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.

Be a smarter boater, be a safer boater

boat safety

Spring has sprung! Well, almost. Despite this inconsistent weather, the fleeting moments of warm weather and sunshine have us looking forward to a long summer. One of our favourite ways to spend a hot summer day is to get out on the water with family and friends. The best way to enjoy a day on the water is with the peace of mind that you are prepared.

If you plan to operate a power-driven boat this season you must have proof of competency. Your proof of competency shows that you know and understand the rules of the water and how to boat safely. The most common form is the Pleasure Craft Operator card which can be obtained by taking a safety course and passing a test, and the card is good for life.

With your Pleasure Craft Operator card in hand, you are almost ready to cast off. Don’t forget the following:

Things you must keep on your boat

  1. Your proof of competency; it’s your license to operate a motor boat.
  2. Life jackets for each occupant. Remember that an effective life jacket fits properly, and is properly fastened at all times you’re on the water.
  3. A buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres long.
  4. Water-tight flashlights or approved flares.
  5. A sound signaling device.
  6. A manual propelling device such as a paddle.
  7. A bailer or manual water pump.
  8. A Class 5 BC fire extinguisher.

Things you should keep on your boat

  • A marine first aid kit.
  • Drinking water and snacks.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Dry clothing.
  • Waterproof matches.
  • A knife.

More Resources

Why do I need a Carbon Monoxide detector?

Carbon Monoxide is a toxic gas; be sure your detectors are functioning properly

Carbon Monoxide is an colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas which is toxic when inhaled in high concentrations. It is produced by burning gasoline, propane, natural gas, wood, or other fuels. If there is any blockage which does not allow for Carbon Monoxide to be vented from your home you can be exposed to high levels of this deadly gas.

Commercial Account Manager Tara McMillan found her home filling with Carbon Monoxide last month. She and her family are safe thanks to her Carbon Monoxide detector, and she wanted to share her story and experience with you with the hope it will help keep you safe in the future!

Tara’s story

owen sound commercial insurance broker

Tara: For anyone that does not have Carbon Monoxide detectors or hasn’t replaced them in a while, I want to personally remind you and share my experience.

Tara: I have a woodstove which we use during cold weather in my basement. I have a Carbon Monoxide detector right near the unit, one outside my bedrooms on the main level and a third near a gas heating stove in my living room also on the main level. I woke up on Sunday morning to loud beeping. After a couple of minutes playing with the smoke detectors I realized the beeping was coming from the Carbon Monoxide detector which normally reads “0” but was flashing at 44 and rising. After calling the fire department and expecting to hear that it was a faulty unit as it was the only one going off, it turns out that in fact my house was filling with Carbon Monoxide. The cause was determined to be a back-draft from the woodstove which had not been used in a couple of days due to the warm weather.

How do I protect myself and my family?

Ontario legislation dictates that if your home contains a fuel-burning appliance or attached garage you must have a detector outside each sleeping area. If your appliance is in a service room there must also be a detector in that service room.

Tara: Had I not had the Carbon Monoxide detector I’m not sure how long it would have taken to cause further problems than just the severe headaches and nausea that I have been having.

Carbon Monoxide poisoning can cause a range of symptoms from headache and nausea with just light exposure to unconsciousness and death within just a few breaths of high concentrations of the gas. If you are feeling inexplicably ill, check the reading on your Carbon Monoxide detectors and be sure they are functioning properly.

Tara: What’s scary is the detector right beside the woodstove did not trigger.

Carbon Monoxide and smoke detectors should be replaced, according to South Bruce Fire Department, every 5 years and tested monthly. Detector batteries should be changed every 6 months.

Other Resources

Fraud is no joke: 5 tips to prevent becoming a victim

prevent fraud

March was Fraud Prevention Month, and all month long we were posting tips to Facebook and Twitter to help keep you safe from fraudsters and scammers. Now it’s time to recap! These 5 tips will help you recognize the signs of fraud and give you the steps to keep yourself safe from becoming a victim.

1. Know your insurer!

Do you know your broker’s name? Do you know your broker’s face? Is he or she someone you can trust?

Your broker is responsible to keep you apprised of any and all changes to your home and car insurance: the stuff that keeps you and your family protected when you need it. Be sure your insurer is someone you can trust, someone who is available by phone, by email, and in person. Be sure he or she is someone who will communicate with you in a way which makes you feel comfortable that you are covered.

https internet security2. Keep your pins to yourself!

This goes for your passwords too. While complex passwords are your best bet to keep your private information safe from fraudsters and scammers, be sure you can remember them. Never write them down and be careful while entering them into an ATM, debit machine, or computer. Never give out personal information online (even if it’s to a trusted website) if the address does not begin with https://. Be aware that your insurer, bank, or other financial service will never ask for personal information or passwords by email.

3. Be thorough!

If you’ve ever been in an accident you know it can be a stressful situation to be in. It is easy to forget details and it can be incredibly difficult to remember important information just days later. This is why it is important to record everything including details which seem insignificant at the time. Police will attend the scene of an accident if there are two or more vehicles involved. Use this to your advantage. Alert the authorities of any accident immediately. Reporting your accident and getting the police involved will help protect you from insurance fraud.

4. Communicate!

Do you suspect someone has committed insurance fraud? Report it! You can report insurance crime to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. You can report other suspicious behavior to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

5. Sleep on it!

Trust your instincts. If you’re feeling pressured into a deal take some time to reflect on the circumstances and your choices. A good insurance broker has your best interests in mind and will provide you with all the necessary information and time to make the best decision for you. Never feel afraid to walk away from a deal if someone is making you feel uncomfortable.

More Resources

5 signs of an online scam

online scams

This afternoon I received a concerning direct message on Twitter: “FYI this profile on twitter [link] is spreading nasty blogs around about you”. In a panic I clicked the link. What popped up was strange. The page, which looked an awful lot like Twitter, stated that for security purposes I had been logged out and needed to provide my password to log back in. That seemed strange, so I took a quick look at the address bar and noticed that all the letters were there but they were all out of order; instead of “twitter.com” I read “itwtier.com”. What is that? That is called a scam.

twitter scam

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.

Drive Sober! And have a Happy New Year

 

2013 is just around the corner. With it comes all the fun of TV countdowns, great music, an overwhelming amount of food, and a great night with friends. If you’re not careful, however, all the fun could be lost in the back of a police car, in a jail cell, in an ambulance, or worse.

What is Impaired Driving?

Impaired Driving is driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. These intoxicants affect one’s ability to concentrate and react to driving conditions. And with thousands of pounds of vehicle behind him or her, an impaired driver is a dangerous driver.

Impaired Driving is a serious criminal offence. In fact one can be charged with Impaired Driving by simply sitting in the driver’s seat, even if the vehicle is not moving. These charges carry hefty fines, license suspensions, and jail time.

  • The minimum monetary penalty for driving with a BAC (blood-alcohol level) between 0.05% and 0.08% is $150. The minimum fine for driving with a 0.08% BAC or higher is more than $1000.
  • Drivers convicted of Impaired Driving must enter an Alcohol Education Program and Alcohol Treatment Program.
  • Ignition Interlock devices (breathalyzers) are mandatory for a minimum of 1 year for first-time offenders. Ignition Interlock devices are mandatory for third-time offenders for the remainder of their driving lives.
  • There is a minimum 120 day jail sentence for third-time offenders.
  • First-time offenders will have their license suspended for one year. Third-time offenders may have their license suspended for the remainder of their lifetime.

How do I protect myself from an Impaired Driving charge?

Protect yourself, your friends and family, and your fellow drivers on the road this New Year. Drive sober! And have a Happy New Year!

5 tips to take the stress out of winter driving

October was car safety month, and over the past 31 days we’ve been sharing tips on Facebook and Twitter to help you prepare for the stressful winter driving season. Now it’s time to review! No, there will not be a test, but consider a safe winter your A+.

5 Tips to stay safe

  1. Use snow tires. Four of them. And check the pressure at least once a month. As the outside temperature drops your tire pressure will as well, and you won’t get very far on flat tires. Also be sure the tread is more than sufficient to get you through the winter. Worn out snow tires will do you no good.
  2. Check your windshield regularly for dings and cracks. Cold temperatures can turn that small crack into a serious problem, and let’s face the fact that you can’t drive without a windshield let alone without a windshield in winter!
  3. Before every trip be sure you have enough gas. No one will be willing to walk for gas in sub-zero temperatures, so this is an important one if you’d like to reach your destination before April. Keeping your tank half full also keeps it happy and healthy.
  4. Have a flashlight, first aid kit, thermal blanket, and road map.  In the event you are stranded or lost these things can keep you warm and on-track. And remember: your smartphone is not a map that does you any good with a dead battery.
  5. Check the weather. If you don’t need to drive, don’t! This is the most important and easiest tip to follow. Besides, there is more warmth by the fire and hot chocolate indoors than there are on the roads.

How else can I prepare?

