Friday, March 29, 2013

Lost or Stolen Credit Cards, Debit Cards and Identification

I stopped using checks last year and now I use a debit card exclusively. I know I am behind the curve as that is so several years ago! But, I was impressed with myself for being so current and I like the convenience as opposed to using checks. Well last week I was filling up the car at a gas station when I took a call on my phone. I finished up and jumped in the car and realized 30 minutes later at the grocery store that I had left the card at the pump. I flew back to the gas station and some Good Samaritan had taken the card into the office where it was awaiting me. I can’t tell you how panicked I was and how nerve wracking that trip back to the gas station was.


After the emergency was over it occurred to me how unprepared I was if I lost my wallet with my identification, debit cards, credit cards even my social security card. When you lose confidential items like credit cards, keys, and other personal documents, you also run the risk of becoming the victim of a further crime.


Whoever has these items might use them to steal further from you – perhaps your money, items from your home or car, or even your identity.


You can minimize the risk of this happening by taking prompt action. Contact the police, of course. Then you must notify the issuers of all missing credit and debit cards, check books and travelers checks.


This task is considerably easier if you either have a separate list (not in your wallet!) or the emergency numbers for these issuers and banks (you'll find them on the cards and other documents) or subscribe to a card security service that you contact via a single number and they will look after the rest. I of course had not done any of these things so it would have been much harder to recall what I had and who to call.


These cards and other documents will normally be cancelled straightaway. The notification process also usually (but not always) covers you against subsequent fraudulent use of the items – so speed really is essential.


You then need to contact the issuers of any other items (like Social Security, health insurers, state department of motor vehicles, and even your library) so that they are not fraudulently used, and let your insurance agent know.


New cards can be issued and replacement checks can be provided quickly, though replacement Social Security cards generally are not issued.


If it's possible you may become the victim of identity theft, you need to notify the credit reporting agencies and get a fraud alert placed on your records. It is possible to freeze your credit so no one can open an account in your name. For more information see my blog post from 08/10/2012 on “Protect Yourself from ID Theft”.

You know what Grandma always said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Now I am prepared and hopefully will never need to use it!

Friday, March 22, 2013

What To Do In The Event of a Burglary or Theft

I was just reading in the paper about a series of break-ins to local business and homeowners. Aside from the anger and frustration of being violated by having someone break into your home or business there are steps required to repair the damage and make your home or business secure. I remember when it happened to me and thought back to the steps that I learned through trial and error:
Here is a basic checklist of the things you should do (depending on the nature of the crime):

·         Ensure everyone is out of danger.

·         Check the well-being of anyone else who was involved.

·         Call 911.

·         Administer first aid if required.

·         Identify witnesses, if appropriate

·         After theft or burglary, try not to touch anything at the scene until the police arrive.

·         Re-secure your property.

·         Make an inventory of what has been damaged or stolen.

·         If you are a victim of crime abroad, contact the US Embassy or consulate in the host location, as well as local police.

·         Contact your insurer or agent and follow instructions for making a claim.

There are numerous other things that might be appropriate, depending on the advice of the police and your insurer. They are there to help and advise you, so try to follow their guidance.
The US Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) produces an extremely useful factsheet that covers your rights, where to get help, and details of state compensation and assistance programs. You can download it here:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Do you have a first aid kit?

Last night while I was washing the dishes I cut my finger. I have no idea what I cut it on but it immediately started to bleed. No problem, I was able to clean the cut and apply a Band-Aid and yes I drained the water and rewashed the dishes. I keep a small first aid kit at home and have it stocked with bandages, gauze, tape etc. For years I never felt that I needed a first aid kit and until we adopted our children and had a home study I had never kept a kit in the house. I am pretty active and I am usually bumping into something so the kit has been used often. If you don't have a first aid kit, please get one. Today, if you can. It could save a life. Plus, they're not expensive and, if you do it yourself, they're easy to put together. These days, though, you can buy ready-made kits. Drugstores and online retailers sell them but you can also buy them from your local American Red Cross Chapter or the Red Cross Store online, costing from around $15 to $50. The Red Cross also provides guidance on what you should have in a good first aid kit. Here's their list:

2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
5 antiseptic wipe packets
2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
1 blanket (space blanket)
1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
1 instant cold compress
2 pair of non-latex gloves (size: large)
2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
Oral thermometer (non-mercury/non-glass)
2 triangular bandages
First aid instruction booklet

In a business, you will need something more substantial, depending on the number of employees and type of work being done. There may also be legal requirements at both national and state level. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration ( will be able to guide you.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Basic Home Safety Tips Learned the Hard Way!

Last night before I went to bed I left some newspapers on the floor near the bathroom door. I had intended to put them in the recycling and forgot them. Naturally, during the night when I made my way to the bathroom in the dark I slipped and fell into the bathroom. Fortunately I wasn’t hurt other than feeling foolish but this morning that lesson gave me a great idea for a topic on my insurance blog. Falls are the most common cause of accidents in the home, a substantial proportion of them serious or even fatal. You can cut the risk of these and maybe save a life by:

Ensuring carpets are properly fixedto the floor (use floor-gripper tape for loose rugs on slippery surfaces, and ensure fitted carpets are fastened down). I have several of these and they are always sliding around.

Removing clutter, especially in busy "traffic" areas for instance, my newspapers!

Marking temporary hazards– like a ladder that people don't expect to encounter – with a piece of brightly colored cloth and removing it as soon as you're done.

Keeping floors dry or out of boundswhen wet. You can buy specialty absorbent rugs for particularly dangerous areas like the kitchen, laundry and bathroom.

Installing handrailsin bathrooms or wherever there are steps (including the yard) – especially important if you have older folk living with or visiting you. These are in the bathroom where I am staying and while I am perfectly able, I use them frequently.

Repairing and leveling walkwaysin the yard. I have one of these where I am staying now and I trip over it frequently in the dark even though I know its there!

Installing low-wattage lightingalong driveways and paths that are used at night. Or, use a motion sensor light that turns the light on for you when you approach.

Fires and fumes, which I talked in an earlier blog, are another key area of home safety. In addition to the measures I recommended then, it's also important to make sure all rooms are properly ventilated, heating appliances are also inspected and serviced annually, air ducts and filters are regularly cleaned, and lint filters on clothes dryers are cleared out after each usage. Blocked lint filters and dryer vents are a major cause of fumes and fires.

Finally, I want to warn about keeping dangerous stuff out of reach. I'm talking here not only about your medications – prescription and over-the-counter stuff – and weapons that I talked about before. There are also other dangers you may not immediately recognize, like poisonous house plants, cleaning products and cosmetics and heavy or fragile objects that could cause mayhem if they fall or are broken.

This is especially important if you have young people or pets around your home. You can get a list of poisons from both the American Association of Poison Control Centers and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.