Consumer Alerts – Protect Yourself from Fraud

Mystery Shopper scam using Gore Mutual Insurance Company’s logo

We would like to warn consumers about a mystery shopper scam involving the use of Gore Mutual’s name and logo.Fraudulent letters and cheques are being sent to consumers as part of a mystery shopper request. These cheques bear the name and logo of Canadian financial institutions. Gore Mutual’s name has been used in some instances.

Typically, the recipient is asked to deposit a cheque, keep $400 in their account as payment, and wire a sum of money to another person’s account. The fraudulent cheque will not clear the banking system, and the transferred sum is unrecoverable.

Gore Mutual does not send out letters or cheques to consumers for such programs.

If you are uncertain about any correspondence or cheques received from Gore Mutual, please contact your broker or email stayingintouch@goremutual.ca.

If you have received such a letter and cheque, please report it to your local police agency and send a copy of your police report to stayingintouch@goremutual.ca.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre also offers tips on how to protect yourself from fraud and scams.

Auto Insurance Changes

owen sound car accident

Automobile Insurance is changing in Ontario. Effective June 1, 2016, changes to the Accident Benefits portion of the policy are coming. To learn more, check out this short video and then call your Account Manager to discuss how these changes will affect you!

The Big Guy is coming! Only 17 more sleeps!

So it’s Christmas time…..you have decorated the tree, hung the lights, finished your shopping and wrapped all the presents and done a ton of Christmas baking!  Now it’s time to relax and enjoy the holidays!  Christmas time is one of the most magical times of year, the parties, the lights, the presents…..what’s not to enjoy?  As we get closer to Christmas, Nicol Insurance wants to help keep your family safe.  Here are a few tips to remember during this Holiday Season:

  1. If you have a real tree, make sure to keep it watered.  It seems simple, we know, but Christmas tree fires are statistically more deadly than other fires.
  2. Do not put your tree up around a heat source.  Again, seems obvious, but even over a heat register can cause your tree to dry out and increase the risk of it catching fire.
  3. Make sure to choose a DD for your holiday party!
  4. If you are going away for Christmas…..make it appear as though you are home, put outdoor lights on a timer, don’t post your travel plans on facebook and have a neighbour check on your home while you are away.

From our family to yours, we hope that you have a Merry Christmas & a prosperous New Year!  We hope that Santa is good to everyone…..regardless of what you have asked for!

 

Insurance Fraud & Staged Accidents

We’ve all heard stories about automobile insurance premiums being high, but what we haven’t heard is why.  Fraud is the number 1 reason for high insurance premiums and it is the number 1 problem facing the automobile insurance industry today.  Staged accidents are fast becoming an industry problem that involves both participants and innocent victims. Just as investigators get one staged accident figured out, the fraudsters find another creative way to scam the insurance companies.

Staged accidents go much further than just the cost to repair a vehicle, the fraud ring often extends to include the tow truck driver that shows up at the scene, the paralegal he refers you to, the medical clinic that the paralegal sends you to in order to assess your injuries and so on.  If you have been involved in an accident and you feel that something isn’t right or that you are being forced by individuals (other than your claims adjustor), to use specific facilities or companies in your treatment, you may be a victim of fraud and should discuss this with your Insurance Broker or your Claims Adjustor as soon as you can.

There are many different types of staged accidents and new ones are being used all the time.  Here are just a few examples of what can happen in a staged accident that are currently being used by fraudsters all over Ontario:

1.  Swoop and Squat
The example below is called a “swoop and “squat. In this scenario, a “swoop” car suddenly speeds up and cuts off the “squat” car (sometimes an innocent person in the wrong place at the wrong time and sometimes an accomplice). Unable to stop in time, the “squat” car rear-ends the “swoop” car. Usually, everyone who is in on the scam claims some sort of injury, and makes an auto insurance claim.

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2.  Drive down
The criminal appears to yield and waves to the innocent victim to proceed with a merge or lane change. As the victim merges, the criminal drives into the innocent driver, and later denies that he or she had waved the victim on.

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3.  Sideswipe
The criminal targets an innocent driver and purposely collides with the side of the target vehicle. This usually occurs in busy intersections with dual left turn lanes. If the victim in the inner lane drifts even a little into the outer lane, the criminal intentionally causes a collision.

