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I Just Can’t Wait for Winter to Arrive

Posted by on Nov 15, 2014 in Blog, My Favorite Things

Unless you are an avid outdoors person, snowmobiler, or ice fisherman, winter is probably not your favorite season. This is why now is the perfect time to take a close look around the house since winter is no friend of an unprepared building.

Last year was a long and brutal winter for many in the Midwest. A few precautionary steps now can lead to a lot fewer cold-weather problems come the first consistent freeze and snowfall. Taking steps to prevent damage now makes for a much quicker spring cleanup.

Gutters and downspouts serve a great purpose in removing water from our homes. They also are excellent in catching debris and getting clogged as leaves begin to fall. Fall is an excellent time to make sure the gutters are clean and ready to direct the water away from the home and foundation.

Take a close look at your windows and doors. Caulk areas that are showing gaps or where old caulk has dried out and failed. It is a lot easier to add any weather stripping while the temperature is still comfortable.

A change of season is a good time to change out the furnace filter after running the air conditioning throughout the summer. A clean air filter helps the efficiency of the furnace and extends its life. Vacuum out any dirt and debris that may have fallen into the supply vents. This is also a good time to have a professional analyze your heating and cooling system so they can check both at the same time and you can save some money.

Add insulation to any plumbing that is near an outside wall. Make sure to drain any outside spigots to prevent frozen pipes and major water damage.

If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, get your chimney checked and cleaned if needed. A winter fire should not be on you must-do list this winter. Make sure your agent is aware of any wood-burning appliance in your home. Your insurance coverage could be in jeopardy if this has not been disclosed.

Inspect any trees that may have damaged or dying branches. If these are anywhere close to the home, get them removed to prevent them from falling on the roof. If they are near power lines, contact your utility company to create an adequate space for the lines to be unaffected by heavy, ice-ridden branches. If you do not like being left out in the cold, neither do insects and rodents. Take a close look around your property, and seal up any small cracks and crevices that would allow critters to gain access.

Taking these few steps now should allow you to concentrate on the important things of winter … like when spring will arrive.

Tom
Regional Claim Manager

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When Doing Your Holiday Shopping Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 in My Favorite Things

Reprinted with permission from IDT911
The holiday season can be a frantic time for both online and retail shoppers. With this knowledge, identity thieves are well prepared to target shoppers—leaving shopping safely largely in the hands of consumers. Armed with awareness, shoppers can confidently make their purchases and protect their
identities.

There are simple ways consumers can avoid scams and other types of
malicious cyber activity and enjoy their holiday shopping. A bit of forethought and preparedness is all it takes to foil thieves’ efforts.

Keep these tips in mind when shopping online:

•Watch the Web address. One quick way to check a site’s security is to take a look at the URL—does it read “http” or “https?” If it reads “https,” that means the page is secured—that should always be the case for pages on which credit card information is entered. If the site is not secure, consider taking your business elsewhere.
•Don’t be tempted to store information. Many e-commerce sites ask consumers to store credit card information on the site, with the enticement that it will make future purchases go faster. That might be the case, but storing financial details like credit card numbers on a retailer’s website is a dangerous move, leaving sensitive information more vulnerable to identity thieves.
•Pay from one place. Entering financial information at countless sites across the Web multiplies the risk of identity theft. Paying bills from one central, secure location—such as a bank’s website—lessens the exposure of key data that identity thieves are after.
•Create complex passwords. It might seem like a bother to remember a plethora of complex passwords, but the effort can pay off in terms of safety. Hard-to-guess passwords help protect accounts that contain financial and other identifying information at online shopping, financial, and other sites. Change passwords regularly as yet another precautionary step.

A truly happy holiday also means protecting those soon-to-be-purchased presents. With retail shopping, credit cards reign supreme over cash or debit cards. Here are three reasons why:

•The Most Protective Plastic. Under federal law, the consumer’s ultimate liability for fraudulent use of a credit card is only $50. Many issuers waive that fee if the plastic falls into the wrong hands; if card is reported lost or stolen before bogus charges are made; and if the card number is stolen but not the card itself.
•Season’s Thievings. It’s not just seasonal Santas who appear at the mall this time of year. Pickpockets also show up using bump-and-lift efficiently to heist wallets. If the wallet goes MIA during a shopping trip—or any other time—the cash and credit cards are lost forever. With a quick phone call to the card providers, those accounts are immediately frozen and replacement cards are issued so holiday shopping can be resumed.
•Purchase Perks. Credit card rewards such as travel miles or cash back are one incentive to pull out the plastic. But the list of perks continues when using a credit card to make holiday or other purchases. Additional benefits can include extended return policies, price protection, damage and theft protection as well as extended warranties.

If you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft or wish to proactively manage your identity, contact Pekin Insurance® at 1-888-735-4611. To learn more about our optional Identity Fraud Expense Coverage, please visit http://www.pekininsurance.com/home/identity-fraud/.

Jenny
Personal Lines Administrative Assistant

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Ten Cost-Saving and Effective Ways to Winterize Your Home Before Snow Season

Posted by on Oct 15, 2014 in Blog, My Favorite Things

With winter just around the corner, now is a good time to start preparing. These simple steps can save you on energy and utility bills.

  • Tune up your heating system. For as little as $100, you can contact a professional heating and air conditioning technician to test your heating system. Doing this before cold weather starts will keep you ahead of the masses once we get our first snow. These technicians will also check for carbon monoxide leaks. It’s always good to do your homework on these technicians before just picking one out of the phone book. Talk to neighbors and friends and look the company up on the Better Business Bureau website or simply on the Internet.
  • Reverse your ceiling fans. This is a great way to push down the heat in any room. With the fan going in reverse, it pushes down the heated air because as you know, heat rises. You may even see a change in the temperature and perhaps be able to turn down the heat. This will save you on your heating bill.
  • Prepare your mower for winter. Leaving fuel in the mower all winter will cause the fuel to decompose. Check the owner’s manual on cold-weather procedures. You can always add a fuel stabilizer to the mower, fill the tank full, and run the mower for about 10 minutes to make sure the fuel stabilizer has run through the entire engine. This will help the mower and give you a fresh start once spring comes around.
  • Check the roof. Go up and check to see if you have any missing or damaged shingles. Check the seals around vents and vents stacks. If need be, hire a handyman to repair any damaged shingles or broken seals.
  • Hire a chimney sweep. If you have a fireplace and you burned a lot of wood in the winter prior to this one, you need to make sure there are no defects in the fireplace. An inspection by a chimney sweep costs between $50 and $100, and most problems can be repaired for less than $300. Again, do your homework, talk to friends, and check the Better Business Bureau website for complaints or for good reviews, as well. Having your fireplace checked before winter is a great way to ensure the safety of your family from any fireplace mishaps.
  • Restock winter essentials. This means salt or ice melt. Get ahead of the crowds and be well-stocked before the rush on these items. If you have one, check to make sure your snow blower is properly maintained and ready to work. Again, doing this ahead of time will definitely save you time on beating the crowds.
  • Check your sump pump. Pour water into the hole where the sump pump is located to see if it triggers the pump to start working. If not, you are ahead of the masses. At one time or another, we all know someone who had to go to the hardware store to purchase another sump pump when the store was out of stock. So that meant driving to another store in possibly bad weather only to be turned away because they sold the last sump pump 5 minutes ago. Checking the sump pump will keep your anxiety level to a minimum, and watching as everyone else runs to the hardware store may bring a slight smile on a cold winter day.
  • Clean the gutters. Cleaning the gutters will prevent ice dams as well as water back-up into the interior of your home. You can usually find a handyman for about $100 an hour to get this done. Or if you are not afraid of heights, doing this yourself will save you headaches through winter. While you are cleaning the gutters, check for fascia boards that may be damaged or in need of repair.
  • Divert water. Add extensions to your downspouts. This will pull the water away from your foundation and prevent leaky basements.
  • Drain all exterior faucets. As we all know, pipes will freeze in the winter unless properly maintained for weather. Make sure you drain all water hoses and store them for the winter. You can always use the shut-off valve to the exterior water after you drain the faucet.

Preparing with these easy steps will save you time and money. Using these tips can also keep you from having to make an insurance claim, as well.

Shannon
Adjuster

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What Impact Does the Concealed Carry Act Have on Your Homeowners Policy?

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Blog, My Favorite Things

When the concealed Carry Act passed in Illinois, many people were excited. Illinois was the last state to pass this law. Immediately, people started taking classes to qualify for their license. Once the law passed, I started taking numerous calls on whether or not the insured’s personal liability would protect them in the event that they had to utilize their right to defend themselves. Surprisingly, the law that would be used to protect many people opened up an exposure that most Homeowners policies won’t cover.

Under the Homeowners ISO form, Expected or Intended Injury is not covered under the policy. The policy form excludes bodily injury or property damage which is expected or intended by an insured; however, the policy does contain wording indicating that the exclusion does not apply to bodily injury resulting from the use of reasonable force by an insured to protect persons or property. If the Homeowners policy doesn’t cover other aspects of this exposure, what are those who carry supposed to do? Let’s look at a few options available in the marketplace.

One option available is provided by Specialty Risk of America (SPRISKA) which provides $100,000/$250,000 combined single limit and $100,000/ $250,000 criminal defense cost and expense reimbursement. Another popular option out in the marketplace is the United States Concealed Carry Association’s (USCCA) product. They offer $250,000/$500,000/$1,000,000 and offer many other perks combined in their plans. The National Rifle Association has an endorsed insurance program through Lockton which provides many of the coverage levels that the USCCA product provides. These products are designed to provide and retain civil suit defense, criminal defense, and damages protection. The USCCA product offers perks such as stolen firearm protection, compensation while in court, 24/7 emergency hotline, immediate bail bond funding, and more. The products above are designed to protect you in the event you have to use your firearm.

If you carry a firearm, you hope to never have to use it to protect yourself. Although your Homeowners coverage may provide coverage for self-defense, there are other exposures to be concerned about. If you are going to pursue your right to concealed carry a firearm, take the extra steps to protect yourself by purchasing a gun liability product. There are great options such as the products listed above. Those who carry firearms need to gain peace of mind by knowing they are protected after an event has occurred.

Jake
Personal Lines Underwriter

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Your First Call Toward Peace of Mind

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Blog, My Favorite Things

“What just happened? Am I ok? Oh no, my car! I have to call 911. My house will never be the same.” These are all thoughts that go through our mind after an automobile accident or homeowners loss. The next thoughts typically involve insurance. Are you covered? Is the other person covered? How much coverage do I have?

The first step involved in the insurance process for Pekin Insurance customers is to call our Claim Call Center at 888-735-4611. Pekin Insurance’s Claim Call Center is available 24/7/365. In 2013, over 48,000 claims were reported to our Call Center. You will first choose from one of four prompts depending on the type of claim you are reporting.

A very common claim involves windshield repair or replacement on your automobile. If you are reporting a windshield only claim, you will choose the first prompt. When your windshield cracks or is chipped and there is no other physical damage to your vehicle, you would select this option, too.

The second prompt involves Emergency Roadside Service (ERS). If your vehicle is disabled due to reasons aside from a collison or comprehensive accident, you will choose this prompt to be directly connected to our towing service, Quest. Common examples of ERS claims include tire changes, towing and winching, lockout services, and fuel delivery (the cost of the fuel is your responsibility).

If your call does not pertain to a claim, you will choose the third prompt and be directed to the operator in order to handle your call accordingly.

To report any claim other than a windshield or ERS claim, remain on the line and your call will be answered by one of our Call Center representatives. Our representatives are trained to assist you in opening your claim in a timely manner. The information taken provides our adjusters with contact information for you and any other parties involved; a description of the loss, damages, and injuries, if any; and police report information. You will be provided with a claim number and contact information regarding the adjuster assigned to the claim. We pride ourselves in assuring contact by the assigned adjuster is made within 4 business hours (barring a catastrophic storm event in which contact time from the assigned adjuster may increase).

What happens after you suffer an insurance loss? Minimal frustration and peace of mind when you are insured with Pekin Insurance.

Suzannah
Claim Services Coordinator

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Go Back to School With School Bus Safety

Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 in Blog, My Favorite Things

This is a great time of year to look forward to the fall colors. The most important color, however, is yellow: “School Bus” yellow! Safe Kids Worldwide has some great tips to keep our kids safe. Taking the bus for the first time is a big step for your child. Help your kids get a gold star in bus safety by following these tips. School buses are the safest mode of motorized transportation for getting children to and from school, but injuries can occur if kids are not careful and aware when getting on and off the bus.

Top Tips for Kids*

  • Walk with your kids to the bus stop and wait with them until it arrives. Tell kids to stand at least three giant steps back from the curb as the bus approaches and board the bus one at a time.
  • Teach kids to wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before getting off and never to walk behind the bus.
  • If your child needs to cross the street after exiting the bus, he or she should take five giant steps in front of the bus, make eye contact with the bus driver, and cross when the driver indicates it’s safe. Teach kids to look left, right, and left again before crossing the street.
  • Instruct younger kids to use handrails when boarding or exiting the bus. Be careful of straps or drawstrings that could get caught in the door. If your children drop something, they should tell the bus driver and make sure the bus driver is able to see them before they pick it up.

Top Tips for Adults

  • Drivers should always follow the speed limit and slow down in school zones and near bus stops. Remember to stay alert and look for kids who may be trying to get to or from the school bus.
  • Slow down and stop if you’re driving near a school bus that is flashing yellow or red lights. This means the bus is either preparing to stop (yellow) or already stopped (red) and children are getting on or off.

* safekids.org

We need to take into account that the majority of these children are between the ages of five and seven and do not behave like adults. They may cross the street without warning or may be blocked from view by the bus. Knowing the law for stopping for a school bus is essential, since getting off the school bus is more deadly for children than the bus ride itself. Know when to stop. Illinois law requires that, on a two-lane or one-way roadway, all traffic must stop at least twenty feet away from the school bus. On a four lane roadway with at least two lanes traveling in the opposite direction, only the lanes traveling the same direction of the bus must stop. Please check your state’s laws to be sure. We can all do our part to maintain school bus safety, first, by educating our kids about getting on and off the bus safely and second, by being extra cautious as drivers!

Emily
Bond Customer Service Representative

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