Staying Safe Online

Stay safe online

Those of us who recall life before the internet are amazed when we stop and think about how much it has changed our world. To say that masses of information are now available to us is clearly an understatement. And sadly, misinformation is just as prevalent as reliable facts. Humans have a tendency to lean toward content that confirms rather than challenges our beliefs. And if something seems too good to be true, rather than giving us pause, we often take the bait. These tendencies, unfortunately, led to internet scams to the tune of three and a half billions of dollars in losses for Americans in 2019 (Statista). 

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the most frequently reported complaints in 2019 were “phishing and similar ploys, non-payment/non-delivery scams, and extortion.” So what is “phishing”? Phishing is when scammers commit identity theft by using fake emails, text messages, or websites that look identical to legitimate vendors. Phishing can also be used “to steal personal information including credit card and bank account numbers, debit card PINs, and account passwords” (USA.gov “Online Safety”). Scammers copy logos with such accuracy that it’s difficult or impossible to differentiate between them and an authentic company. They will ask you to click on a link in their email or to give them your bank account number, credit card number, or personal information to verify your account or confirm your identity. “They may even threaten to disable your account” if you do not quickly respond under the guise that they are looking out for your safety (USA.gov “Online Safety”). This should raise a red flag, as legitimate companies do not ask you for such information by email (USA.gov “Online Safety”). 

Phishing emails may also come from someone you know whose account has been hacked. This helps make the request seem legitimate. This type of phishing is also known as “pfishing” (“17 Common Online Scams”). 

Internet shopping scams are also easy to fall victim to. These scams involve a company that appears to be selling you something, takes your money, and likely even sends you a confirmation email, but they have no intention of sending you a product (“17 Common Online Scams”). Products on these sites often appear to be deeply discounted and therefore enticing. However, at best you will be out the money you spent. You stand to lose even more if you have provided credit card information which the company will then use to make further purchases (“17 Common Online Scams”).

Additional scams include the Nigerian scam, involving a seemingly desperate, possibly wealthy, individual looking for temporary aid with health issues or travel issues moving to this country (called so because a rash of these originally came from Nigeria, though now they come from a variety of countries); bitcoin and cryptocurrency scams offering the opportunity to make an initial investment in a (real or fictitious) company about to go up for an initial coin offering; digital kidnapping, in which one or more of your social media profiles is hacked, and the perpetrator demands money for you to resume access; dating and romance scams involving someone who at first seems exciting, fun, and engaging but soon asks you for money to help them with unexpected situations; and many more (“17 Common Online Scams”).

So how can we stay safe and still benefit from what the internet has to offer? There are a few steps we can take to avoid becoming victims of a scam.

  • First, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Contact the company to verify an enticing offer. Go to their website to be sure it is the legitimate version rather than clicking through links provided on the offer you are viewing. 
  • If you are suspicious about a bill or account statement, access the company in a new tab rather than using a link provided, look for contact information, share your suspicions with a customer service representative, and ask if your account has been compromised (USA.gov “Online Safety”).
  • Utilize two-factor authentication which accesses an account or website online using your password or another piece of information such as a code or a random number generated by an app. According to USA.gov’s “Online Safety” article, “This protects your account even if your password has been stolen.”
  • Avoid clicking any links or attachments in questionable emails even if they state the company’s name and/or a legitimate-looking logo, as they may reroute you to a fake website (“Online Safety”).
  • If you are a victim of a phishing or other internet scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission (see link below). Victims of any fraudulent transactions can also report them to the FBI. This can help stop the transaction before the money is lost for good (FBI “Internet Crime Report”).

The internet has so much to offer and yet does pose risks if we are not careful. Here at Waitte’s Insurance Agency, we want our community members to thrive. We care about our community because we are part of the community. Give us a call when you are ready to discuss your unique insurance needs. 

"17 Common Online Scams"  

FBI "Internet Crime Report"

Federal Trade Commission

Forbes

Statista

USA.gov "Online Safety"

Poison in Your Home–What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

Female Toddler In Kitchen At Home

These days, it is easy to become overwhelmed by things beyond our control, especially when we want so badly to keep our loved ones safe. Although we don’t have the power to control everything, there are some things we can do to make a difference. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, unintentional injury is the third most common cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. Approximately 170,000 Americans die from unintentional injuries annually. Poisoning tops the list of the causes of these deaths (CDC). 

Unfortunately, so much of the danger is right in front of us in the form of household products. Laundry detergent, household cleaners, and pesticides all pose risks (NSC). Fortunately, the simple act of finding places to store these products well out of the reach of children can make a significant difference. It is also important to read labels and avoid mixing products.

Not all household dangers are visible. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas found in homes that is produced by furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, portable generators, and other appliances (NSC). Thankfully, a modest investment in a carbon monoxide detector can help us battle this invisible foe. Just be sure to check your batteries regularly. Some people use annual events to help remind them, such as the time change from daylight savings in November.

Another invisible foe that merits our concern is radon, the “second-leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking” (NSC). Radon can enter your home “through cracks in floors or walls, construction joints, or gaps in foundations around pipes, wires, or pumps” (American Cancer Society). Since radon is not something you can see or smell, the only way to know if the radon levels in your home are high is to test for it. (For test information, see the link below to “A Citizen’s Guide to Radon”).

A commonly overlooked adversary found in the home that can cause serious damage to children is the button battery. Button batteries are found in digital thermometers, remote controls, calculators, cameras, greeting cards, and many other unexpected items. While these batteries may look too small to be of concern, the danger they pose to children is significant. A button battery can be loged in a child’s throat or stomach and cause burns (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). After several hours of exposure, the battery may destroy the child’s voice box or cause internal bleeding. While initial symptoms may be mild, including throat irritation or a cough, left untreated, the battery may cause “abdominal pain, chest pain, and shock” (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia).  This may result in permanent damage with the child no longer able to speak or eat through the mouth. Button battery ingestion has even led to death in some cases (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). 

Household products, button batteries, and poisonous gasses are all worth taking steps to avoid. Yet there is one more concern worth mentioning. Drug overdose is sadly the most common cause of poisoning death. While it can be easy to dismiss this problem as something remote, the issue may be closer than we think. According to the National Safety Council, “in 2018, over 67,000 people died from drug overdoses.” The Texas Medical Center reports that by 2019, Americans were more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than a car crash. 

How does this happen? A basic answer comes from the NSC: “People who take prescribed opioids, even as directed, may build up a tolerance. When pain has subsided, some people find it easy to stop taking them and others find it harder to quit.” Sadly, 25% of Americans have been directly affected by opioid use and its accompanying tragedies. Americans either “know someone who has an opioid use disorder, know someone who has died from an overdose, or they have an opioid use disorder themselves” (NSC). If you or someone you know has a concern about opioid addiction, you can find help through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Look around your home for items and substances that might cause harm especially to children. Purchase and maintain smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and have your home checked for radon. Be aware of what medicines you take and what risks accompany them. Keep the number for the National Poison Control Center next to your landline or in your cell phone contacts: 800-222-1222.

At Waitte’s Insurance Agency, we want you and your family to stay safe. We care about our community because we are part of the community. Give us a call when you are ready to discuss your unique insurance needs.

American Cancer Society
CDC Unintentional Injury Deaths
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
EPA "A Citizen's Guide to Radon"
National Safety Council
National Safety Council "Preventing Poisoning and Drug Overdoses"
National Safety Council "Addressing the Opioid Crisis"
SAMHSA
Texas Medical Center

Keeping Your Home Safe While on Vacation

Keeping your home safe while on vacation

Keeping Your Home Safe While on Vacation

Following months on lockdown that may have felt like years, many families are deciding it’s finally time to take a vacation. While there is plenty of focus on how to stay safe during the trip, it’s also a good idea to take steps before we depart to keep our homes safe.  

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, on average, one home is burglarized every 18 seconds in the United States. Burglaries occur most often during the summer months, and any evidence that your home is unoccupied will make it a more likely target. Before you take off, consider taking the following steps to keep your home safe.

  • Lock all windows and doors.
  • Have mail or package delivery stopped.  A stack of mail or a package on the doorstep is a clear giveaway that homeowners are absent.
  • Hire someone to mow your lawn or shovel your driveway. 
  • Tell a trusted neighbor what your plans are. If possible, ask the neighbor to bring in your garbage cans if they will be outside and to keep an eye out for anything suspicious.
  • Consider putting some indoor and outdoor lights on timer switches.  This helps make your home look occupied.  
  • Wait until you return to post pictures and stories about your trip on social media. Posts often circulate more widely than you intend.

While these steps will take a bit of time, they will help ensure that your trip is worry-free and relaxing. 

Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with planning ahead for your well-earned vacation.  Learn about more ways you can plan to protect your home and family by calling Waitte’s Insurance Agency where our staff can assist you with your unique insurance needs. Share our vacation tips with your family and friends, and be sure you, your family, and your friends are covered so we can all keep our community safe.

 

For further information, visit the following publication:

US Department of Justice "Crime Clock" article

Fire

Fire Fighter saves young girl

Every 24 seconds in the U.S., a fire department responds to a fire somewhere in our nation.* Are you prepared? In school, we are taught to stop, drop, and roll. The American Red Cross advises us to GET OUT, STAY OUT, and call 911. Planning ahead can make all the difference. Drills can save your life and the lives of your family members. Planning ahead also includes homeowners’ insurance to help you rebuild when the fire is over. Waitte’s Insurance can help you make that plan. 

 *National Fire Protection Association

A Safe Home is a Well Insured Home

Illustration of a smoke alarm sounding off in a smoky room

Many people contact us asking how to bring down their
homeowners’ insurance premiums. One of the quickest answers is to take steps to make your home safer. A safe home means a lower risk of the insurance company having to pay for home damage or other expenses, and leads to lower insurance rates in return. Each precaution you take can reduce your bill.

Install a smoke and carbon monoxide detector

As of 2014, it is illegal in the state of Connecticut to buy or sell any home without these detectors. Even if you don’t plan on moving, you still want your family to be warned in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide leak.

Install a pool barrier

By law, pools must be behind a fence, gate, or other enclosure so that they cannot be accessed from the outside. If you have small children or pets, keep them safe by also ensuring that there is a fence or other barrier between your exterior doors and the pool.

Insulate pipes near exterior walls

This prevents them from freezing even if the heat is turned off and protects you from costly water damage from a burst pipe. However, if you leave your home for vacation or other extended periods of time, don’t  rely on the insulation to protect your pipes alone. Rather than turning your furnace completely off, lower it to around 60 degrees.

Install a burglar alarm

Alarms provide an effective deterrent to burglars and also notifies the police of a break-in immediately, even if you’re away on vacation. Insurance discounts vary as you go from a simple, unmonitored alarm that just sounds when a window is open to a fully-monitored system with motion detectors and cameras.

Add storm shutters

Storm shutters protect your windows from debris caused from both winter storms and the rare tropical system that makes its way up the Atlantic coast. Because they protect you from window damage, wind damage and rain damage, the insurance rate discount can be substantial.

There are many steps to be taken in order to maintain a safe home. Of course Waitte’s Insurance is more than happy to assist you in lowering your premiums; but first and foremost, we wish for your home to be safe for you and your loved ones. For further information, contact Waitte’s Insurance Agency, Inc. today by clicking here.

Prepare For When Blizzard Problems Become Flooding Problems

It has been a brutal winter in the Eastern part of the United States with New England states receiving the brunt of the snow and nasty weather.  In one day, Worcester Massachusetts had 31.9 inches of snow on January 27th, which came on top of several other feet of snow this winter.  Thompson, Connecticut had over 30 inches on that day too.  Communities and states went from worrying about trying to dig out from the snow to trying to figure out where they were going to put it all when they did remove it.

Although most New Englander’s may not think so right now, there is another problem around the corner that could be as bad as snow:  eventually the snow will melt and municipalities and their citizens will have to face the problem of flooding.  People who live near rivers and along the coast face dangers of melting snow and ice creating run-off conditions that can cause as much or more damage to homes than the excessive snow from this winter.

