First Community Financial Group, Inc. Blog
In 2014, almost 18 million people in the U.S. were victims of identity theft. Two-thirds of them said they suffered a direct financial loss because of it, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
During tax season, your personal information is particularly vulnerable. After all, your Social Security number (SSN) is on W-2 forms, your tax return and other financial documents being sent through the mail, transported to accountants and otherwise used to complete your annual IRS ritual. So it’s a good time of the year to be especially vigilant.
To help, here are four things you should know about identity theft — from what thieves can do to how you can help protect yourself — from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Federal Trade Commission:
1. Thieves won’t just open new accounts — they can (and will) file “your” taxes. Someone with access to your data could file a fraudulent tax return and claim a refund under your name. You may not know until you go to file your own return and it comes back rejected. If it happens, call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
2. Scammers will try to reel you in. Ever get a call or email from someone asking you to verify your account information or SSN? Legitimate organizations, especially the IRS, won’t do that. If there’s a problem with your tax return, the IRS will contact you by mail.
3. Technology can help. If you send tax forms or other sensitive documents via email, password-protect them. Furthermore, security software can help keep your data safe, and password generators will help ensure your various login credentials aren’t easy for a thief to figure out. As for analog documents, such as tax records, store them in a locked desk or filing cabinet and don’t send them through the mail unless it’s certified.
4. Reporting the crime is a must. Ninety percent of identity-theft victims don’t alert the police, says BJS. But you should. A police report can help prove to financial institutions and businesses that someone stole your identity. It also allows you to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report, get inaccurate information removed, stop debt collectors from reporting fraudulent accounts and more. Because once criminals have your information, they may use it to perpetuate many types of fraud.
Protecting your identity is, of course, something to be mindful of all year round – not just during tax season. For more tips, visit IdentityTheft.gov. And, to discuss adding identity protection coverage to your home insurance policy, contact us at First Community Financial Group today.
Thinking about a DIY home improvement project? Maybe a new kitchen or bathroom makeover?
If project excites you, you’re not alone. The Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) says do-it-yourselfers complete two-thirds of home improvement projects — and spend less than those who depend solely on contractors. While saving money is satisfying, the sense of accomplishment DIYers feel is even better.
But before you pick up a hammer or grab a paintbrush, you’ll need to do some homework. As you draw plans, budget, purchase materials and secure permits, you also need to think about insurance. Talk to your Trusted Choice Independent Insurance Agent® at First Community Financial Group before you start work. Your agent can help you assess the unexpected risks of your project.
Here are five common renovation projects that may require additional insurance:
Maybe you’ve been dreaming of a new kitchen, one with quartz countertops and Wi-Fi-enabled appliances. Kitchen remodels can add convenience and significant value to your home, but there are a few insurance considerations:
• Depending on your level of experience, you may need the help of a plumber or electrician. Make sure the contractors you hire are bonded and insured. Do they carry liability insurance? Ask to see their certificate of coverage.
• Check with your agent to see if you should increase your homeowners coverage. If your renovation substantially increases the value of your house, you could be underinsured if you haven’t raised your limits. Generally, you need enough insurance to replace 80% of your home’s value.
• Will friends be helping you? Ask your agent about adding no-fault coverage or raising your medical expenses coverage.
You have visions of a soaking tub, new vanities and imported marble tile. Sounds delightful, but keep these points in mind:
• You may need a plumber to help you move a water line or drain. Bear in mind that water damage caused by your faulty workmanship won’t be covered by your homeowners policy. On the other hand, if you use a contractor, their business insurance should cover the damage to your home.
• Will that expensive marble be sitting in your driveway after it’s delivered? Costly materials have a way of walking away from a job site. Check to see if your policy covers theft or damage to your building materials.
You’ve decided to convert a spare bedroom into a home office. It’s an easy renovation, but here are some insurance considerations:
• Most homeowners policies only provide limited coverage (up to about $2,500) for office equipment. If you have items that exceed that amount, you’ll need additional coverage. Your agent can recommend some options.
