Device Insurance: Cover Your Personal Electronics with the Insurance Policy You Already Have

It seems everyone these days has a smartphone. Or, a smart TV, a tablet or an ebook reader. Or, all of the above – and more.

When you add it all up, you may find you have thousands and thousands of dollars tied up in technology. It’s a significant investment, and one your homeowners insurance or renters insurance can likely help you protect.

How? A homeowners policy or a renters policy typically includes personal property coverage to help protect the investment you’ve made in your stuff. And, yes, that usually includes your electronics.

Let’s take a look at how the insurance policy you already have (or, should have!) may help protect the devices you love.

Homeowners Insurance and Your Electronics
Your homeowners policy isn’t just for your house. In most cases, it’s for the stuff you have inside it, too, including the stuff you carry with you when you walk out the door. To determine how much coverage you have for your stuff, take a look at your personal property limits, or Coverage C on your homeowners policy. Typically, it’s a percentage of Coverage A, which is the primary part of your policy that covers your home.

Say Coverage A is $200,000 and the policy gives you 50 percent of that for personal property. You’d have $100,000 for your household stuff. Items located elsewhere, such as with a student away at college, usually receive a percentage of Coverage C, such as 10 percent.

Renters Insurance and Your Devices
If you rent, your landlord’s insurance will not cover your possessions. Landlord insurance covers the building. So, be sure to have renters insurance to cover your things. It’s usually inexpensive, but you’ll want to make sure you select personal property limits that are appropriate for you.

Replacement Cost Coverage for Your Devices
Electronics can depreciate rapidly, so you may want personal property coverage that provides replacement cost value for covered items and losses. This provides you with the amount you need to buy a new device, instead of paying you what the old one was worth.

Personal Property Claims and Electronics
No matter what kind of coverage you have, any damage or loss must be caused by an event your policy covers. The typical insurance policy doesn’t cover damage due to normal wear and tear, for example. Or, damage due to earthquakes and floods.

Your Deductible and Your Devices
For your policy to apply to a covered incident, the loss also has to be greater than your deductible. So, if your $300 phone is stolen and your renters deductible is $500, you won’t receive any coverage for the loss.

Policy Exclusions and Electronics
Keep in mind that some policies have exclusions or specific limits on certain items. Those items either won’t be covered at all or will only be covered up to a certain amount. Check your policy to see if either applies to any or all electronic devices. Talk to your independent insurance agent if you don’t understand the exclusions or limits. In some cases, you can purchase separate coverage for individual items that might other receive limited coverage under the typical policy.

Also, if you run a business, the equipment or devices you use for it won’t be covered by a typical homeowners policy or renters policy. The policies are for personal belongings.

Having device insurance as part of your personal property coverage is certainly a relief. However, keep in mind that the most difficult things to replace often are not the devices themselves, but the data they contain. Standard homeowners and renters policies don’t cover data loss or recovery costs, so remember to regularly back up your computer and other devices.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

Top image by Flickr user Kei Noguchi used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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Which Home Alarms Do You Need?

Technology has made home alarms of all kinds — from security to smoke, radon to radiation — more accessible than ever. Many of them can be configured to work together, and some even alert you to trouble through your phone or other mobile device, so you can feel confident even when you’re out of the house.

So, what home sensors do you need? Only you can answer that question – it depends on what you’re comfortable with. For your peace of mind and safety, you may want to consider the following types of alarms for your home.

Start With the Basics

Whether you’re in a house, condo or apartment, smoke alarms and carbon-monoxide (CO) detectors are absolute musts. They can alert you and your family in the event of a fire or if deadly gas is building up in your home.

  • Smoke alarms
    According to the National Fire Protection Association, you should install these inside every room where people sleep, with at least one on each level of your home. For maximum safety, use both ionization and photoelectric alarms, which respond to different types of fires, or a dual-sensor alarm, which will respond to both flaming and smoldering fires. You can choose from alarms that are hard-wired into your home’s power supply or ones that run on batteries. Be sure to test them regularly and replace the batteries twice a year when you set your clocks forward or back.

You also should consider smoke alarms that can be linked, so when one goes off, all of the alarms in the house sound. Other options include alarms with strobe lights (for the hearing impaired), voice commands instead of loud beeping (which may help wake children more easily) and even light for visibility in the dark.