In preparation for impending urban flooding due to the snow, there are things that homeowners can do to in advance:

*Check for flood insurance policies to ensure you have appropriate coverage in case flooding does occur and you’ll be covered for property damage.
*Move snow away from your home’s foundation to keep water from running into the basement when the snow does begin to melt at a fast rate.
*Clear drains and downspouts so water can go where intended and not create a backup of melted water.
*Remove area rugs and store them so that they won’t get wet and mold won’t grow on them.
*Make certain that sump pumps are working appropriately.
*Know where the electricity shutoff is so that if your home does flood, you can make your home safer.
*Have an emergency preparedness kit ready.

While you’re checking your insurance policies to ensure you’re covered for flooding, double check to be certain you have appropriate coverage for storms too.  It may not seem like it when we’re still digging out from the yet another blizzard, but flood and storm season really are right around the corner.

Waitte’s Insurance doesn’t want you to get blindsided by the potential disastrous costs of property damage due to melting snow. Insure your property from mother nature by reviewing your current policy, or call our office at (860) 886-1961 to see which flood insurance policy could save you money and aggravation come Springtime.

What Summer Sun and Heat Can Do to Your Body Internally?

It is no secret that the sun can be damaging to the skin; causing wrinkles, and potentially causing skin cancer. But, we often overlook how impactful the sun can be on internal organs. The heat from the sun and associated dehydration can cause a host of life-threatening health problems. It’s important to learn about what heat can do to your body internally, how to treat it and ultimately, how to prevent it.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are a condition that causes muscle spasms and cramping, often as a result of being overheated or lacking electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that are essential to the body’s optimal functioning. They include potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium. In a hot environment, many individuals sweat out a lot of electrolytes. Being dehydrated, or not drinking fluids that contain enough electrolytes can result in heat cramps.
Heat cramps may occur while working in a very hot environment, or several hours after the work has been completed. The muscle spasms associated with heat cramps can be very painful but are usually brief and intermittent. The best way to treat them is by rehydrating with fluids, electrolytes, and rest. If the cramps do not resolve, or nausea and vomiting prevent the restoration of fluids, it’s very important to seek professional medical attention.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion represents another serious illness associated with high temperatures and dehydration. If not treated, heat exhaustion can lead to a heat stroke. The two different types of heat exhaustion are either related to water or salt depletion. Water depletion can cause an individual to feel weak, exceptionally thirsty, and can cause a headache. Loss of consciousness can also occur if not treated. Signs of salt depletion include dizziness, muscle cramping, nausea, and vomiting.

In general, those suffering from heat exhaustion may feel confused, fatigued, or dizzy. They may have a headache, muscle cramps, profuse sweating, and a rapid heart rate. Anyone suffering from these symptoms should immediately leave the heat to rest in a cooler area. They should then drink a lot of non-caffeinated fluids. Fans, ice towels, or cool showers are helpful in cooling down a person with heat exhaustion. If symptoms do not begin to subside after 15 minutes, the person should seek emergency medical help.

Heat Stroke

A heat stroke is the most severe form of illness caused by heat. It is a medical emergency, and if an individual is suspected to have heat stroke, it’s imperative to call 911. Heat stroke can cause serious damage to vital internal organs and the brain. Heat stroke occurs when an individual has been exposed to high temperatures for a significant length of time. It is usually accompanied by dehydration. These two elements can lead to a failing of the body’s natural temperature control system. Heat stroke occurs when the core body temperature is higher than 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and this is the definitive characteristic. Other symptoms of heatstroke may include dizziness, headache, dry skin, lack of sweating (regardless of heat), rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, confusion, loss of consciousness and even seizures. Treatment of heat stroke begins by first contacting emergency medical help. Waiting can be fatal. While waiting for help to arrive, make the effort to begin to cool the individual’s body by using fans, wetting their skin with cool water, applying ice packs to key areas like underarms, neck, and back or immerse the individual in cool water. Heat stroke is most common in older people, those who don’t drink enough water, and those who drink too much alcohol.