• If you’re doing work for your firm at home, make sure you’re covered by the company’s business and workers’ compensation policies. If you’re self-employed, you may need a separate business policy, especially if clients visit your house.
You’ve always wanted a room off the kitchen to take advantage of the morning sun. Sunrooms can provide enjoyment year-round, but you do need to keep a few things in mind:
• Talk to your agent about adding a new room to your homeowners policy. You may be able to get a discount if you install energy-efficient windows or heavy-duty locks on an exterior door.
• Is the project insured against severe weather? Theft or vandalism? You may need a builders risk policy.
You’re planning to create extra living space in the basement for your growing family. You’ve contracted to have a French drain and a sump pump installed to prevent water from leaking in. You’ve also decided to live in a friend’s house while you work on the project.
•If your house is unoccupied during construction, you may need vacant home insurance.
• Be sure to get a warranty on the French drain. Flooding isn’t covered by homeowners insurance. However, you can add water backup coverage to your policy to pay for damage if your sump pump fails.
• Game room? Home theater? Extra bathroom? You may need to increase the limits on your homeowners policy.
n the other hand, upgrading old wiring or installing a security system could lower your premiums.
If you’ve got the home renovation bug, maybe it’s time you joined the ranks of millions of satisfied DIYers. Just remember to contact your Trusted Choice agent at First Community Financial Group to get your insurance needs squared away. Then you can hammer to your heart’s content.
If you’re a small business owner who is looking for the best way to ensure your company, then a business owners policy—better known as a BOP—is a great way to start. It makes sense for many companies to carry this coverage because it offers several types of commercial insurance in one place. As a result, this single plan can often substantially reduce your overall cost for coverage.
All the same, BOPs are not all-inclusive. In their standard forms, they generally only offer commercial property, general liability and business interruption coverage. As a result, the pragmatic policyholder should always consider expanding upon their benefits portfolio.
Adding Benefits to Your BOP
By adding coverage into your BOP, you’ll be able to account for the fact that you sometimes might face liabilities that are separate from those covered under standard BOP benefits.
The following are four types of critical benefits to commonly added coverage to BOP plans. In most cases, workers’ compensation and commercial auto insurance benefits must be purchased separately from BOPs. However, EPLI and E&O benefits are sometimes available as BOP endorsements.
1. Professional Liability Insurance
Often, professional service providers—lawyers, CPAs, doctors—need this benefit because it is their services themselves that might cause harm to clients. This benefit covers more than just someone slipping and falling in your store. Rather, it covers instances like one where a CPA makes a mistake on a client’s taxes and then gets sued over the resulting burden. This benefit is sometimes known as errors & omissions (E&O) insurance.
2. Employment Practices Liability Insurance
Businesses are required to conduct their hiring, retention, review and termination practices in compliance with employment law. Failure to do so might result in allegations of harassment, discrimination, failure to hire or promote, or unfair termination. Should legal action arise as a result of these incidents, then an employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) policy, will help you defend against the claims.
3. Commercial Auto Insurance
If your business owns or operates vehicles of any kind, then you will need to insure those vehicles in compliance with both state and interstate auto insurance laws. A commercial auto insurance policy will offer you the necessary liability, physical damage and related benefits for your needs. It will ensure that you will have protection if you ever face unexpected vehicle damage or losses.
4. Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Another insurance benefit that most businesses are required by law to carry is workers’ compensation insurance. It will provide supplementary income, medical benefits and other assistance in the event that one of your employees gets injured or becomes ill as a result of their work.
Our agents are happy to work with you to optimize your BOP’s benefits and your other policies in the most efficient ways.
Comprehensive vs. Collison Auto Insurance
Auto insurance is designed to provide you with financial assistance in the event of an accident, theft or other instance of vehicle damage. After all, you shouldn’t have to bear the costs of an accident entirely on your own.
There are a few separate benefits that the average policy will utilize to cover vehicle damage. Two of these are collision coverage and comprehensive coverage. You have to understand that these are equally essential, but still unique and separate benefits. Here’s how they work.