  • Carbon monoxide alarms
    Carbon monoxide is odorless — and deadly, killing about 400 people in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If your home has gas appliances or a wood-burning fireplace, you may be especially at risk. But, every home needs carbon monoxide detectors – on every level of your home and outside of sleeping areas.

There are battery-powered and plug-in CO alarms available, and some can be linked to smoke detectors as well. Be cautious about combination smoke-and-CO alarms, however, as the detection capabilities may be limited.

Then Consider Other Types of Home Detectors

Other alarms are more about your specific living circumstances and what will make you feel most safe. There are plenty of different products available, so consider your lifestyle, your location and other factors.

  • Natural gas and propane: Natural-gas detectors typically provide an alarm for propane and CO leaks as well. They’re a good option for those with appliances powered by natural gas, or people who own RVs and trailers with large propane tanks.
  • Water: These alert you to leaks from appliances or pipes via sensors you can place around your home. Some require you to be present to hear the alarm, while others connect to a central hub that can provide alerts to your phone or other device.
  • Radon: Detectors are available that provide constant monitoring of this deadly gas. You could also start with a single-use radon test to help determine if a problem may be present.
  • Radiation: If you live near a nuclear power plant, you might want to monitor the amount of radiation in your home. Some radiation occurs naturally and poses little problem for humans. But, elevated levels can cause harm.

And, What About a Security System?

There are more options than ever for home security today. Some do-it-yourself security systems include cameras and the ability to see what’s happening at your home via your phone or other electronic device. Of course, systems installed and monitored by a separate security company are still available, as well.

Some alarms can provide benefits beyond safety, too. Installing them may qualify you for a discount on your insurance. Check with your independent agent for more details.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.
Top image by Flickr user Phalinn Ooi used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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Car Shopping With Safety in Mind

You’ve heard all the talk about driverless cars. Yet we’re still years away from living in a world where you can just tell your car where to go, kick back and relax with a book or your phone.

Even still, technology already plays a big role in the way we drive. Nowhere is that more apparent than with the new features that make today’s cars safer than ever. That’s especially good news considering that drivers aren’t necessarily safer these days. In fact, 2015 came with the largest increase in traffic fatalities since 1966 – 7.2 percent more in 2015 than 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

So, when you’re shopping for a new (or new-to-you) car, look for one that has some or all of these vehicle safety features. They might even help you save on your car insurance!

  1. Forward collision warning: Sensors in the front of the vehicle will warn you of an impending collision, giving you a chance to brake or steer clear.
  2. Automatic emergency braking: Working with forward collision warning sensors, this will automatically apply the brakes to avoid a collision.
  3. Lane-departure warning: This uses cameras to keep track of your car’s position on the roadway. If you begin to drift from your lane unintentionally, an alarm notifies you.
  4. Lane-keeping support: Steers your vehicle back into the lane if you do begin to drift.
  5. Backup camera: Allows you to see behind the vehicle. These cameras, which are becoming more and more common, automatically activate when the car shifts into reverse.
  6. Electronic stability control: Helps you keep control in slippery conditions and on curves. According to the NHTSA, it reduces the risk of a fatal single-vehicle crash by about 50 percent and a fatal rollover by 80 percent.
  7. Blind-spot detection: Illuminates when another vehicle is in either blind spot.
  8. Adaptive headlights: Shift as you take curves to help you see better.
  9. Pedestrian automatic emergency braking: Alerts you if someone is in your path and automatically applies the brakes.
  10. Automatic crash notification: Notifies emergency responders in the event of a crash.

Finally, don’t forget the now-commonplace features, such as air bags and anti-lock brakes, as well as things that have little to do with technology but still have a big impact on safety. This can include size and weight, structure and restraint systems, and NHTSA car safety ratings. Compare cars you’re considering online with the help of NHTSA.

And, no matter how many bells and whistles your car has, remember they’re no substitute for good driving habits. You still need to buckle up, stay alert, mind the speed limit, avoid distractions, drive for the weather conditions, etc.

