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Items filtered by date: December 2019

Saturday, 28 December 2019 19:05

Plan Ahead for a Safe New Year's Eve

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. 

Monday, 02 December 2019 19:22

Start on Cyber Monday With These Tips

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.

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