Favorite blog posts for 2019 and all-time


thumbs in the air for top blog posts

Here are the Top 10 Blog Posts that were reader favorites in 2019

1. Never plug a space heater into a power strip

2. New Massachusetts hands-free driving law to go into effect in February 2020

3. Update your life insurance beneficiaries!

4. Keyless car owner alert: Carbon monoxide poisonings

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

6. Home burglars reveal the tricks of the trade

7. Fraud alert: This is (not) the government calling

8. What’s most likely to kill you? Check out your odds for National Safety Month

9. Thinking of a side hustle? Check with your insurance agent

10. Get rid of that junk: where and how to recycle your stuff

Top 20 All-time Favorite Blog Posts

1. Does homeowners insurance cover a flooded basement?
2. Do I Need Condo Insurance?
3. What are the odds? Mortality calculators
4. Car thieves have new tricks: VIN cloning
5. What to do if you have a car breakdown while on the road
6. Does your new car have a spare tire? Don’t count on it!
7. Does my car insurance cover me when I rent a car?
8. New Massachusetts hands-free driving law to go into effect in February 2020
9. Drunk Driving Simulator shows effects of impaired driving
10. Puffback: Avoid This Homeowners’ Nightmare
11. Totaled: Upside-down car loans and when Gap Insurance could be a good idea
12. Is Your Home’s Vinyl Siding Melting?
13. Behind the wheel: when being too polite is dangerous
14. Drowning doesn’t look like what we see in the movies
15. MA commercial truckers take note: New requirement to carry US DOT number in September
16. Preventing frozen pipes: tips from the experts
17. Ten dog breeds that might cause problems with your home insurance
18. Life events that should trigger a call to your insurance agent
19. Water in the basement: What does insurance cover?
20. Ice Dams 101: How to handle winter roof hazards

Follow the incredible one-night journey of Santa Claus


Do you ever wonder how Santa Claus manages to deliver all those gifts to all those kids in just one night?  This short video breaks down the annual global trip by the big guy in the red suit the way that an actuary might see things – using math, numbers and science.

We’re all for math and science, but there’s also the magic factor to help explain this amazing feat. We think the folks at NORAD see things our way. They’ve been tracking Santa’s Christmas eve flight and reporting on his whereabouts since 1958. They deploy the latest technologies to track Santa, including radar, satellites, SantaCams and jet fighters. They are aided by Rudolf’s bright red nose, detectable by their infrared sensors. You can track him online at the NORAD Santa tracker or you can download a mobile app to track his journey on your phone.

Homeowners & Santa Claus

Meanwhile, as a host, we hope that you are properly covered to entertain a V.I.P. like Santa in your home. What if your dog bites Santa or he gets stuck in your chimney – are you covered against these or any other mishaps while he’s on your property? If you have homeowners insurance or rental insurance, the personal liability and medical payments portions should cover you, but you may want to check your coverage limits and deductibles.

If you plan to leave any sweets out for the big guy, Mrs Claus issues this plaintive plea: Please skip the cookies – Santa has a weight problem. Consider leaving a healthier snack. If you decide to leave cookies out anyway, you may want to get Santa to sign Christmas Cookie Liability and Indemnification Agreement. And something that should go without saying – don’t leave any wine or brandy out – you don’t want to be liable if a tipsy Santa leaves your house and has a DUI accident!

Whatever holiday you celebrate – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or something else, we wish you the joys of the season. We’ll see you in 2020!

zmimztion of Santa riding a Christmas tree rocket

 

*Source of the Santa animation

 

Doctors issue alerts about snowblower safety


man using snowblower

In the first New England snowstorm of the year a few weeks back, doctors raised the alarm about a spate of snowblower-related injuries they were seeing in local hospitals. It happens every year … the US Consumer Products Safety Commission says that more than 5,000 people visit emergency rooms each year with snow blower injuries. Most injuries involve the hands, ranging from cuts and lacerations to amputations. Experts say that with precautions, most snowblower injuries are preventable. And surprisingly, victims are not just first-time users – experience with the equipment doesn’t appear to be factor, injuries occur to highly experienced users, too. Dr. Shapiro of the Cleveland Clinic says:

Most times, injuries happen when people let their guard down. So even if a person has been using a snow blower for years, Dr. Shapiro says it’s important to follow the rules every single time to avoid a devastating injury.

“It’s very important to follow the rules — they’re there for a reason and they do make a difference,” he says. “It’s not typically the novice snow blower user who gets injured. It’s the person who’s been using it for five or 10 years, has considerable experience with it and may think that he or she can get away with something that they didn’t think they could get away with when they first got the machine.”

The frequency of injuries often is related to the depth and type of snow. Higher temperatures and wet snow were frequent factors. In an article in Boston.com – Doctors tell you how to avoid the emergency room this winter – Dr. Robert Partridge of Emerson Hospital says:

“When the snow is thick and has a heavy water content, it can jam the snow blower,” Partridge said. “Many people don’t realize that even after you turn the snow blower off, there’s some torque that remains in the impeller. If it’s off and you reach in and unblock it, it still has one last rotation to go.”

He adds:

“Manufacturers will tell you never to put your hand in a snow blower, even when it’s off,” Partridge said. “If there’s a blockage, people should shut the machine off and use a wooden stick to clear it. Some snow blowers even come with a stick for that purpose.”

He also offers the following advice:

“People shouldn’t wear scarves or other loose clothing when operating a snow blower,” he said. “Make sure young children are well out of the way. Make sure the walks and driveway are clear of newspapers and stones or anything else that can get caught in the snow blower. And never let a child operate a snow blower.”

The article also discusses other common snow blower-relate injuries, including shoveling injuries and hypothermia.

Consumer Reports offers a good list of commonsense tips for safer snow blowing

  • Never wear loose pants, jackets, or scarves, which can get tangled in a snow blower’s moving parts and pull you in with them.
  • Wear earplugs or other hearing protection, especially with a gas-powered model, which typically runs above the 85 decibels at which hearing damage can occur.
  • Before the snow gets too deep, remove doormats, sleds, boards, wires, newspapers, and anything else from the area you’ll clear to avoid clogs and damage to the machine.
  • Don’t let children operate a snow blower. And keep people and pets far away from the vicinity of where you’re clearing.
  • Protect yourself from carbon-monoxide poisoning by starting and running a gas-powered snow blower outside, never in a garage, shed, or other enclosed area—-even if the door is open.
  • For an electric model, use an outdoor extension cord rated for your model, connected to an outlet with ground-fault-circuit-interrupting (GFCI) protection. Then be sure to keep the cord safely away from the spinning auger while working.
  • Turn off the engine of a gas snow blower or unplug the cord of an electric model before clearing a clog at the auger or discharge chute. And use a clearing tool or a broom handle to clear the clog—never your hands or feet, even if you’re wearing gloves: A stationary auger and impeller are often under enough belt tension to harm hands and feet, even with the engine or electric motor off.
  • Wait until a gas model’s engine is cool before refueling to avoid igniting the gasoline.

See more tips on snowblower safety and snowblower maintenance:
Fire up that snowblower – don’t wait until the first storm hits

Posted in Safety | Tagged ,

Snowbirds: Tips for winterizing your home while away


illustration of older couple paccking a car in the snow to head for Florida

Will you be making a seasonal move south to weather out the harsh winter months in a more favorable climate? Whether you’ll be gone for a few days or a few months, if you are traveling over the winter, there are some home maintenance tasks you should tend to so that you don’t come home to unpleasant surprises.

No one knows better than an insurance company what the common winter home hazards and problems can be – after all, they deal with the claims damage every year. This excellent infographic is courtesy of Travelers, one of our Renaissance Alliance insurance partners. It offers a good checklist to help you secure your home for an extended winter absence. While some of the tasks are suitable to prep for a long-term absence, others are handy for shorter travel periods, too, such as a week over the holidays or a midwinter vacation.

Click for a larger version.

infographic with tips about how to winterize your home for extended travel

Related posts:

 

Holiday fraud: How to avoid seasonal scammers


polic lineup with santa, Rudolph the Reindeer and a pretty elf

If it’s December, it’s prime holiday fraud season!

Because it’s the busiest season of the year, scammers work double time to try to maximize their take. And as many times as we’ve issued warnings, thieves are very creative about thinking up sneaky new ways to separate you from your money. The Better Business Bureau is on the case. Here are some of the top scams they see around the holidays.

Delivery scams and package thefts this holiday season – While just plain old theft of shipped packages from your doorstep or workplace is common, there are a few other things to watch out for. BBB says that phishing emails pose as official notices from delivery companies. These either contain a “tracking link” or a message that the shipper is having difficulty delivering a package to you with a number to call. Or they affix fake “missed delivery” tags on your door, asking you to call a phone number to reschedule your delivery – all are just ruses to get your personal information.

Social media ad scams – Last year, the BBB found that online purchase scams were the most common cons reported to Scam Tracker and the category with the most victims, many involving Facebook and Instagram ads. Watch out for products claiming to support charity, free trial offers, counterfeit merchandise and apps of unknown origin. Social media is also a hub for illegal gift exchange pyramid schemes. BBB says these pop up every year with new twists. When an offer seems too good to be true, it almost always is.

Is that Santa App safe? Better check it twice. BBB says that the Apple and Google app stores list tons of holiday-themed apps: children can video chat live with Santa himself, light the menorah, watch Santa feed live reindeer, track his sleigh on Christmas Eve, relay electronic Christmas wish-lists, or play Hanukkah games like dreidel. But many of these are invasive and may violate children’s privacy laws in the information they collect. For more, see our post on protecting your kids from ID theft.

Don’t get scammed out of a gift card this season – the BBB says “Before grabbing a gift card for a favorite store or restaurant, know that thieves are just as eager to use these gift cards before they’re presented to the intended recipient. Also, some retailers have terms and conditions as to how the gift card can be redeemed.” See our post about new consumer protections for prepaid debit cards.

Tips for avoiding job scams this holiday season – Many of us are looking for extra money over the holidays and a part-time seasonal job is a common way to earn that cash. But it’s also a time when scammers exploit that desire. BBB reminds you that legit employers will never ask for payment upfront for a job. They say to be wary of big money for small jobs and job offers that don’t require an interview.

8 Tips for dealing with holiday pop-up shops – BBB receives hundreds of complaints a year about temporary retail locations, reporting everything from poor quality merchandise to difficulty obtaining refunds after temporary stores have closed their doors. Pop-up shops can be fun but follow BBB’s tips in mind if you choose to buy from one of them.

See more holiday safety tips from the BBB and use their Scam Tracker to identify common scams near you.

Here are prior posts about more common holiday fraud schemes: