well. 

·         Not choosing secure online networks and instead being vulnerable to identity theft by using public Wi-Fi networks to make purchases online.

Take Necessary Precautions to Avoid Identity Theft

While Cyber Monday is indeed a favorite holiday for hackers, identity thieves, scammers and other cyber criminals,  the danger exists throughout the shopping season and indeed the year. There are some steps you can take to secure your identity and still enjoy the ease of shopping online.

    • Know your antivirus software – Antivirus software is much more effective today than in years past at blocking malicious threats to online shoppers. Sadly, cybercriminals have kept pace, finding new tools to steal your identity, your confidential information and more. So, while cyber thieves now use ransomware, trojans, worms, phishing scams, keyloggers and so much more, online shoppers can now be protected by using security tools for their devices such as VPNs, tracking blockers, parental control apps to protect them when browsing privately online.  However, no security tool will protect you unless it is used properly. Be sure that your security software is properly installed and configured before shopping begins, and see that it is updated regularly to remain effective.
    • Keep track of your payment method – If there is suspicious activity on your account after you have purchases, you must be able to trace it back to the website where your purchase was made.  Your payment methods could include Pay Pal or some other online payment platform, debit cards, credit cards, or perhaps even gift cards, it’s important to document the method you used for each purchase and note which website was used.  In fact, it is likely best to designate one credit card for online shopping and use it exclusively to avoid confusion.
    • Look before you click – Once you find a website from which you wish to purchase, take time to check the site’s URL to be sure it begins with HTTPS and not just HTTP. A site using HTTPS uses a secure network and will better protect your data. Even so, before you enter any personal information or payment details, make sure you are dealing with a reputable company and not a fake website or copycat website built to look like a real retailer’s site but ready to steal your data. A quick Google search for the name of the company or the URL of the website should let you know if there are negative reports available, and a look at the Better Business Bureau can show posts by dissatisfied customers.

Home Insurance Tip

Even with your best efforts, you might still fall victim to cyber crime and possibly to identity theft.  So before you begin your online shopping, it is wise to check with your insurance agent to discuss Identity Recovery insurance which can often be added to your Homeowners insurance or Renters insurance. Find out what coverages and services are available to you and see how affordable this protection can be.

Feel free to contact any of our very capable and experienced agents at William M. Sparks Insurance Agency in Lutherville / Timonium, MD to discuss your home insurance questions.  We can help you review your current insurance policy and explore your options to be sure you have the best coverage and protection according to your circumstances.

Monday, 02 December 2019 19:22

Ashlee Garrett - fall/winter 2019 Referral Program winner at Sparks Insurance Agency - Lutherville - Timonium MDCongratulations to our Latest Referral Program Winner 

We are always grateful when we get a referral from a client or a friend in the community like yourself.  Here at the William M. Sparks Insurance in Timonium, MD, we work hard to provide “top notch” service with every call and visit, and we're proud of the fact that our clients encourage their friends and neighbors to consider doing business with us as well.  Now, we’ve found a way to say thank you for this business through our Sparks Insurance Referral Program.  We truly appreciate all the referrals our loyal friends and policyholders send our way.

Thank you, Ashlee, for participating in our Referral Program by referring others to our agency. 

Ashlee's prize is a $100 Gift Card of her choice.

Check out the Drawing just held at the Sparks Insurance Agency office.

Could you be our next Referral Winner?

We'll be drawing another lucky winner in Spring/Summer 2020.  If you've been satisfied with our agency and share it with others, it could be your name that we draw next time.  Check out our website for the Referral Program details, and then decide who you know that could use the service and expertise of Timonium/Lutherville's best insurance agency.

By referring your friends, neighbors and family to William Sparks Insurance Agency, you can enjoy a win-win.  Not only will you be automatically entered into our drawing to be the next Referral Program Winner, but you will also have the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped those that you care about to have access to the best insurance service and expertise in Lutherville/Timonium and beyond. 

See our website for all the Referral Program details.

Feel free to contact any of our very capable and experienced agents at the William M. Sparks Insurance Agency here in Lutherville/Timonium, MD to discuss your insurance questions.  We can help you review your current insurance policy and explore your options to be sure you have the best coverage and protection according to your circumstances.

Friday, 04 October 2019 15:31

Will your college student's valuables be protected at school? Ask William M. Sparks Insurance Agency Lutherville - Timonium MDAs your college student heads back to campus this fall with a computer, cell phone,  tablet, headset and other valuable items in tow, perhaps you have already considered what might happen if these items were vandalized, damaged by fire or perhaps even stolen.  Would your homeowners policy cover such a loss, allowing replacement of your student's possessions while away at college?  In fact, you can protect your student's valuables against these kinds of losses through the right insurance. If you plan ahead, you can avoid the risks of being caught unaware about your student's insurance coverage.

Do You Need Additional Insurance Coverage?

A little advanced planning can often save the day. You'll want to sit down with your child and list everything that will be moved to college. This will then allow you to put a value on each item. When you have that information documented, then contact your insurance agent to confirm your homeowners policy coverage including any coverage limitations.  When you have determined the maximum coverage limit available for your student, then compare it to the total value of your child's belongings. If the total value exceeds the maximum coverage, you’ll want to know it now so that you can increase your coverage before there is a need to file a claim.

On Campus or Off? Homeowners or Renters Insurance?

Your agent will ask whether your child will be living in an off-campus apartment or on campus. Most homeowners insurance policies will cover your student's personal property in a campus dormitory up to the limits of your policy.  However, this is typically not so if your child is living off-campus.  If that is the case, then renters insurance is the coverage you will need. 

Don’t Forget an Inventory

Regardless of whether homeowners insurance or renters insurance will apply, it is critical to have an inventory of all items in advance. A list of items the student is taking to college will be helpful of their property is stolen or damaged. Be sure to include the serial numbers as well as model, make and brand of each item along with a description and a photographic record (especially for items that are unique). Along with the inventory, keep receipts for expensive items to help establish value in case you must file a claim.  Furthermore, it's important to advise your child about taking normal precautions to protect their belongings while they are away at school.

Attending to insurance coverage details and making good preparations before your teenager leaves for college will result in a smoother transition for both of you. For your own peace of mind, the key is to not assume you have adequate insurance coverage for your student's possessions at school without checking with your agent to be aware of all insurance options.

Here at the William M. Sparks Insurance Agency in Lutherville – Timonium MD, we help parents and students to sort through their insurance options when it comes time to head off to college; and we can answer your questions and help you, too.  Feel free to contact us at your convenience for a no-obligation review of your homeowners insurance policy and a discussion of what might be your best course of action to protect your child's belongings.

Friday, 09 August 2019 18:45

Summer swimming pool safety and homeowners insurance in Lutherville Timonium MDRegardless of our swimming abilities, many of us beat the heat in our backyard swimming pool as summer temperatures soar.  It seems that taking advantage of a residential swimming pool is more popular than ever before. In fact,  over seven million swimming pools and five million hot tubs are estimated to be in residential or public use in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But all swimming pools – from the simplest inflatable wading pool to the most elaborate luxury in-ground variety – can present a danger, especially to children. Between 2005 and 2014, fatal, unintentional drownings in the U.S. averaged over 3500 annually. More than one out of five drowning victims was reported to be 14 years old or under.

The following safety rules will prevent accidents and decrease your potential liability exposure:

  • Empty wading pools completely after each use, and always store them upside-down to avoid collection of rain water. 
  • Install a fence at least 4 feet high around the entire pool area with a gate that latches and locks.  Never leave furniture or other items close enough to the fence to allow children to climb over.  Pool alarms and safety covers add extra protection. 
  • The powerful suction of a swimming pool drain can trap a child under water.  Cover your pool drain with a safety guard, tie up long hair before swimming, and teach children to stay away from drains and filters.  In particular, teach them never to sit on a pool drain. 
  • Post emergency numbers and CPR instructions in the pool area. Store a first aid kit, a cordless water-resistant phone, reaching poles and ring buoys near the pool area to be used in case of emergency; and do not allow children to play with these items. 
  • Consider having older teens and adults take a course in basic first aid and CPR, and enroll your family’s non-swimmers in swimming lessons with a certified instructor.  Anyone who is not a good swimmer should wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest while in your pool. 
  • Adults should not swim alone, and children should never swim without an adult present and watching them constantly. 
  • Keep the pool area clear of glass items, electrical devices (radios, CD players, etc.), and obstacles that could cause a fall or other injury.

Homeowners Insurance and Pool Liability Issues

If you are planning to install a pool at your residence, it is important to consider the insurance implications as well as the safety issues.  The Insurance Information Institute recommends the following:

  • Installing a pool will also increase your insurance liability risk.  So contact your insurance agent to be sure your homeowners policy provides enough additional liability coverage.  If your pool will be costly, this may mean you will have to increase your homeowners insurance coverage and perhaps add umbrella insurance to provide extra liability above what your homeowners policy provides for your home. Of course, your home insurance must also cover the cost of replacing your pool and any pool-related items like deck furniture, should a storm or other disaster destroy or damage it. 
  • Contact your town or municipality since the definition of a pool which drives local building codes and safety standards will vary from town to town. You will want to have this information before you purchase the pool. 

Here at our Lutherville / Timonium, MD agency, our highly experienced William M. Sparks Insurance agents are always glad to speak with you about any insurance needs. Before you decide on a pool for your backyard, you owe it to yourself to contact us to be sure you have optimum insurance coverage. We can answer your questions, refer you to other resources, offer a no-obligation policy review and discuss your options.

Sunday, 23 June 2019 17:41
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