Collision insurance is often the type of physical damage insurance that is most familiar to policyholders. It will help you cover costs to repair or replace your vehicle following a wreck. You can use this benefit when an accident is your fault, since under the circumstances you won’t be able to file against another at-fault party’s liability insurance.
Typically, your collision coverage will pay for the cost of your repairs, minus the cost of a deductible. If the vehicle is totaled in the accident, then the policy will often pay the cash value of the car at the time of the loss, minus the deductible cost. This might not be the full cost necessary to buy a new car, but it will represent a settlement for the value of the vehicle lost.
Factors like your chosen deductible, the value of your vehicle and your driving habits will influence the cost of your collision coverage and your overall premium. Plus, if you have a tarnished driving record, then you are likely to pay a higher premium overall because you have a higher likelihood (in the eyes of the insurer) of filing a damage claim.
Aside from collision coverage, comprehensive coverage is a separate physical damage benefit that is designed to cover vehicle damage from hazards other than collisions. Unlike its name might suggest, it does not include collision coverage as part of its benefit. You must purchase these two benefits separately in order to get full coverage.
There are many cases in which comprehensive coverage can pay for vehicle damage. For example, if a tree falls on your car during a storm, then this is the benefit that will pay for the repairs. If your car were to catch on fire (even while you are driving it), then this is another circumstance in which your plan will cover you.
Physical damage insurance is not a benefit that any driver should be without, and it’s easy to see just how much assistance this plan can provide you in the event of vehicle damage. This coverage is so essential that many vehicle lenders will require drivers to purchase this coverage if they finance their car purchases. By having this coverage, you can better guarantee that you won’t default on your loan payments just because of damage to or loss of your vehicle.
Contact one of our agents today to get a free quote for your auto, ATV, boat or RV!
10 Tips for Safe Driving
When you drive recklessly, it impacts more people on the road than just yourself. In fact, other drivers, their passengers, your passengers and even pedestrians on the road can be affected by the decisions you make behind the wheel. Therefore, you have to treat driving as the potentially dangerous activity that it is.
Your ability to drive safely directly relates to your insurance rates and the continued validity of your driver’s license. The better you avoid hazards, the better you can avoid higher insurance rates and other driving penalties.
To prevent a license suspension or auto insurance rate increases, practice the following 10 safe driving tips:
If you need a little assistance getting through a rough patch with your auto insurance rates, contact us for more information.
Most small business owners choose to invest in business owners policies—also known as BOPs. Put simply, BOPs can help business owners easily optimize their commercial insurance. BOPs usually contain several types of insurance, including commercial property coverage. This is an important form of coverage, as it can protect your business assets and possessions when damaging incidents occur.
Why BOPs Are Valuable
BOPs generally cater to the needs of small businesses. Through BOPs, business owners can obtain several types of coverage all in one package, thus ensuring cohesive insurance. BOPs are usually more affordable than separate policies.
To start, most BOPs usually offer commercial property, general liability and business interruption insurance. However, policyholders can usually add extra coverage to work in conjunction with their BOPs. Doing so can allow them to properly expand their business insurance benefits.
Commercial Property Coverage in a BOP
The commercial property insurance within a BOP can help protect any property owned by your business. Some items this policy might cover include:
Should a hazard damage or destroy this property, your BOP’s commercial property coverage can pay to help you rebuild, restock or replace lost items. A variety of hazards might qualify for claims under your coverage, such as:
Commercial property insurance can then indemnify you for the costs caused by the lost property. This means you won’t have to spend hard-earned income trying to recover from a loss. That way, you can easily get your business back on its feet.
Limits, Exclusions and Deductibles
Keep in mind that your BOP’s commercial property insurance won’t cover every type of property from all potential losses. Consider these policy limitations:
Policy limits—When you sign up for your BOP, you can choose the value of commercial property coverage that you want to carry. This reflects the maximum amount that your policy will pay for your physical property losses. It’s important that you choose a value that reflects the cost of the property you own—including buildings, inventory and equipment, among others. Be sure to verify the cost and value of your property through appraisal or research.
Exclusions—Commercial property insurance will not extend to all property-related losses. For example, this coverage might not insure certain specialty equipment or outdoor items. Such a policy also won’t cover damage from certain hazards, such as floods or any intentional damage you may cause.