Stay Hydrated!

Dehydration and heat are the key causes of each of the above heat illnesses. It’s incredibly important to stay hydrated during hot weather and when exercising. The most obvious way to stay hydrated is to drink adequate amounts of water during hot weather and during exercise. The general recommendation is to drink at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water daily. This may change depending on the individual, the temperature, and the activity. Eating foods high in electrolytes and water can help you stay hydrated as well as aid in the recovery of dehydration. Fruits and vegetables typically contain a high water content as well as vitamins and minerals like sodium and potassium. If food isn’t available, a sports drink or other fluid replacement drink will contain the electrolytes that can help your body restore its fluid balance. Remember to drink more fluid than you’re expelling. If you’re sweating excessively, you will need to drink double the fluid to regain what was lost in sweat. Don’t ever confuse caffeinated or alcoholic beverages as hydrating fluids. They contribute to more frequent urination and actually may contribute to dehydration. Do your body a favor, drink adequate amounts of water, especially during hot weather or while exercising.

These ailments are not only serious, but symptoms can creep up on you very quickly without warning. The last thing you want is faulty health insurance when you or a loved one is in need of emergency medical care. Take the proper precautions to protect your body this summer and call Waitte’s Insurance Agency at (860) 886-1961 to review your current health insurance policy so that your family is covered while trying to ‘beat the heat’.

Summertime Safety: Keeping Your Campfires Under Control

Summer days lead to cool nights that are perfect for cozying up to a warm fire with your family and friends. The smell of s’mores is in the air, and some of you may even be roasting your marshmallows the old fashioned way – on a stick. There is nothing more relaxing than hearing the crackle of firewood and the sound of laughter as you look up at the stars. There is also nothing more terrifying than a fire that has become unruly or is emitting noxious gasses due to the materials that are being burned.

First and foremost, there are several guidelines that the city of Norwich has put together to regulate the types of fires that are lit in its residents’ backyards. The following are a few of these guidelines:

-You do not need a permit for: Small cooking fires, campfires, bonfires that do not threaten to create a forest fire, fires for training or construction purposes.

-Your fire is considered safe it is can be contained/maintained, does not emit a foul odor or generate an unusual abundance of smoke.

-You will need a permit to burn large amounts of brush.

As you can see, you are legally allowed to have a fire in your backyard, toast your marshmallows and sing campfire songs with your loved ones without needing to submit a permit. However, this does not mean that small campfires do not pose threats. To keep yourself, your family, and your friends safe this summer, here are a few tips:

-Set up your fire pit at least 15 feet away from your home or any other structure – be even more careful if there are winds.

-Be sure to clear the ground around your fire pit of dry leaves or twigs. This will make your fire less likely to spread.

-When starting a fire, it is important to use proper materials. If your firewood is completely dry, it should catch quickly. If you are having trouble starting your fire and want to use other types of kindling, like paper, make sure that it is secured inside a nest of wood so that hot ash cannot escape freely. Secondly, try to avoid using lighter fluid or gasoline to start your fire. You can purchase or create DIY fire starters that are safe and easy to use.

-While you are enjoying your campfire, be sure to keep foreign objects out of it. It is common to feel the urge to throw an object into the fire, but some objects can and do explode when heated. To be safe, it is better to fight the urge to experiment than to burn your guests or yourself.

If you do end up having an accident at your next backyard get-together, or are wondering how to get coverage just in case something does happen, feel free to contact Waitte’s Insurance Agency for all of your insurance inquiries.

Training Your Pup to Avoid an Aggressive Pet

Aggressive dogs pose serious threats to the community and are far more prevalent than one would think. In 2013, one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claims paid was due to dog bite claims. Families with “bully breed” dogs, such as pit bulls and Rottweilers may find themselves unable to obtain homeowner’s insurance or having to pay higher premiums as these dogs have higher aggressiveness statistics. Dog attacks can be prevented by appropriate training and raising of the dog. It’s important to understand some key dog-training principles to raise a safe, friendly dog.

Don’t yell or scream.

While dog training can be stressful, yelling and screaming at the dog is not the answer. These actions cause anxiety and stress in the dog and build tension. In order to successfully train your dog, he/she needs to respect you. By constantly yelling, your dog will just become used to it and start to ignore your commands.

Don’t use negative reinforcement.

Negative reinforcement, like hitting or using a shock collar invokes fear in your dog. Fear may cause certain breeds of dog to act out in aggression. Positive reinforcement with affection, treats, or toys have been found to be more effective than negative reinforcement. 

Ensure your dog is fed properly.

One way to prevent food aggression is to ensure that your dog is fed properly. Never withhold meals as a source of punishment. Your dog may then feel the need to protect his food once he is fed. Be sure to feed your dog at least twice daily and according to the portion guidelines set forth by your vet.

Start socialization early.

Early socialization is a key component of a well mannered dog. Puppies and young dogs should be socialized with other people, children, and other animals.

Never resort to physical abuse.

Physical abuse is a key cause of aggression in dogs. Dogs should never be punched, kicked, or physically abused in other ways after they have misbehaved. This causes them to feel threatened and may, in turn, lead to aggressive or violent behavior.

When raised appropriately, all breeds of dogs can become wonderful members of the family. A state lawmaker in Connecticut is currently trying to introduce legislation that would not allow insurance companies to increase homeowners insurance based on the breed of their dog. However, until this legislation is enacted, it’s incredibly important to be a responsible dog owner. Complete thorough research on the dog breed you are considering prior to bringing it home. Be sure to make training your pup a priority. With plenty of research, healthy attention, love, and discipline you can ensure that your dog is a great addition to your family.

All dogs are considered “man’s best friend”, but it’s important to know if your family pet will affect your insurance premium. If you’re unsure if your dog falls under the same category as Pit bulls or Rottweilers, contact Waitte’s Insurance Agency Inc. for a consultation.

Prevention and Warning Signs of Carbon Monoxide Leaks

While most people know that homes are required by law to have smoke detectors, which quickly sense smoke in case of a fire and alert the residents to ensure a quick response, fewer know that the law also requires carbon monoxide detectors. That’s because carbon monoxide is a lesser-known danger than fire – but, in some cases, a much more potent one.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, odorless gas that is fatal when inhaled in certain quantities and left untreated. It is released by the burning of fuel in stoves, lanterns, gas ranges, furnaces, and other indoor appliances, as well as cars and trucks outdoors.

What are common sources of carbon monoxide leaks?

Carbon monoxide can leak out of appliances and vehicles and build up within an enclosed space, such as a home or car, leading to severe illness or death. Leaks often occur when gas appliances, such as refrigerators or stoves, are not vented properly. The carbon monoxide produced by these appliances is released outdoors through pipes; when these pipes aren’t fitted properly, the carbon monoxide can instead leak into the home. It is important to have horizontal pipes that lead to the outdoors slanting upward slightly, so in case of improperly fitted joints, the CO will still be able to escape. In a vehicle, leaks can occur when there are small gaps or holes in the exhaust system, which cause the car exhaust to seep into the interior of the car instead of being released outside.

What is carbon monoxide poisoning, and what are the symptoms?

Carbon monoxide poisoning is an illness caused by inhaling CO at high levels. Symptoms start by resembling the flu; headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and trouble breathing all may develop. Spotting these symptoms early on can save a person’s life; as the poisoning develops, however, the person can experience mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscle function, loss of consciousness, and ultimately death.

How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in my home?

The best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to keep your carbon monoxide detector up-to-date and functional, as well as all of your heating and other non-electric appliances, which should be checked by a technician every year. There are also many simple mistakes to avoid, such as using flameless chemical heaters, gas camp stoves, or charcoal-burning devices indoors.

What are the specific laws and requirements for carbon monoxide detectors in Connecticut?

Connecticut requires carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in all new residences and schools, including residences meant for one or two families. These detectors protect families and individuals from carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure to test and change the batteries in your detector once a year.

For even more tips on how to maintain a safe household for you and your family, visit our blog archives. Be sure to contact Waitte’s Insurance Agency Inc. to review or renew your homeowners’ insurance policy.