Home Appliances Hazards: Ten Tips for Maximum Safety

January 27, 2010

These days, we seem to own plenty of home appliances that are supposed to reduce our workloads and make life easier and simpler. But with those work-saving appliances come some hidden risks that could cause losses that cost us our homes, our contents, and our peace of mind.

Here is a list of home appliances and hazards that you can easily prevent:

1. Dishwasher: Has an average life expectancy of 9 years. Make sure the door seals work properly to prevent water leaks. If it won’t drain properly, check the garbage disposal to see if it’s clear. Water leaks from dishwashers regularly cause water damage in kitchens. If the leak is sudden, you’re probably covered. If the leak keeps happening over time, you probably won’t be covered for loss.

2. Clothes washer: Has an average life expectancy of 10 years. Replace the rubber hoses with flexible stainless steel braided hoses to prevent hose bursts and big water claims. If a hose bursts, the water could spray the laundry room until someone finds it, causing a big water loss.

3. Clothes dryer (gas or electric): Has an average life expectancy of 10 years. Lint build-up inside dryers causes nearly 4,000 fires each year. Make sure your dryer hose vents correctly. Replace plastic vent hoses with metal. Clean the lint filter after every dryer load. Disconnect the dryer and hose twice a year and sweep out the lint under and inside the dryer cabinet. You’ll be shocked at how much lint you’ll find.

4. Toaster/toaster oven: Has an average life expectancy of 5 years. All of these little toasters have a trap door so you can clean them out. Crumbs dry out and become very flammable. Clean out the crumbs to prevent a fire.

5. Microwave: Has an average life expectancy of 8 years. Never use metal inside a microwave. It will start a fire. It will also damage or destroy the magnetron that generates the waves.

6. Gas Stove/Oven: Has an average life expectancy of 15 years. Got electronic burner lighters? If you turn on the burner, and it doesn’t light immediately, turn off the burner. Even three seconds of gas…unlit…can explode when lit. Let the gas dissipate for about 30 seconds before trying again. If you have to, dismantle the burner eye and clean it out. Also, make sure you clean up spills inside the oven which can generate smoke and start a fire. You’ve got a lot of open flame with a gas stove. Watch out for sleeves, dish towels and pot holders.

7. Electric stove: Has an average life expectancy of 13 years. Have a burner or oven element that malfunctions or burns out? Replace it right away. Also, make sure you clean up spills inside the oven which can generate smoke and start a fire.

8. Refrigerator/freezer: Has an average life expectancy of 15 years. This appliance regularly has an icemaker, which has a plastic water line that feeds it. These water lines burst frequently, and they will pump water out onto the floor until someone discovers it. Replace the plastic icemaker line with a copper line.

9. Garbage disposal: Has an average life expectancy of 15 years. If it gets blocked, go to the fusebox and turn off the breaker or fuse before trying to clear it. Don’t ever stick your hand down inside a garbage disposal. Replace the rubber drain line with a braided line.

10. Electrical extension cords: Not an appliance, but cause thousands of fires each year. Don’t use a frayed cord. Look at the amperage rating on the cord, and don’t plug in stuff that exceeds the rating. If you have a cord that you can’t find a rating on, throw it away. Don’t place a cord under a rug, carpet or under a piece of furniture. Check ALL of the cords in your home to make sure that there is no furniture leg resting on a cord. Feel cords in use to see if they are warm or hot. If they are, throw them away and get a heavier cord. Using power strips is safer than cords.

I recommend that if any appliance repairs will cost more than half of the price of a new appliance, replace it.

If you will take care to do these simple tips, you will drastically lessen the chances of having a disastrous home fire. But if you do have a home fire, you will need an expert to help you submit your claim. Never allow the insurance adjuster to handle your claim on your behalf. Their job is to minimize your claim. Your job is to collect every penny you are entitled to collect. See the conflict?

Get more information about insurance claims at: http://www.claimsecrets.com


Top Ten States For Staged Auto Accidents

January 11, 2010

My previous article about staged auto accidents is found at: Staged Auto Accidents Best to read these articles together.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a total of 70,844 Questionable Claims (QC) were submitted within in 2007 and rose to 74,676 QCs in 2008 (a 5.4% increase).

On the national level, the first quarter of 2009, 1129 staged accident claims were referred for further investigation, according to NICB. This is a 34% increase over the same time period in 2008, which had 845.

Top 10 states for “Questionable Claims” by loss in 2008 were:

1.California (15,609)
2.Florida (6,508)
3.Texas (6,455)
4.New York (6,378)
5.Michigan (2,691)
6.Georgia (2,244)
7.Illinois (2,231)
8.North Carolina (2,194)
9.Pennsylvania (1,881)
10.Arizona (1,854)

Staged auto accidents are no accident, and they are not victimless crimes. They are designed to receive payment for personal injuries and all the costs involved in a seemingly innocent fender-bender. They endanger lives and drive up insurance costs for everyone.

•Fraud costs insurance companies millions of dollars a year in direct and in-direct expenses.
•Every dollar saved on fraudulent auto claims is a dollar spent on protecting safe and law-abiding drivers.

This report was provided to the media from Allstate Insurance.


Health Insurance…the Government Way: Buy Insurance or Go To Jail

January 7, 2010

Part of the legislation squirming through the bowels of the Federal Beast is a prohibition for insurance companies to exclude an applicant because of pre-existing conditions. That really sounds nice and fair, doesn’t it? But there is perception and then there is reality.

In nearly every other market for insurance, the pre-existing condition underwriting makes no sense. But when insurance companies began writing large groups for health insurance, like with a large corporation with thousands of workers, they made the BUSINESS DECISION to accept those with pre-existing conditions. But be assured that everybody in the group paid higher premiums to keep that business profitable. And, if the insurance company was losing money on that piece of business, it would likely not offer to renew at the next renewal date.

Compare the pre-existing conditions exclusion to other types of insurance…your homeowners coverage, for example. If you had a house with a pre-existing condition, that would mean you’d had claims before for one particular problem, and that you had not gotten that problem fixed. Let’s say that your problem was that your basement flooded every time that it rained hard. You had no drainage and no way to prevent the flooding.

So the insurance company, instead of being able to decline coverage for you, or at least exclude coverage for your flooding, would have to accept your risk. They know up front that they are going to pay claims on your house flooding. The only thing that the insurance company can do to remain profitable is to charge a higher premium for you and everybody else.

You might get your pre-existing conditions covered, but you may not be able to afford paying the premium to get the coverage. But here is how the insurance companies and the Washington criminals will run it.

What will happen then? The populace will whine, and the politicians will either subsidize the individual premiums, or they will impose price controls on the insurance companies…or both. Either way, the politicians will enact more laws that screw up the health insurance industry, or redistribute more money to quiet the sheeple.

Price controls may bankrupt some insurance companies. I wonder what the Congress and president will do when their interference in the insurance market cause the insolvency of some insurance companies? Will they pronounce them “too big to fail,” and nationalize them? Remember what Florida did after the spate of hurricanes a few years ago. Florida created Citizens Property Insurance. It is the high risk pool for Florida property owners that need insurance. So, in effect, the state of Florida got into the insurance business as the insurer of last resort. Citizens is one major hurricane away from bankruptcy, which means that it will also bankrupt the State of Florida.

The same thing will likely happen with health insurance and Washington. DC’s interference will ruin some companies, and DC will become the insurer of last resort. That also means that DC will get the sickest patients and the highest health care costs. You might see the public option imposed on everybody as a way for Washington to take control.

The mind boggles.

Oh, by the way…in the present health insurance bill, US citizens will be subject to massive fines and long jail terms if they do not buy health insurance from private companies.

That’s what passes for health care reform in the good old USA circa 2010.

The news media is TOTALLY silent and politicians see nothing wrong with it.

If you think I’m kidding, watch this video:


Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

January 4, 2010

My expertise is in the Risk Management and claims portions of the insurance business. So, I look at nearly every issue as a risk management challenge. And when I consider the risks of identity theft, I must urge you to take some basic precautions.

Identity theft, forgery and fraud are at the highest levels ever. Your finances are at risk like never before. Here are some simple tips that can offer basic protection. All are easy and some cost nothing, yet offer great protection.

1. Order new checks for your checking account and have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your checkbook, they will not know your first name. The thief will also not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name, but your bank will know how you sign your checks. Shred the old checks you’re not going to use, or the checks you still have from old bank accounts that you’ve closed…or burn them.

2. If you have a PO Box, use that on your checks instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, you might use your work address. Never have your SS# printed on your checks. Do not have any phone number printed on your checks. You can write it on the check if necessary. If a clerk asks you for your phone number, don’t speak it…write it on the check yourself.

3. Do not sign the back of your credit and debit cards. Instead, write “PHOTO ID REQUIRED.”

4. When you are writing checks to make payment on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the “For” line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the account number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check-processing channels will not have access to it.

5. When you pay your bills, don’t place them in your mailbox with the little red flag up. That’s advertising to the world that you’re sending out mail. It takes less than two seconds for a thief to roll up, open your mailbox and remove your mail. Then, he has your checks and your account numbers. When mailing your payments, mail them at the post office.

6. If you receive an email that looks completely legit from anyone that asks you to confirm or change any of your personal financial information or a password, don’t do it online. Call the Customer Service number on their monthly invoices, and verify if they actually requested the new information. Then, if they did, give them what they need. But most of these emails are scam attempts to get your identity info.

7. Place the contents of your wallet on a copy machine. Copy both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all
of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. Also carry a photocopy of your passport when traveling either here or abroad. We have all heard horror stories about fraud that is committed on people by stealing a name, address, Social Security number, or credit cards. Don’t be that person.

8. Most hotels and motels use card keys for entry to rooms. When you check out of a hotel that uses card keys, do not turn the “keys” in. Take them with you and destroy them. Those little cards hold all of the information you gave the hotel, including address and credit card numbers and expiration dates. Someone with a card reader, or employee of the hotel, can access all that information with no problem whatsoever. If the hotel desk clerk asks for the card keys at time of checkout, only give them back if the clerk will destroy them in front of you.

9. When you’re paying a restaurant check with your credit card, NEVER sign the credit card slip and just leave it on the table. Make sure you hand the credit card slip directly to the waiter or the manager.

10. Buy a document shredder and shred EVERYTHING that you don’t keep in your financial files at home. Also remember that all of those credit card offers you get in the mail have an application with some of your information already printed on the app. Shred them, too.

11. Buy Identity Theft Protection. Learn more at: Identity Theft Info

Here is some critical information to limit the damage in case your wallet is stolen:

1. Cancel your credit cards immediately. The key is having the toll free numbers
and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those credit card company phone numbers where you can find them. Might not be a bad idea to put your credit card company’s Customer Service phone number in your cell phone Address Book. Many credit card companies have a deductible, like $50, on thefts. So, you’d be responsible for the first $50 and they accept the risk for fraudulent purchases above that. But if you cancel quickly enough, the company can cancel the card before purchases start to appear.

2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a
first step toward any investigation and verification of any claim.

3. Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves’ purchases. It seems to stop thieves dead in their tracks.

Here are the numbers you always need to contact about your wallet and contents being stolen:

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271

4. Call your homeowner’s insurance company. You may have some coverage available for credit card theft if you purchased an endorsement.

Doing these simple actions will give you good basic protection against identity theft.

© Copyright 2010, Russell D. Longcore. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.