Happy car shopping!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.
Top image by Flickr user Alden Jewell used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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7 Driving Habits That Are Bad for Your Car

No matter how safe you are behind the wheel, you’ve probably done things like:

  • Shift into drive while the car is still rolling backward.
  • Ride the brakes on steep hills.
  • Roll into the gas station on empty.

Guilty? If so, you may not have even realized you were doing everything wrong. After all, most everybody has a bad driving habit or two. But, most everybody doesn’t have to pay for your auto repairs. You do.

So, take a look at these seven driving habits that are bad for your car and learn why you should avoid them. It may be time to change the way you drive!

  1. Running on empty. You might enjoy living on the edge, but driving around without much gas can put your car’s fuel pump on edge, too. That won’t necessarily ruin your car, but having to replace your fuel pump probably will hurt your checkbook. Keep your tank at least a quarter full.
  2. Shifting too soon. If you have an automatic transmission, it’s easy to pop the car into drive while it’s still rolling in reverse. Don’t! Unless you want to put additional stress on your transmission, that is. Come to a stop, then shift.
  3. Braking too much. Following other cars too closely can wear your brakes and rotors out more quickly, because you’ll probably have to use them more than other drivers. (Of course, you should maintain an adequate following distance for safety reasons, too.) But, even in situations where braking seems unavoidable, such as going down a steep hill, you have another option: Shifting into a lower gear will slow you down without riding the brakes.
  4. Gunning it. Maybe you drive a fast car. Or, maybe you want to feel like you drive a fast car. Whatever kind of car you have, punching the gas from a stop can be hard on it, even more so if the car is cold and the oil hasn’t fully dispersed throughout the engine. Those fast starts mean faster wear on your tires, too.
  5. Forgetting the parking brake. Do you know what holds your car in park? One small piece of metal in the transmission. Not using the parking brake puts more stress on that bit of metal. So, use it.
  6. Packing on the pounds. Just like with your body, extra weight puts stress on several different areas of your car. So, clean out that trunk and remove unnecessary items from the interior. Your suspension, brakes and transmission will thank you. Thanks to better gas mileage, your bank account will, too.
  7. Holding down the clutch. Have a manual transmission? Keep the car in neutral at intersections so you don’t need to press the clutch until you’re ready to roll. Riding the clutch is a great way to burn it out eventually.

Even if you don’t do anything on this list, you’re still not out of the woods. (But you’re probably closer than most of us.) Keep your ears and eyes open for strange noises, warning lights or anything out of the ordinary — and don’t ignore them. Inspect the issue, or get your car to a mechanic, before it becomes a bigger problem.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.
Top image by Flickr user Sean MacEntee used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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4 Social Media Tips for 2017

The Internet and social media in particular have made it easy to share more of our personal lives with our friends. But, it’s also become easier to share with people we don’t even know.

Online privacy isn’t just about protecting your personal information — name, address and birthdate — to help prevent identity theft. It’s also about protecting you and your family from public embarrassment, from private conversations going public, and from stalking and bullying.

If you’re unsure whether you and your family are exposed or protected online, take a look at these four social media tips and adopt the ones that make sense for you. And, make this year more secure than last.

  1. Review the privacy and security settings on your social media accounts.
    Take an hour or so to evaluate and update the privacy settings on all the social sites you use. Facebook will probably require the most attention, because there are so many ways to share personal information (maybe more than you’re aware of) and so many options for limiting access to your info. You can control who sees your posts, who posts to your timeline, who contacts you, who looks you up and whether search engines can link to your timeline.Review the privacy settings on your other social media accounts, too, from LinkedIn down to Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest.If you only use a site to connect with a small circle of friends, then you can probably select the most restrictive privacy settings for the greatest protection. For help, try these social media privacy setting tips from the Center for Identity at the University of Texas at Austin.
  2. Think twice about what you share online.
    Sharing information about yourself is the whole point of social media. But, once you’ve shared online, it’s very hard to un-share. Certain information may always be available to someone who knows where to look. And, even if your accounts are private, someone in your network may share what you’ve posted with their own network. You can truly never know how far your posts may travel, so think twice before posting:

    • Your full birthdate. Share the month and day, if you like, but leave out the year you were born.
    • Photos with geotag information that may allow strangers to identify where they were taken and thus where you live or where your kids go to school. Check your smartphone camera settings to turn off geotagging – ask Google for instructions, if needed.
    • The address or other identifying factors of your home, office or child’s school. Even a photo showing the license plate number of your new car could reveal too much.
    • Photos of other children unless you have their parents’ permission.
    • Your travel plans. Posting about your trip before you leave or while you’re gone lets others know your home is unoccupied.
    • Anything you wouldn’t want someone outside your network to read, such as a rant about your job or sensitive information about your work. Such posts have led to people getting fired.
  3. Do not allow strangers or untrustworthy people into your social networks.You may be flattered by a pretty stranger’s interest, or blinded by your pursuit to reach 1,000 friends. But, it’s simply not safe until you know who they are and why they want to get closer to you.In a similar category are the casual acquaintances you just made at all those holiday parties. Let the relationships ripen before you give them access to your personal information. And, be careful about your real-life friends who connect with anyone and everyone via social media; your secrets may be available to strangers through them.
  4. Monitor your youngest children’s social media use and make the risks clear to your older children.
    Children of all ages can be naïve – or just careless – about the impacts of online sharing. It’s hard for them to grasp that something they share online today could impact their college or job opportunities long after the post was made. Plus, they could be putting their personal safety at risk by sharing too much with the wrong person.Even once you allow them freer access online, it’s wise to monitor them until you feel confident in their decision making. Discuss frankly the risks that come from sharing too much, and the practices that reduce those risks. By staying involved, you can have an impact on how your teens use social media even when you’re not looking over their shoulder.

The Internet is a big place, and, while our own social networks may feel familiar and secure, they sometimes aren’t. So, connect and post with care, and adjust your privacy settings before sending that next Tweet.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.
Top image by Flickr user Jason Howie used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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5 Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

Every year, unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning (not linked to fires) sends 20,000 people to the emergency room and causes more than 4,000 hospitalizations. And, you might consider them the fortunate ones. CO also is responsible for more than 400 deaths in America each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The truly frightening thing? Most of those victims likely had no idea they were in danger.

CO often is called “the invisible killer” because it’s odorless and colorless, and, when it builds up in an enclosed space, it’s deadly. Everyone is at risk, too, because CO is produced by a number of things we use every day, such as cars and trucks, stoves, grills, gas ranges, furnaces and more.

So, how do you protect yourself? Especially in winter, when it’s cold outside and you’re using heat sources inside your home?

Here are some basic actions you can take to help limit your exposure:

  1. Install — and test — CO detectors
    Most states (37 in all) now have some sort of requirement regarding installation of carbon monoxide detectors in private homes. These should be placed outside of each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Because you won’t smell or otherwise notice CO building up, having detectors that will sound an alarm is crucial. Don’t forget to test them once a month.
  2. Don’t create additional risk in your home
    You should never use devices that generate large amounts of CO inside your home. Never operate a gas or charcoal grill inside (even in a garage), and make sure generators are used in a well-ventilated outside location away from windows, doors and vents. Make sure to have your furnace and chimney checked annually, too.
  3. Be careful in your car
    Carbon monoxide can build up quickly when a vehicle is running, so, if you need to warm up your car, move it out of the garage after you start it.
  4. Watch out for snow — at home and on your vehicle
    Snow and ice can block vents for your dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace. They also can obstruct the exhaust of your car. Either can be very dangerous. In fact, according to news reports, several people died in the recent East Coast snowstorm when CO backed up into their cars because the exhaust pipe was blocked.
  5. Know the symptoms of CO poisoning
    People can be harmed by a small amount of carbon monoxide over a long period, or a large amount over a short period. Because you might not be able to identify when you’re in a dangerous situation, it pays to know what symptoms to look for:

    • Low to moderate CO poisoning: headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness.
    • High-level CO poisoning: mental confusion, vomiting, loss of coordination, loss of consciousness.

    If you suspect CO poisoning, move the person (and yourself) outside immediately and call 911.

Remember, the important thing to know about carbon monoxide is this: Without CO detectors (and other common-sense measures), you won’t know when you’re at risk. So, take steps to protect yourself and your family today.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

Top image by Flickr user SmartSign used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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