How well do you know your stuff? Create a home inventory!


fyrniture items in a home inventory

Pop quiz – without looking, see how you do answering these questions:

  • What are the makes and years of your major kitchen appliances?
  • How many pairs of pants do you own? Jackets? Shoes? Boots?
  • What year did you buy your mattress and bed frame and what brand is it?
  • Name all the power tools you own. List the contents of your tool chest?
  • What brand of dinnerware and flatware do you own and when did you buy it?
  • List all your AV equipment, the make, the brand and the year you bought it.
  • Write down everything in your living room. Include what’s in the drawers and closets.

It’s not so easy remembering that stuff, is it?

It would be even harder if you were trying to recall all your stuff right after your house was destroyed in a fire or demolished in a hurricane. That’s why it’s important to keep a home inventory. If you find yourself under the terrible stress of recovering from a disaster or even a burglary, you don’t need the added burden of trying to remember all the possessions you lost so that you can be properly reimbursed by your insurer. A good home inventory will help you document your losses and make it easier to file a claim and get it processed.

You can record your “stuff” in a notebook (old-school style), but phones and computers have really simplified the process. A simple spreadsheet will do the trick, or use your phone to take  room-by-room videos and document with photos. Or download an inventory app. Just be sure that you have multiple copies, that you store your inventory in a safe and accessible place and you keep it updated. Even if you make a hand-written version, you can scan it and keep it online in cloud storage.

If you’ve never done a home inventory, it can be a daunting job, but there are tools to help. And going forward, things will be much easier if you get in the habit of taking photos of new purchases and saving receipts. Log serial numbers, when available.

Consumer Reports offers advice on How to Inventory Your Home for an Insurance Adjuster – including this short video:

Here’s more home inventory advice from people who should know: insurers.

If you are interested in an app to help you create a home inventory, here are some reviews of top picks:

 

Buying a used car? Don’t get scammed by title washing


used car lot

You see a nice used car at the local dealership that would be great for your college-bound son. You buy the car, and a few weeks later, you get a call that your son is being held by police on a charge of car theft. What!?! You spend considerable time to prove he is not a criminal and that you recently bought the car. You clear things up for your son but the issue of the car is not so simple. You are the victim of title washing. The car is indeed a stolen vehicle so you won’t get that back.

If that sounds like a far-fetched scenario, it’s not. It’s exactly what happened recently to a Chicago couple who suffered a $24,000 loss on a used car they’d recently bought. Both they and the car dealership where they bought it were victims of a title washing ring that is now under investigation.

A title washing scam might seem like a relatively obscure thing, but it’s not. It’s estimated that used car buyers are scammed up to $30 billion a year in what the National Association of Attorneys General calls the worst problem used car buyers face. Experts say that as many as 1 in 44 titles in some states have been washed.

In simple terms, title washing is a scam in which the paperwork for stolen vehicles is faked or forged. But it’s not just stolen cars – title washing is also a way to clear a troubled car’s history, a common way to re-market cars that have been totaled, salvaged or flood-damaged. This article offers a good overview of the practice: Title Washing in America – Lemons without the Lemonade  It includes a handy list of red flags to look for when buying a used car, which we’ve reprinted below.

One lesson to be learned from this is not to rely solely on the title when buying a used car. In buying a used car, be sure to check if it has been declared stolen or totaled by searching the car’s VIN:

Of course, there are other best practices beyond just checking the title when buying a used car. See these sources for more tips:

red flags for buying aused car

How to avoid hydroplaning – and what to do if it happens


tire idriving through hevy rain to illustrate hydroplaning

We all think about tire safety in winter when the roads are snowy or slushy and we adjust our driving accordingly. But what about in the rain? Wet, slick roads with water buildup can be quite hazardous, too. Many drivers are rather cavalier about  adjusting their driving in the rain  and are caught short when something goes wrong, such as hydroplaning.

Hydroplaning – also sometimes called aquaplaning – is losing traction over water while driving, and actually skimming or sliding on the surface of that water. Losing contact with the road is a frightening experience because it results in loss of control of the car. The formula for hydroplaning is speed, tire tread depth and water depth. It’s important to maintain your tires and slow down when it rains. Even a light rain can be hazardous, particularly in the first few minutes as rainfall mixes with oils on the road surface.

Edmunds offers excellent Tips for Driving Safely in the Rain. Also, check out these two videos that talk more about what hydroplaning is and what to do should it occur.

 

Technology helps, but is not a substitute for caution
While driver-assist technologies such as traction control, anti-lock brakes and lane assist technologies can help keep us safer, don’t rely on them. Be cautious and be prepared:

  • Maintain your tires – make sure the tread is good and that they are properly inflated.
  • Slow down when it rains. Many experts suggest reducing speed by about one-third.
  • Avoid standing water.
  • Disable cruise control on wet roads and when raining.
  • Increase the following distance between you and the car ahead.
  • If you do hydroplane, stay calm, ease off the accelerator, and don’t make any sudden moves that may cause a spin out.