If you don’t have one already, we recommend a survival kit to compliment the essentials listed in tip #4. The Insurance Bureau of Canada has a great list of items to include in your kit such as a folding shovel, cat litter, a tow chain, a compass (for your map, not your smartphone), flares, emergency food, booster cables, an ice scraper, extra windshield-wiper fluid, and antifreeze.

Remember that winter weather can be inconsistent and unexpected. Your best bet to stay safe is to stay home. If you absolutely have to drive, however, we hope these tips keep you safe on the roads this winter.

How do I prevent my vehicle from being stolen?

You may remember our recent post regarding auto theft statistics in which we explained how your insurance premium may be effected by the statistical likelihood your vehicle will be stolen. It’s true that some vehicles are more appealing than others to car thieves. However, whether your vehicle falls on “The Worst Ten” or “The Best Ten” list, the simple fact is that all vehicles are at risk of being stolen.

Why are cars stolen?

60% of recovered vehicles in Ontario were used in what is deemed “transportation crimes” in which the vehicle is used and then abandoned.

  • To commit other crimes.
  • To raise cash for other illegal activities such as drug use.
  • For joyrides.

40% are the result of organized crime.

  • To be dismantled and sold off as parts or rebuilt as cars and sold off to unsuspecting buyers.
  • To be sold at many times their market value in other countries.

According to the OPP, over 52,000 vehicles are stolen in Ontario each year, 40-65 deaths or injuries can be attributed to auto theft, and the cost to the public is $1.2 billion annually which is reflected in your insurance premium. It is increasingly important that we take precautions to protect ourselves from auto theft, and there are some simple steps we can take.

How do I prevent my car from being stolen?

  1. Park in well-lit and secure parking lots and garages.
    If you wanted to steal a car, would you do it where someone could easily spot you? No. You would stick to the dark where no one can see and no one is looking.
  2. Never leave your car running while unattended.
    “But I’ll only be gone for a minute.” Well, it only takes seconds for someone to put your car in gear and take off if you make it that easy for them.
  3. Never leave your keys in your car.
    We all have that friend or relative who constantly leaves their car unlocked with the keys inside. There is no reason to do this. Keep your keys on you at all times when you’re out and in a safe place at home.
  4. Always close the windows and lock the doors.
    A hot car is better than no car at all. So unless you’re travelling with a barking security system, close your windows and lock your doors, even when parking in your own drive way.
  5. Hide all valuables.
    Take things like purses and mobile devices with you. If you are unable to do so, hide them as best you can. Visible valuables are tempting to thieves. Even your loose Tim Horton’s change can catch the eye of a car thief.
  6. Take your vehicle registration, insurance certificate, and driver’s license with you.
    If a car thief has access to any of these documents they may be able to convince a police officer that you lent them your car. If an alert that your vehicle has been stolen isn’t yet out, this could mean the thief will get away with your car.
  7. Do not keep spare keys inside or outside the vehicle like in a wheel-well.
    Everyone knows this trick, including car thieves. Leaving your spare key in the wheel-well of your vehicle is equivalent to leaving the keys in the ignition.
  8. Use security tools like a steering wheel lock and sound alarm.
    Visible security tools will deter thieves from even trying to rip off your car. However, unrecognizable tools which literally inhibit thieves from getting away with your vehicle are also effective.
  9. Have your vehicles VIN etched into your windshield.
    Car thieves don’t want to work hard. So having to remove a windshield is a significant deterrent. It also makes your vehicle more recognizable.
  10. Have a security system installed.
    This will deter thieves and make your vehicle easy to recover quickly should it be stolen.

What else should I know?

If you are ever approached by a carjacker, do not resist. Your life and that of your family is more important than your car or anything in it!

Remember how we mentioned that stolen cars are often sold to unsuspecting customers? While it is a crime to sell stolen merchandise, unfortunately the customer in this case will likely be the party who is left to suffer. The car will be seized and it’s often unlikely the money will be recovered. When you are buying a used car do your research! Buy from a reputable dealer, research the VIN, inspect the vehicle registration, and inquire about the car’s current or previous insurer.

What should I know about heating my home with oil?

oil tank

Oil heat offers homeowners fast, efficient, and even heating throughout the home. With the benefits, however, come serious consequences. For example, just one cup of oil from your 1000 litre tank can contaminate the contents of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. For this reason it is important to assess your risk and to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your home.

Am I at risk?

If you heat your home with oil you are at risk. Spills can cause lasting environmental damage and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection surveying over 500 homeowners shows cleanup costs ranging anywhere from less than $20,000 to more than $300,000. In fact, we’ve seen claims as high as nearly $600,000 in both personal and commercial lines! These incidents put people out of their homes for months, and we’ve seen clients out of their homes for up to a year while cleanup takes place.

How do I minimize the risk?

While we cannot completely protect ourselves from spills there are steps we can take to minimize our risk.

  1. Be aware of the risk.
    Spills can be caused by corrosion, the overfilling of your tank, improper installation, improper maintenance, and breaks in your fuel line, among other things. Actively check for the smell of oil; reduce your outdoor tank’s exposure to water, snow, and ice; be sure your fuel lines are properly secured and away from high-traffic areas. The Nova Scotia Environmental Home Assessment Program has created a 21-Point Oil Tank Checkup which you can use to help guide you in inspecting your tank.
  2. Have your tank inspected by a trusted professional.
    A professional will recognize a tank that might be at risk. Such tanks might be old or damaged, improperly installed, or improperly supported. Your professional will know whether your tank meets ULC guidelines, whether you have a serious problem or simply require routine maintenance, or whether your tank is just past its prime. A professional can also offer you guidance in upgrading your system.
  3. Have a plan.
    It is your responsibility as the homeowner to report and cleanup the spill. The sooner the better! You drastically reduce your cost by addressing the spill immediately. The Massachusettes DEP has created a great comprehensive Cleanup Guide which you can use to prepare for a possible spill.
  4. Be sure you’re protected.
    Insurance for oil spills ranges from no coverage to full coverage. Know your policy!

What do I do next?

If you have concerns about whether you are adequately protected speak with your account manager. Despite our best efforts, oil spills can still happen and your account manager will have all the details regarding your policy and whether or not you are protected in the event of an incident.

Slip & Falls

slips and falls

slips and falls

In the past decade, the insurance industry has experienced a drastic rise in the frequency of slip and fall claims against property owners, occupiers and snow maintenance contractors in Ontario. With the increase in the number of slip and fall related lawsuits in Ontario, there has been an increase in the number of large awards from the courts for personal injury, lost employment income and other resulting expenses incurred due to slip and fall related injuries.

What this means is property owners as well as occupiers of rented or leased property in Ontario are well-advised to maintain an effective snow maintenance program that minimizes the potential for slip and fall occurrences on their property. The purpose o f this document is to briefly outline what a typical effective winter maintenance program should consist of to assist property owners and occupiers to minimize the slip and fall hazard. An effective winter maintenance program can help establish a solid defence in the event that a slip and fall incident does occur on the property and a claim is brought against the owner or occupier of the property.

OARTY members or private group homes can find slip and fall hazards in a variety of places on their property. The last thing on a person’s mind while on the property is to be wary of slip and fall hazards. As an occupier, you have to be mindful of inherent hazards that may cause slip and falls. The only way to reduce this hazard is to be aware of the conditions on the property and manage them appropriately.

Safeguard against slip and fall hazards on your property

  • The parking lot should be inspected at regular intervals for potholes, uneven surfaces, and other debris.
  • Walkways should be regularly inspected for tripping hazards and clearly marked.
  • Stairways should be regularly inspected to ensure walking surfaces and handrails are in good condition.

Snow and ice removal by a third party

  • Ensure there is a written contract or service agreement.
  • Obtain a certificate of insurance from the contractor and have your broker review the coverages.

Snow and ice removal by an employee

  • Clearly define the tasks to be performed by employees and ensure that employees are adequately trained.
  • Ensure that your employees maintain a log documenting what has been completed at what time, by whom, and note the climactic conditions.

Floors, hallways, and interior stairways

  • All employees should remain vigilant and keep an eye on conditions of floors, including carpeting.
  • Emergency exits and exterior stairways should be maintained snow and obstruction free at all times.
  • All floor mats should be replaced at regular intervals and inspected regularly on a daily basis.
  • All work by employees should be logged. Copies of maintenance contracts, certificate of liability insurance, and purchase orders or invoicing should be kept on file for third party contractors.

In the event of a slip and fall incident

  • Accident Report forms should be available on site. In the event of a slip and fall incident, a report should be completed by the claimant and/or any available witnesses. The report should include the claimant’s contact information, be dated, and witnessed by a manager or employee.
  • It is important to keep records of all accidents for a period of no less than two years.

It is important to establish and implement an inspection and monitoring procedure for identifying and managing slip and fall hazards on your premises. A routine which is undertaken on a daily basis, or more frequently when dictated by weather, may help you control and reduce the risk of slip and falls.

Please use the attached sample Snow and Ice Removal Log and Slip and Fall Incident Report forms for your reference. Contact your Risk Control Representative or Insurance Broker for more information.