Deductibles—Most commercial property coverage comes with a deductible. The deductible is a flat amount that your business agrees to pay for property damage before your insurance pays out for a claim. If the damage falls below the cost of your deductible, then you will not receive coverage for your losses.
When putting together your BOP, remember to talk to one of our agents about how to optimize your commercial property coverage. By carefully crafting your policy, your business will receive maximum financial benefits.
Home Rebuild Cost Analysis
When the time comes to consider which type of home insurance to buy or how much coverage you need, think twice about just renewing the coverage you currently have. In many situations, your coverage can become ineffective or provide insufficient coverage to meet your needs if a significant issue occurs on the property. Be sure to take a closer look at your home insurance plan to ensure it offers the right level of coverage for your home right now. If it doesn’t, you could face financial loss later when you have to file a claim.
To estimate your insurance needs, consider a home rebuild analysis. This will help you get an accurate idea of what it would cost to rebuild your home at today’s construction costs. Update your home insurance policy to reflect the true cost so that if an event occurs in which your home is at risk of damage, you will have the coverage available to minimize those losses. Update your home insurance policy at least once every year or so to reflect changes in construction costs.
How Can You Ensure You Have Enough Coverage? Determining if there is enough homeowners coverage in place to protect against a significant loss is a considerable undertaking. If your home is impacted by fire or destroyed in a storm, for example, then the amount of damage present can warrant the need to not only replace what you’ve lost, but also to rebuild your property. That is why a home rebuild cost analysis is necessary.
This type of process helps to identify the costs of rebuilding your home, not just covering its value. Rebuilding your home includes coverage for the construction process. With a home rebuild cost analysis, it becomes easy to learn what the true cost of rebuilding your home will be. Unfortunately, most people do not have enough coverage to completely rebuild their homes with no out-of-pocket expenses to them. However, with a home rebuild cost analysis, you can better calculate what that amount of money would be.
It’s also important to consider the replacement value of your home versus the actual cash value. Depreciation can have a significant impact on your actual cash value claim. For example, if your siding needs to be replaced at 15 years old, but it has a 20-year lifespan, you will be expected to cover most of the roof’s cost. Replacement value, on the other hand will cover rebuilding costs, regardless of depreciation. It’s important to take all costs into consideration.
Do you have enough coverage? Contact us for more information on home insurance.
Grilling Safety Tips
As the weather begins to cool off, you may be thinking about getting your grill out for a backyard barbecue. However, if you don't follow the proper safety protocols, it can be dangerous. Keep these safety tips in mind before firing up your grill!
Grilling Safety Tips - YouTube
Learn Some Grilling Safety Tips from NFPA - YouTube
Health insurance can be expensive, and as of 2021, there is no longer a federal requirement that you have to buy health insurance. You will not face fines for not carrying coverage.
Choosing to go uninsured isn’t recommended—and for a good reason. The average cost of health insurance for a single person in the U.S. is around $495 a year (about $41.25 a month), while the average cost for an American family is around $1,779 a year (about $148.25 a month). This may seem expensive, but it’s critical to compare health insurance premiums to the cost benefits you will receive from buying a policy.
The True Cost of Health Care
Getting health insurance is encouraged due to the expensive nature of health care services today. A single hospital stay can cost an average of more than $15,000, this is an expense many are not ready to pay for. While you may be able to schedule payments for expensive medical bills, it isn’t always feasible—especially when added to other everyday medical costs such as medications, check-ups, doctor visits, etc.
Consider just a few of the average costs of common health care services (without insurance):
For example, a single person gets into a car wreck and needs emergency services. They’re transported by ambulance to a hospital and rushed into immediate spinal fusion surgery. Once out of surgery, they not only need to stay in the hospital for a few days to recover, but they will also need prescription medication and physical therapy. On the low side, the victim could be facing a bill of at least $35,000 (on top of recovering physically and emotionally from the incident).
Growing Health Care Costs
Unfortunately, these prices only seem to be growing due to a few factors, such as: