4 Tips to Help You Stay Ahead of Smartphone Hackers

Did you know that Americans check their phone on average 80 times a day? Surprising, right? Unfortunately, the amount of times that our phones can be compromised is surprisingly high as well.  And because mobile phones are so valuable to hackers, more and more new exploits are being discovered.

To help you stay ahead of smartphone hackers, we’ve combined the most frequent dangers and tips on what to do to help protect yourself.

What hackers value

  • The device itself: Your data can be wiped, the device reset, resold and reactivated. Thieves have gotten better at taking phones apart and reassembling them into new phones to sell.
  • Your data: Your phone is likely linked to your email, financial accounts and other personal records. Armed with your smartphone, a hacker could access your banking  by resetting your email password or receiving a secure pin via text.

Lost or stolen phones: What to do before and after

  • Track your phone with an app. The best ones track to within feet of where the phone is located. If your phone has been stolen, report its location to the police.
  • Secure your phone with a password, swipe code or passphrase. Set the security settings to wipe the data on the phone after a certain number of password tries.
  • If you lose your phone or it is stolen, notify your carrier right away and wipe the data if you are sure you cannot retrieve the phone.

Social engineering

Hackers are using social engineering to persuade mobile carrier customer service to fraudulently transfer phone numbers without your permission. Once they transfer your number to their device, they have password resetting capability for your email, banking and other accounts.

To help lower the chances of this happening to you:

  • Place a “do not port” alert on your account.
  • Use a pin for your account and require it for all changes.
  • If you receive a text or call from your mobile provider saying that someone is attempting to port your number, call them immediately. Do not respond directly to the message, as that may be a separate scam.

Phishing And Viruses

Texts and emails created by hackers can contain deceptive links or attachments that could infect your phone with malware. The malware can then steal your personal and financial information.

Here are some recommendations to help protect your phone:

  • Do not accept text messages from numbers you do not recognize. Block them. If you are not already on the National Do Not Call Registry, sign up – it’s free and just takes two clicks.
  • Don’t click on links in texts, especially those that look suspicious, and don’t download files from emails unless you are already expecting something from someone you trust. If it’s financial, give the person a call, just to confirm it actually came from them.
  • Just as you have virus and malware protection for your home PC or laptop, it’s time to invest in smartphone protection. There are many competitive products priced at around $50 a year.
  • Don’t plug into any unknown charging stations or devices. Bring a wall charger or power bank with you.
  • Keep your operating system up to date. Operating system updates are usually issued in response to major security exploits. Because these updates are known to have weaknesses, you should review your product’s website to determine why the update has been issued and when to install it.

Mobile phones and your data on them can be compromised in a multitude of ways. Although keeping a step ahead of hackers is tough, educating yourself is critical.

For information only. Not applicable to all situations. Original version of this article written by Monique Ferraro, Counsel Cyber Practice at Hartford Steam Boiler, can be found on their blog.

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How To Treat These 3 Cyber Tricks

Halloween is a few short days away, and under the cover of the dark web, cyber criminals are refining their sinister methods. And they’re only getting more sneaky and destructive.

Here are three of their most common tricks and how you can avoid getting fooled.

1)  You get a dreadful call that your computer is infected

You receive a call from someone disguised as a technician who claims your computer has a virus, and for $300 they can fix your problem by accessing your machine.

You provide your payment information and login credentials, and it appears that the tech is “fixing” your computer. In fact, they are either doing absolutely nothing, or downloading malware to transmit your personal and financial information. Scary, right?

How do you prevent this menacing scam?

  • •Document the phone number of the caller and their name
  • •Hang up
  • •Block their number from calling again
  • Submit your number to the National Do Not Call Registry
  • Report the matter to the (IC3), which collects and follows up on this information

No reputable computer security company or software firm calls to inform anyone that they have a computer virus. Normally, your firewall will prompt a message prior to accessing a bad file or site, and your anti-virus software will scan and fix your files automatically.

2) You receive a shocking email

An email pops into your inbox with a subject line that says, “Your payment of $4,890 to PayPal has been approved,” or, “I am NOT paying this invoice.”

You can’t resist the urge to open it; it might seem like you’re on the hook for a lot of money or being accused of something you didn’t do.

Emails with subject lines like these are remarkably successful in luring their victims into opening them. The real danger lies in the links. Clicking on these could open the door to malicious software, with ransomware being the usual suspect.

How to prevent this sinister scam?

  • Beware of signs that an email is malicious or fraudulent
  • Delete the email
  • If this happens at work, alert the appropriate person or department, so other employees can be warned and protected

3) You are tricked into transferring funds by an imposter

A Business Email Compromise (BEC) scam usually starts off with an email that makes a pressing demand. It appears to come from an executive or trusted vendor who is unavailable to confirm the demand.

The sender demands that you transfer funds immediately to facilitate a deal or to pay an invoice. The receiver may be deceived by the sender’s inside information, such as details of a pending deal or specific relationship.

How to prevent this nefarious scam?

  • Watch for emails that demand you make a funds transfer, change vendor information, or supply personal or financial information
  • Before taking action, confirm the request verbally, either by phone call to a known number or in person
  • Alert the appropriate internal contact so that preventive actions can be taken, such as blocking the scammers and raising co-workers’ awareness
  • Report the attempt to the IC3 on their website.
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10 Safety Tips To Follow During Halloween | Shield Insurance

10 Safety Tips To Follow During Halloween

The apples have been bobbed, the pumpkins are carved, the cobwebs are hung, and the spooky movie marathon has been viewed, leading up to one of the most anticipated nights of the year for both kids and adults: Halloween.

But some Halloween statistics can be pretty frightening. According to SafeKids.org, only 1/3 of parents talk to their little goblins about Halloween, yet 3/4 of parents report having safety concerns. American Modern® has collected a trove of tips to keep kids of all ages safe this Halloween season.

1. Before you leave the house to go haunting, check your smoke detectors. 

With all of the neighborhood jack-o-lanterns aglow, and the occasional backyard fire-pits on Halloween night, it’s a good idea to double check that your smoke detectors are fully functioning.

2. Wear comfortable Halloween costumes that glow in the dark. 

Whether it’s a Ninja or Cinderella, fastening reflective tape onto costumes is an inexpensive and easy way to increase visibility during the night. It’s also great to put this same tape on trick-or-treat bags while you’re at it. Other handy items to carry include flashlights or glow sticks. The safest costumes are bright and reflective so you and your little ones will be more visible.

3. Make-up matters. 

Picking non-toxic make-up is important for you and your child’s safety. It’s always wise to do a small skin test in advance to ensure there is no irritation or allergic reactions. Put a small amount on the arm of the person who will be wearing it. If a rash, redness, swelling, or other signs of irritation develop where the makeup was applied, that’s a sign of a possible allergy. Additionally, you can quickly check the FDA’s list of color additives to see if the colors are FDA approved. If they aren’t approved for their intended use, don’t use them. That list can be checked here: https://www.fda.gov/forindustry/coloradditives/coloradditiveinventories/ucm115641.htm

4. Flame-fighting halloween costumes. 

You never know if you’ll end up fireside making S’mores and telling ghost stories on Halloween. So, always make sure costumes say “flame resistant” on the label. Believe it or not, some clothing products are not flame resistant and sometimes will even have a “keep away from flames” warning. If you make your costume, flame-resistant fabrics such as polyester or nylon are a safer choice.

5. Choose your “weapons” wisely. 

It’s important to make sure any props or weapons that really sell the costume are soft and flexible, such as a cardboard sword. It’s easy for children to get excited about their character. So while they are flexing their imagination, make sure their props are safe and not harmful to others. It goes without saying, but be sure to keep these props (and your children) away from any candles or open fires.

6. Commit to the costume, but scrap the decorative or colored contact lenses. 

The FDA and several eye care professional groups, including the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, are discouraging the use of decorative or colored contact lenses this year. If bought and used without a valid prescription, or without the involvement of an eye care professional, or without appropriate follow-up care, the lenses can lead to significant risks of eye injuries, including blindness.

7. Handle candy with care. 

First, you want to pick a safe bag, tote, or plastic food container to collect treats in. Up-cycling containers at home can be a creative and environmentally friendly, but be sure what you are using did not previously contain any harmful toxins, household cleaning items, or any other possibly poisonous material. Also, both kids and adults should not eat candy until it has been inspected at home. No nibbling along the way! Avoid any candy that is homemade or looks like the packaging has been tampered with.

8. Street safety. 

Children should always be properly supervised outdoors by parents. It’s best for children to travel in groups with several parents, and stay on the sidewalk, even if the street seems quiet in terms of traffic. Remind your child of the basics: looking both ways before crossing (at corners with cross walks only), having a buddy to hold hands with while crossing the street, and not talking to strangers. It’s also smart to make sure your child has their phone number and address either memorized or in a safe place.

9. No lights, no treats. 

Houses that do not look like they are celebrating or participating in Halloween should be skipped.

10. In case of tricks, act fast. 

While the origins are mysterious, egging is a popular, but dreaded Halloween trick. Did you know that if a smashed egg is left too long on your house or car it could damage the paint? Quickly clean any egg residue off to avoid damage to painted surfaces. In addition, look out for others around you and notify your neighbors of any mischief-makers in order to keep your neighborhood safe.