How to file a settlement claim if you were affected by the Equifax data breach


data breach illustrated by an open padlock

Were you affected by the 2017 Equifax data breach? You might have been because 147 million records in the US alone were exposed. If you’d like a refresher on the event, we talked about it in a blog post, along with the remedies available at the time Equifax Data Breach:

Before you dismiss this as ancient history, check this out: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced that Equifax has agreed to a global settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and 50 U.S. states and territories. The settlement includes up to $425 million to help people affected by the data breach.

If you were affected, you might be eligible for

  • Up to 10 years of free credit monitoring
  • A cash payment of $125 in lieu of credit monitoring
  • Payment for time, expenses or losses related to the breach (capped at $20,000)

For more details on what you might be eligible for, see the FTC’s summary of the Equifax Data Breach Settlement

Here’s how to file a claim:

  • The first step is to find out if your information was exposed: use this look-up tool.
  • If your data was exposed, you must file a claim by January 22, 2020. You can file a claim online, or see instructions for filing a hard copy. It’s a fairly easy process. Here are FAQs if you want to learn more.

It may seem nearly impossible to protect your data from being exposed, but don’t give up!  See our post on 66 ways to protect your identity and privacy for tips.

Drowning prevention tips from parents, for parents (and anyone who cares about kids)


mom and baby swimming

Do you have kids? Or grand-kids? Or nieces and nephews? If so, this post is for you – it has valuable information about keeping those beloved kids safe in and around water. And even if you don’t have kids yourself but you simply frequent pools and beaches in the summer, we encourage you to take note, too. We offer useful tips to keep kids safe from people who know.

First, we point to a popular prior blog post that contains useful information that many people didn’t know: ” We are conditioned by movies and pop culture to think that a drowning person would yell and wave for help and splash violently to get attention. In reality, drowning is a quiet, desperate event – so quiet that every year, children die in pools and water just feet away from parents or friends who do not recognize the signs of distress.”

Drowning doesn’t look like what we see in the movies

We’ve also recently come across a few useful articles featuring Moms who offer great advice about protecting kids from downing. One mother, sadly, gained her expertise the hard way after the drowning death of her toddler. The other Mom gained her expertise in her job investigating drowning deaths as her job.

In A Layered Approach to Preventing Drowning, Nicole Hughes shares her sad experience and the lessons she learned from her 3-year old son Levi’s drowning death:

“Our son drowned when there were six physicians in the room, 12 adults, 17 kids,” said his mother, Nicole Hughes, a writing teacher and literacy coach in Bristol, Tenn., who now works extensively in drowning prevention, including with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Everything I read about drowning before Levi died, it was like background noise,” Ms. Hughes said. “We think it’s happening to neglectful parents” who don’t watch their children when they’re swimming. But as she learned after Levi’s death, for most toddlers who drown, it doesn’t happen in the context of time spent “swimming” — that is, time they’re known to be in the water. And drowning is the leading cause of preventable deaths in children from 1 to 4.”

In addition to offering great advice for parents to raise awareness, the article also points to a helpful  Drowning Prevention Toolkit from American Academy of Pediatrics.

The second article offers water safety tips for parents from Natalie Livingston, a Mom who investigates drownings in her role as vice president of Oostman Aquatic Safety Consulting. She knows what she is talking about – she “spent 25 years as a lifeguard and worked as the general manager of a water park for 10 years. She trains lifeguards, consults in both private and public operations, and is hired as an expert witness in drowning cases.”

Livingston lists 10 in-depth, practical tips with advice that you might not think about, tips that she applies to her own children. For example, would you think to teach your child how to escape the grip of a struggling, panicked person? Or raise awareness about water depth in practical terms they can understand? Those are among the many lessons she offers.  You can also follow Livingston on Facebook at Aquatic Safety Connection for more tips. Her tips have gone viral online, and she was recently featured on Good Morning America. Take the time to check them out!

In addition to Livingston’s tips, the article offers these additional water safety recommendations:

  • Swim Lessons Save Lives
  • Learn CPR — Drowning patients need oxygen — give air first!
  • USCG approved lifejackets only — no arm floaties or inflatables
  • Designate A Water Watcher / Swim with a Lifeguard
  • Always use pool barriers and layers of protection
  • Enter the water feet first
  • No running
  • Stay hydrated / protect yourself from the sun
  • No drugs / alcohol
  • All water is dangerous — even inches
  • Always swim with a buddy
  • Lost / Missing kids — always check the water first

See related posts on pool safety:
Swimming pool and spa safety issues and insurance coverage

Pool & spa owners: Minimize your risk with simple steps for safety