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According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, identity theft is now the fastest growing crime in America. It can include credit card fraud, Internet fraud, mail theft, among other crimes; and in 2012 at least 9.9 million Americans were victims with a loss of about $5 million. Identity thieves steal your personal information which could include your Social Security Number, credit card numbers, or your bank account data including ATM PIN code. You have likely been warned about this crime, and you may think you are careful with your information; but identity thieves are becoming more and more clever at getting what they want.
One method these criminals might use is called "shoulder surfing" where the thief simply stands near you as you use your bank’s ATM, watching as you enter your PIN. Listening in on your phone conversation as you make a purchase and give your credit card number is another thieves’ trick. In fact, with cell phones, a thief can appear to be innocently texting or talking on the phone while actually snapping pictures of your credit cards or record your entire conversation.

Cyber criminals often now use online "phishing" (pronounced “fishing”) to capture your personal information. The cyber thief sends e-mails appearing to be from legitimate banks or credit card companies, often indicating that there is a problem with your account. They usually provide a link to a fake website – made to appear official – where they ask you to "verify" your account by providing your Social Security Number and/or other confidential information. If you comply, then your identity is stolen before you even know it.

A low-tech, less sophisticated way used by some ID thieves is "dumpster diving" -- going through dumpsters to find bank statements, checks, credit card statements or other items that contain your address and account number.

As identity criminals find more ways to ply their crime, it is important to remain aware and do what you can do to protect yourself: The following are a few common sense suggestions from the International Risk Management Institute Inc.

  • If you must provide confidential information over the phone, be sure you know who you are speaking with; and check to be sure no one is close enough to hear your conversation – even if they do not seem to be paying attention.
  • When using an ATM, ensure that no one is near enough to see the keypad and screen.
  • Shred all documents and bills containing personal information before you throw them away.
  • When you receive e-mail requests for your confidential information, be sure to call the sender or otherwise contact the institution directly first. Never respond to an e-mail to provide any information unless you are completely sure who is receiving your e-mail.

Despite your best efforts, you could become a victim of identity crime, so it’s important to consider protecting yourself with Identity Recovery Insurance before you need it. Many major insurance companies offer the coverage. So check with your insurance agent to find out how you can be best protected.

Here in Lutherville – Timonium (MD) at the William M. Sparks Insurance Agency, our agents are familiar with Identity Recovery insurance and can help you explore your options at your convenience. Contact us for information or to discuss how we can help.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022 23:39

referral drawing 2022 400x300When we get a referral from a client or a friend in the community like yourself, it means a lot to us.  The experienced agents here at William M. Sparks Insurance in Timonium, MD, work hard to earn each referral by providing “top notch” service with every call and visit.  Now, we’ve found a way to say thank you for this business through our Sparks Insurance Referral Program.   It’s our way of showing appreciation for all the referrals our loyal friends have sent our way.

Patti B. is our winner for Spring/Summer 2022.

We appreciate Patti's confidence in our agency, and we're pleased to award her prize -- a $100 Amazon Gift Card.  

Could you be our next Referral Winner?

We'll be drawing another lucky winner sooner than you think.  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.

Wednesday, 16 March 2022 19:42

Protect Your pets From Home Accidents and FiresIf you have pets, you have probably worried about leaving them in your house unsupervised. In particular, home fires are likely a big concern. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) indicates that 500,000 pets a year are affected by house fires. Moreover, pets are reported to be responsible for starting 1,000 house fires.

So how can you prevent your pets from starting a fire in your home and also protect them from fire-related injury? The American Kennel Club and ADT Security Services offer the following tips that could save your pet’s life.

  • Extinguish open flames — Pets tend to be attracted to stoves and open fires like the fireplace or BBQ. Restrict your pets from the kitchen or the grilling area when cooking with flames is being done, and also use a sturdy screen in front of your fireplace that will keep sparks from flying into the room and one which will not tip over easily. To prevent problems when you are not at home, completely extinguished all sources of fire so they do not pose a threat to pets left at home.
  • Remove or protect stove knobs — The NFPA cites pets turning on stove knobs as a leading reason for pet-started house fires. Your curious pet could jump onto the kitchen stove, turning on the stove knobs in the process. Not only could the pet be injured by the stove flame but the flame could spread to involve the entire kitchen and beyond. To prevent such dangers, remove or cover stove knobs so that they cannot be activated while you are away.
  • Flameless candles — Pets are also drawn to burning candles and lanterns which they can easily turn over causing a fire to spread quickly to surrounding furniture and walls and then engulf the entire house. The answer: use battery-powered flameless candles which will offer the same visual effect without the flame.
  • Water bowls on wooden decks — You might believe that leaving your pet in your back yard while you are not at home would be a safe decision. You might be correct unless you have left your pet’s water in a glass water bowl on your wooden deck. The water in the bowl acts like a magnifying glass to concentrate the sunlight, thus heating the wooden deck enough to ignite the wood. The solution: Use a ceramic or stainless steel water bowl which does not focus light in the same way.
  • Inspect and pet proof — Loose electrical cords can cause several different hazards. If the cord is attached to a lamp with the bulb turned on and the pet pulls the lamp over, the lightbulb could ignite a carpet if it lands against it. Pets can also become entangled in loose electrical wires and be strangled or cause an appliance to fall to the floor and hit your pet. Then there is always the chewing pet who can suffer severe burns if they chew through the electrical cord.

Homeowners Insurance Tip

Even when you "pet proof" your home and remain aware to prevent pet-related accidents, sometimes those accidents can still occur.  Be sure that you are fully protected.  Have a conversation with your insurance agent well in advance of a time when you'll need it to be sure that you have the homeowners insurance coverage you need on your policy.  He or she will help you to anticipate any circumstances that might given your lifestyle because it's too late after the accident happens.

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 home insurance.  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.


 

 

Thursday, 23 September 2021 21:02

college and nsuranceIs your student off to college this semester? Have you done an insurance review?

Can you believe that summer is coming to an end and it’s now back-to-school time once again? It’s the time of year when we notice more than ever the way our children are growing and how their lives are changing. So this makes it the perfect time of year to also evaluate your family’s auto insurance and homeowners insurance coverage. Is this the year when your teen goes to college? Will your son or daughter get a drivers license? Will you be replacing your vehicle to make room for school carpooling? Will you be adding an addition to your home to accommodate space for home schooling? Keep your children safe in the new school year— review your car and home insurance coverage this fall.

Car Insurance

  • Before you decide on that new vehicle, check with your insurance agent to see how its purchase will affect your auto insurance rates. Also, you’ll want to discuss how carpooling impacts your coverage as well.
  • Teen drivers can be expensive to insure, but don’t forget to check for a student discount. Typically, getting the discount requires that your child carry a good grade-point average, so you’ll need the details on that as well. In addition, if your teen passes a driver safety course, you might qualify for reduced car insurance rates.
  • If your child in college, it’s possible that you might receive a further discount, provided they meet the requirements – typically attending school outside of a specific distance from home without a vehicle while away.   Again, your insurance agent will know the details.

Home Insurance

  • Perhaps home schooling is your plan, and you know you’ll need to expand your home to accommodate the space. There are many insurance questions to resolve before you move forward. For example, if your home is expanded and the property value increases, then how will this affect your homeowners insurance cost. Not to be forgotten, also, is the need for sufficient liability coverage if your home schooling will include others beyond your immediate family.
  • If your college-bound teen will be living on campus, then most of his or her belongings will typically be covered – at least in part – by your homeowners insurance policy. This includes all those expensive items like a laptop, TV, bike, smartphone and other electronics, among others. 
  • If your college student will be living off campus while away at school, then it is likely that your homeowners insurance will not cover, and renters insurance will then be your answer. Renters insurance is typically very affordable, and a discussion with your insurance agent will let you know your options.

Home and Auto Insurance Tip

The start of another new school year can be an exciting time for your family. Giving yourself the peace of mind knowing that you’ve got the right insurance coverage can help you protect your assets as you invest in your child’s future. The first step to doing so is to meet with your insurance agent who can help you explore your options.

The William M. Sparks Insurance Agency located in Lutherville / Timonium, MD, is a full-service insurance agency offering auto/car insurance, homeowners insurance, business/commercial insurance and life insurance to all of Maryland (MD), Virginia (VA) and Pennsylvania (PA) since 1981. Our experienced insurance agents welcome your inquiries and are glad to discuss your coverage needs at any time.


Thursday, 02 September 2021 21:26

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.

Tuesday, 10 August 2021 18:45
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