As you and your little ones canvass the neighborhood for this year’s candy haul, crunching leaves beneath your feet, American Modern hopes these helpful tips and tricks will make this year’s Halloween safe and sweet.

*If you have any questions or someone you know has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance, you can call the American Association of Poison Control Centers immediately at (800) 222-1222. They are available to assist you 24 hours a day. In case of an emergency, call 911 immediately.
From all of us at Shield Agency, we wish you, and your family a safe and fun Halloween!


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Rental vehicle coverage… Do you have it? Do you need it?

posted by Melissa Hunt October 17, 2019

I am currently a mother of 3 little ones so I typically need more than a compact sedan to get around. Now, imagine I get t-boned in an intersection…. I have auto insurance, I make a claim, I have collision coverage BUT I didn’t include rental vehicle coverage on my auto policy. 

Now what? I have to hope and pray that one of my family members, friends or co-workers have a vehicle I can use otherwise I pay out of pocket for a rental. The tiniest, cheapest car would still cost me around $250/ week and a van can run upwards of $550 per week!!! The average family can not afford this extra expense, especially if there is already a deductible that will be owed from the claim.

This coverage that I was missing out on, can be as little as $5 a month depending on the insurance company and the amount of coverage you select. That is pennies compared to what it would take to keep me in a rental vehicle for up to a month! 

So, if you determine that you would need this coverage, how much do you think you would need? Depending on the insurance company, you could get anywhere from $20/day to $75/day for up to 30 days. I should have had at least $40/day if not more to be able to get a decent size vehicle for my family and I. The added perk of having this coverage is that a lot of rental vehicle companies will try to work with the coverage that you have so you will have to pay very little to nothing out of pocket.

Nowadays, there are fewer and fewer repair shops willing to provide loaner cars while your vehicle is in the shop. Those that do tend to still charge you for that loaner if they determine that your car is a total loss. They won’t get any money from you or the insurance company for the repairs to your car so they charge you for using the loaner car for those 2-3 days that it took to look over your car.. The safest bet is to have the coverage on your auto policy. You can always quote out what the additional coverage would be with your agent.

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Mold Prevention

What Causes Mold?

When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed.

Preventing Mold

  • The key to mold control is moisture control.
  • Fix leaks and seepage as soon as you notice the issue.
  • Put a plastic cover over dirt in crawl spaces to prevent moisture from coming in from the ground.
  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to remove moisture to the outside.
  • Vent your clothes dryer to the outside.
  • Turn off certain appliances (such as humidifiers or kerosene heaters) if you notice moisture on windows and other surfaces.
  • Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners, especially in hot, humid climates, to reduce moisture in the air.
  • Raise the temperature of cold surfaces where moisture condenses.
  • Use insulation or storm windows.
  • Increase air circulation by using fans and by moving furniture from wall corners to promote air and heat circulation and keep doors open between rooms.
  • Carpet on concrete floors can absorb moisture and serve as a place for biological pollutants to grow – use area rugs which can be taken up and washed often.
  • Dry water-damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.

Dealing with Mold

  • Get rid of the excess water or moisture.
  • Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water.
  • Absorbent materials (such as ceiling tiles & carpet) that become moldy may have to be replaced.
  • Contact a mold remediation specialist.
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Wyoming MI Branch, Shield Insurance Agency

Preventing Frozen Pipes

What Causes Frozen Pipes?

The water inside pipes can freeze when outdoor temperatures drop below freezing. As freezing water expands, it causes the pressure inside the pipes to increase, possibly leading to bursting pipes.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

  • Insulate pipes, especially those close to outside walls, attics or crawl spaces where the chance of freezing is greatest.
  • Seal air leaks surrounding or near pipes.
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Disconnect all outdoor hoses and turn off water to exterior faucets and sprinkler systems.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • Keep heat at 55 degrees F. or higher even when you are out of town.
  • During a cold spell turn on both hot and cold faucets near outside walls to allow a small trickle of water to run during the night.
  • If you need to be away from home, leave the heat on and drain your water system before you go.
  • Identify the locations of shutoff valves so that you are prepared to stop the flow of water as soon as possible when a pipe bursts.

What to Do When Pipes Freeze or BurstIf pipes freeze:

  • Open all faucets.
  • Remove insulation and wrap pipes in rags.
  • If all else fails, call your plumber.