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4. Imaginary accidents

In some auto insurance fraud schemes, no accident ever really happens. The criminal reports an accident and subsequent injury, and makes a claim, but the accident only exists on paper. In some cases, police are called to the scene of an alleged “hit and run,” where only one car is present, and damage has been fabricated.
5.  Seat sales

This is a common feature of staged accidents. The principal perpetrator of the accident will “sell” passenger spaces in the car for a set price or a percentage of the passenger’s insurance claim. In some cases, the passengers do not even ride in the car when the accident occurs.
For tips on how to prevent getting involved in a staged accident or what to do if you find yourself a victims of one, check out IBC’s website http://www.ibc.ca/en/Insurance_Crime/Prevention_Investigation/What_You_Can_Do.asp

 

Why did my Auto premium’s not go down by 15%?

Everyone has heard the media reports about auto insurance rates in Ontario going down, but what most people don’t realize is that they shouldn’t expect to see a straight 15% reduction in their premiums.  As is often the case, you can only trust so much of what you hear in the news.  Many Ontarian’s have received their renewals and are left wondering what the heck is going on!  While I am certain that it isn’t what most want to hear, I will do my very best to give an accurate explanation of what a 15% overall reduction really means!

Our most recent Liberal minority government mandated that all insurer’s take an overall average rate reduction of 15% on their automobile products by August 2015.  They were required to do this in 2 phases, the first round (which was split into 2 groups) was required to be filed with The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) by August 2014 with an overall reduction of 7%, the second round will be due into FSCO by August 2015 with the final 8%.  Here is the catch, because each insurer has different loss experience in the many different territories of Ontario (most often broken down by postal code), they can’t all just reduce their rates by a flat 7% – the insurer’s themselves must act responsibility, but just as important, FSCO can’t approve rate reductions that may jeopardize the sustainability of that insurer either!  So, in order to achieve this overall reduction, the insurer’s take a look at their book of business by territory.  Territories that have a favourable loss ratio – meaning the premium collected in that area are adequate to cover the losses – will see a larger reduction, territories that have an average loss ratio will see small or no reduction and those territories that have an unfavourable loss ratio may actually see an increase in their rates.  So, at the end of it all, while some are up and some are down based on the actual experience – it does average out to be 15%.

As I mentioned before, each insurer uses their own data to file their rates with FSCO, so it is difficult as a broker to say which territories will see a large decrease or which will see a large increase, but what we can tell you is what is driving these insurance premiums up so high!  FRAUD!  Insurance fraud is the single largest reason for the current rates in Ontario.  Staged accidents have become a large issue for all insurance companies.  The government is currently working with recommendations put forth by the Auto Insurance Anti-Fraud Task force to help reduce the amount of and effect of fraud on our system.  From the regulation of tow truck operators and medical clinics to investiagation of known fraud rings, they continue to work to improve the claims process.  Ontario’s automobile coverage is the richest product in Canada in terms of the benefits it offers, however, in order to keep those benefits at a price Ontarian’s can afford, the government must find ways to control the fraud within our system.

What is the difference between an Insurance Broker & Insurance Agent?

So you have all heard the terms Insurance Broker and Insurance Agent, but do you know what the difference really is?  As Insurance Brokers, we represents multiple insurers and are able to shop each market to ensure that you are getting the best value & coverage for what you are paying.  An Insurance Agent represents one specific insurer only and does not have the ability to offer the same choice that we as Broker’s can offer.

So, what are some of the benefits as we see it to dealing with a broker?  First off, you get choice; Secondly, you can be sure that when we see changes or increases in your policy premiums, we will do the work of making sure your premium & coverage are the best possible solutions for your individual needs.

At Nicol Insurance, we represents several of Canada’s largest insurance companies including, Intact Insurance, Travelers Canada (formerly The Dominion of Canada), Aviva, RSA, Gore Mutual & Economical Mutual as well as Peel Maryborough – an Ontario Mutual specializing in farms & rural properties.

We offer group rates for employees of many local businesses, including members of the Chamber of Commerce for most of our local communities, Bruce Power, Keystone, Tenneco, OARTY, amoung others, through Novex Group Insurance.

Call one of our licensed Insurance Broker’s today to learn for yourself the benefits of dealing with an Insurance Broker!

Protect Yourself from Online Scams

What is an online scam and why should I care?

An online scam can take place by email, on Facebook, on Twitter– anywhere! Their purpose can range anywhere from spamming your friends, tricking you into sending money, or to extract sensitive information such as the password to your online banking account. Online scams can be as invasive and damaging as having your home broken into, so it is important to know and recognize the signs so that you can protect yourself.

How do I protect myself?

When you know the warning signs it is easy to protect yourself from online scams. Here are 5 basic signs of an online scam which will help you protect yourself:

1. I don’t know this person!

Trust is something that is earned. You wouldn’t trust just anyone on the street with your newborn and you should approach online communication with the same care as you do choosing a babysitter for your little bundle of joy. Never share personal information with someone whom you do not trust.