If pipes burst:

  • Shut off the water immediately to prevent additional damage.
  • Take proper precautions to avoid an electrical shock from being in or near standing water.
  • Take an inventory of any damaged property or possessions.
  • Contact your local claims office to help you locate a vendor specializing in emergency water mitigation services that can properly dry out the damaged area.
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7 things to know about rental car coverage

After a car accident, you have enough things to worry about. Getting to work the next day shouldn’t be one of them.

We’ve all been there—and arranging alternate transportation while your vehicle is in a repair shop can be a hassle. But rental reimbursement coverage can help alleviate some stress after an accident while also saving you money.

Here are seven things you should know about before buying rental car reimbursement coverage:

1. It’s optional.
Rental reimbursement coverage does not automatically apply after an accident. As an optional coverage, it must be purchased separately. A common misconception is that auto insurance automatically covers the cost of a replacement rental car. In reality, you often have to select this coverage and apply it to the policy.

2. There is a limit.
You’ll likely have a per day and per occurrence limit. For example, if you have a 25/750 limit, your insurance company will pay up to $25 per day but no more than $750 per claim for the rental vehicle. Most insurance companies will offer several different options, allowing you to choose the limit that is right for you.

3. Your vehicle must be in the shop due to a covered loss.
Rental reimbursement coverage can be used while your vehicle is being repaired after an accident or another covered loss, not for routine maintenance or leisure. So, if your car is at the body shop after an accident, a rental car is covered up to your limit. But if your car is undergoing routine maintenance that will keep it in the shop overnight or you are renting a vehicle for a family road trip, then rental reimbursement coverage would not apply.

4. You can use it right away.
After reporting a claim, if your vehicle isn’t drivable, you can be authorized for a rental car right away. Otherwise, you will be relying on the at-fault driver’s insurance company, and you may have to wait a little while before they can assess the claim and agree to pay for a rental car. With rental reimbursement coverage, there’s no waiting.

5. No need to worry about additional insurance.
For the most part, when you have collision and comprehensive coverages in your auto insurance policy, it will transfer to the rental vehicle, eliminating the need to purchase additional coverage from the car rental agency. Check with a Shield agent, who will be able to tell you when this applies.

6. You may not need it at all.
If you have access to another vehicle, rideshare service or public transportation in the event your vehicle isn’t drivable, you may not need rental reimbursement coverage. But if you prefer the safety net of having a rental available if you need it, you may want to opt-in to this coverage.

7. It costs less than you might expect.
One year of rental reimbursement coverage will typically cost less than one day of out-of-pocket rental car expenses.

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What to expect during a car insurance claim

When you’re involved in an auto accident, working through a claim can be stressful. But knowing what to expect can ease you through the process and help you have a pleasant experience working with your claims professional.

Although the car insurance claim process can vary, most of the basics are the same.

If you’re in an auto accident, here’s what to do:

  1. Stay at the scene.
  2. Contact the police immediately.
  3. Exchange contact information, the name of your insurance company and your auto insurance policy number with the other parties involved in the accident.
  4. If applicable, be sure to gather contact information from any witnesses.
  5. Avoid discussions of insurance policy coverage, limits or fault.
  6. Report the claim once you and your car are safe.

So, what comes next?

1. Let’s chat.
You’ll get a call from your claim representative, who will ask you about the details of your loss and explain your policy coverage and the claims process, including options for obtaining an estimate for the damage to your vehicle.

With many insurance companies, you’re able to access your account online or via a mobile app to quickly and easily check the status of your claim at any time. For example, if you’re a Grange Insurance policyholder, you can do this by logging into or creating a MyGrange account or by adding the Grange Mobile app on your smartphone

2. Get back on the road with a rental car.
If your car is no longer drivable and you have Rental Reimbursement coverage, you should be covered for the daily rate of your rental vehicle. The amount covered by your auto insurance is based on your policy’s rental reimbursement limits. Not sure if you’re covered for a rental vehicle? Your claim representative will provide direction. But, before you’re even involved in an auto accident, you should talk to your independent agent about rental reimbursement coverage and see if it makes sense to add it to your policy.

3. Sometimes claims require an investigation.
In claims with multiple vehicles, the adjuster will need to talk to all parties involved to determine things like liability, getting estimates, repair shop options and other important factors.

4. Repair your vehicle.
While you always have the right to take your vehicle to any repair shop you like, most insurance companies can provide you with a recommended body shop which could come with extra perks, such as a lifetime guarantee on repairs while you own your vehicle, convenient scheduling and priority service.

After you select a repair shop, your claim representative will guide you through each step of the repair process and work with you to resolve your claim fairly and effortlessly.

5. Tell your insurance company how the claim process went.
After your claim is resolved, you may receive a survey regarding your experience. Your feedback is important to your insurance provider and essential to the growth and development of their products, services and people. If asked, be sure to provide your two cents, which will help improve the car insurance claims process for others. And lastly, consider giving kudos to an adjuster or claim representative who helped you have a great experience with your claim.

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5 tips to safely handle a roadside emergency

A roadside emergency can happen at any moment, but knowing how to safely respond can help you feel more prepared. Whether your tire goes flat, car battery dies or you forget to check your gas light before it hits “E”, here are five tips to help you prepare and stay safe when a roadside emergency happens to you.

1. Have the proper tools on hand.
One of the easiest ways to prepare ahead of time for a roadside emergency is having an emergency kit in your vehicle. Pre-made kits are available to buy online and in store, or you can put together your own roadside emergency kit. Tailor your kit to the weather in your area, include items that suit you and your family and have multiple kits or back-up kits.

Some potential items to include in your emergency kit:

  • First Aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Jumper cables
  • Road flares
  • Bottled water and nonperishable snacks
  • Blanket
  • Clean, empty, refillable gas jug
  • Pencil and notepad

2. Get off the road.
If your vehicle is able to move, drive it over to the shoulder or as far out of traffic as possible. If you need to leave your vehicle and it isn’t safe to get out on your driver’s side for any reason, exit through the passenger door. If you leave, make sure to lock your vehicle and leave a note on the windshield with a phone number in case roadside assistance or a police officer stop by.

3. Make your vehicle visible to others.
Using your hazard lights is an easy way to alert other drivers to your vehicle. If included in your emergency kit, use flares, warning lights or a hazard triangle to better alert other drivers that your vehicle is having problems.

4. Exercise caution.
Keep the doors locked if you stay in your vehicle, and when accepting help from strangers, always exercise good judgement. Keep your seatbelt fastened when sitting in your vehicle. If you exit your vehicle, stay far away from moving traffic.

5. Call for assistance.
You can’t always solve a roadside emergency by yourself, which is why it’s important to call in help when you need it. Having access to a roadside assistance service can make an emergency less frightening, especially when you’re somewhere unfamiliar, when it’s dark outside or during inclement weather.

Roadside assistance services can help with a variety of car problems, and it’s good to know someone has your back if something goes wrong. Check with your auto insurance carrier or car manufacturer to see if they offer on-demand roadside assistance.

Remember to call 911 if it’s an emergency.

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In case of emergency: How to prepare your phone

Today, our phones are rarely outside of our reach. This makes them one of the best tools we have for quickly responding to an emergency situation and increasing the chances of a more positive outcome.

How prepared is your phone to handle an emergency?

In most emergency situations, you would be the one to contact someone for help. So, it’s important to take a few minutes to research and save important emergency contact numbers in your phone so you can make the call immediately and get help faster.

Here are the main emergency phone numbers to save in your phone:

  • Your emergency contact, such as a parent, spouse or close friend
  • Police, 911 in the United States for emergencies
  • Poison Control Center
  • State Highway Patrol
  • Your nearest police and fire department (for non-emergencies)

You should also consider saving these important numbers in your phone to help you in an emergency:

  • Your doctor, pediatrician and/or veterinarian
  • Your pharmacy
  • Home health aides
  • Your insurance company
  • Your roadside assistance provider
  • Your employer
  • Your child’s school or caregiver
  • A nearby relative or friend
  • An out-of-town relative or friend

There are also some emergency situations, like a bad fall or car accident, where you might not be able to communicate with first responders. For this reason, it’s important to take these two steps:

  1. Add an emergency contact in your phone, such as a parent, spouse or close friend who can come to your aid.
  2. If your phone locks, set up a lock screen message to communicate helpful information to first responders, like your emergency contact, blood type, allergies and medications.

Depending on the type of phone you’re using, there are different ways to add a lock screen message.

iPhone users can use the Health app on their phones to add their basic personal information, important medical details and emergency contact numbers within the Medical ID tab and make them accessible from their lock screen. Just make sure you select “Show When Locked” and test it out after you’ve finished setting it up.

Android users can set up their lock screen message by going into their Settings, Users & Accounts, and then Emergency Information. Enter your medical information and emergency contact. Then test it out by locking your phone, swiping up and tapping “Emergency” to find the information you entered.

Additionally, Android lets you put any message you want on your locked screen. To do this, open your Settings, go to Security & Location and next to the Screen Lock tab hit Settings. Then, tap Lock Screen Message. Here, you can enter your primary emergency contact or important medication information so that it always displays on your locked phone screen.

Because it’s difficult to predict when or where an emergency will happen, it is a smart idea to update your phone now so that you’re prepared to handle any situation that comes your way in the future. Be safe out there!

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