But, as you can see above, online scams are not limited to people whom you do not know. Be aware when a family member, friend, or coworker is behaving out-of-character, is asking you for money online, or sending you suspicious links. This might be a sign that his or her email or social networking account may have been compromised.

2. They’re asking me for money.

Never send money online and be wary of family or friends who send requests for money. For example, a common online scam involves one’s email account being used to send out emails to his or her contact list stating something like the following: “I’m in London, England, and have been mugged. I’ve lost my passport and I need $$$$ to get home.”

3. They’re asking me for personal information.

Your insurer, your bank, or any other legitimate business will never ask for personal information by email. If you receive an email from your bank or other institution requesting personal information contact them immediately by phone or in person to report the communication.

internet security4. This link looks “funny”.

If you’ve been sent a link by anyone you don’t trust or a link which you do not know to be trust worthy, do not click it! Do not share personal information with a website you do not trust. Check the address bar: does it say http:// or https://? Never share personal information of any kind with a website if the address does not begin with https://!

5. Something just seems suspicious!

Intuition is a powerful tool! If you feel there is something suspicious about someone or something’s behaviour you are probably correct.

What do I do if I’ve been the target of a scam?

Remember that legitimate people, companies, and brands are available by more methods of communication than just an email account. If you have a question about anything you’ve seen online contact the company directly. It is important for people and companies to know if, when, and how they are being impersonated.

Nicol Insurance Challenges Local Business Donate to United Way

(Story as published in the SunTimes)

Kristy Nicol says it “breaks her heart” to hear stories of people in the community being without hydro or heat this winter.

“I think about my own children and what it would be like trying to find a way to make it so they can sleep at night,” the vice-president of client services at Nicol Insurance said Wednesday in an interview.

So after learning the United Way of Bruce Grey’s utility assistance fund had run out of money, Nicol and her colleagues decided to do something to help.

The company has made a donation to the fund, while issuing a challenge to other local businesses to contribute $100.

“I think all of us are hoping that the community recognizes that there are people in our area that are struggling and as a community, as a business community, we have a responsibility to those people to make sure that they’re looked after,” she said.

“We live and work in the same community as them, their kids play sports with our kids and they help us to pay our bills; they buy from us and support us. So we need to help them. When people are in need, we need to help them.”

Nicol issued the $100 challenge on Facebook and staff at the company are also mentioning it to their clients.

So far, companies like Dr. Cobbler, Barebirch and others have accepted the challenge.

Bob Nicol, president and CEO of Nicol Insurance, said he would also like to see individuals match the $100 donation, if they are financially able to do so.

“We hope to bring awareness to this issue as well,” he said.

By the end of October, all of the United Way’s utility assistance funds had dried up.

Thirty-three families are currently on a waiting list for the agency’s community fund, which helps people purchase wood, oil and propane to heat their homes. The value of the requests is about $18,500. Money for that fund comes only from donations.

The United Way has also run out of the 2014 funds to help people in arrears with Union Gas, Hydro One and Westario Power.

There are also waiting lists for each of those funds. The money comes from the utility companies themselves, which are mandated by the Ontario Energy Board to provide a small chunk of their revenue to fund utility assistance programs throughout the province. Qualifying customers can receive up to $500 per utility per calendar year.

So far this year, the local United Way has processed $304,000 worth of applications for utility assistance.

Thanks to our staff for getting the word out and for our clients & others businesses in our communities for getting involved!  There is still time to donate!

 

Battle in the Saddle 2013

We at Nicol Insurance are part of the Communities of Grey and Bruce Counties and as such want to help and give back to the communities we live in. So on October 26, 2013 we will be participating in Battle in the Saddle’s 10 hour stationary cycling challenge in Owen Sound. If you are able, please help us raise funds for this worthwhile cause. Join us on the 26th and cheer us on during our biking endeavors.

The money raised from this event helps fund leading-edge cancer research that is improving cancer treatments, preventing cancer and saving lives; provide reliable and up-to-date information on cancer, risk reduction and treatment; offer vital community-based support services for people living with cancer and their families; and advocate for healthy public policies.

Join us in the fight against women’s cancers at www.mynicol.in/btl2013

Changes to Your Auto Insurance Rates

From the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario: On August 23, 2013, Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance, Ontario, announced a targeted 15 per cent average rate reduction on Ontario auto insurance premiums.  The reductions are targeted to take place over a two year period – with an average of eight per cent reduction by August 2014 and the remaining seven per cent the following year.

Click here to read the IBAO’s release.

If you have questions regarding your auto insurance premiums please contact your broker.