Protecting Your Business from Employee Identity Theft

Your business could face big problems if one of your employees becomes a victim of identity theft. That’s an alarming fact considering the rapid growth of this costly white-collar crime.

How does identity theft among your employees affect your business? One of the provisions of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act is that an employer whose action (or lack of action) results in the theft of an employee’s information can be sued. As an employer, you should keep in mind that the workplace is the biggest source of identity theft.

Businesses should be concerned with more than just the lawsuits associated with employee identity theft. Reoccurring identity thefts lead to negative publicity – which can impact sales and significantly damage employee recruiting and retention efforts.

How can you protect your employees and your business? There are two things you should seriously consider: Offer identity theft coverage as an employee benefit, and tell your employees what they can do to reduce their chances of becoming a victim.

What does identity theft coverage give employees?

  • Insurance coverage: To help them get back on their feet after they’ve been a victim.
  • Credit monitoring: That alerts them when unusual credit changes take place.
  • Computer protection: Such as anti-spyware and wireless security.
  • Protection of personal information: Such as assistance with opting out of marketing databases, as well as tracking data in Social Security databases and financial databases.

What can you tell your employees about protecting themselves from identity theft? Start with the following checklist of do’s and don’ts.

Identity theft prevention do’s

  • Always shred sensitive information rather than just throwing it in the trash. (This is wise advice whether you’re at home or at work.) Things to shred include any confidential information – like credit card pre-approvals, credit card receipts, bank statements, etc.
  • Review your credit report regularly. Take the time to make sure it’s accurate. It’s also important to carefully check your bank statements every month.
  • It may seem like a hassle, but it’s a smart idea to have your financial mail deposited in a post office box rather than in your home mailbox.
  • Remove the mail from your mailbox as soon as possible to afford less opportunity for someone to steal it. Also, be sure to pinpoint when all your bills are supposed to arrive.
  • As elementary as it may sound, it’s important to do whatever it takes to keep your personal identification numbers (PINs) secret.

Identity theft prevention don’ts

  • ·  Obviously, you should never give personal information to anyone without a good reason for having it.
  • ·  Never carry your Social Security card or passport in your purse or wallet, and never keep them in their vehicle. Remember that thieves are very interested in your private information – just as they’re interested in your tangible valuables.
  • ·  Never put your address or driver’s license number on a credit card receipt.
  • ·  Never put your Social Security number or phone number on your personal checks.
  • ·  Never carry credit cards you don’t plan to use.

By helping employees keep their vital personal information from falling into the wrong hands, you’re doing your part to look after their financial health – and protect your business from a growing risk. Identity theft coverage as an employee benefit not only helps employees stay safer, it makes your business a more attractive place to work.

Four Steps to Help You Ensure Your Most Valuable Items Are Covered on Your Homeowner’s Insurance

What do holidays, special occasions, and inheritances often have in common? If you guessed the acquisition of a new possession, then you’d be right. While excited about your new big-screen, appliance, jewelry, antique, art, or other valuable item, you need to be mindful that acquiring such also increases the monetary value of your home contents. Your homeowner’s insurance should be updated to adjust for additions that add significant value. Here are four steps that can help you ensure your most valuable items are covered:

Home Inventory

Go through your home periodically and take note of the most valuable items, as these are the items you want to ensure are insured against damage or loss from events like theft or fire. For most, these items usually consist of electronics, jewelry, art, antiques, collectibles, appliances, and rare items. If an item would be hard or impossible for you to replace, then it should be included. Also keep in mind that standard policies usually limit firearm coverage since they are commonly targeted by thieves.

Home Inventory Appraisal

Some items are more difficult than others to give a value, especially antique or sentimental items. A professional appraisal can be very helpful in finding out the true value of an item. It’s also very useful in estate planning.

Home Inventory Documentation

Any item on your home inventory list should be visually documented with a camera or video camera. This will speed up the claim process. Make sure the shots are clear and show the details of the item. It’s also a good idea to get a wide shot of each wall in every room of your home. You may store the photos or tape in a safe deposit box and/or upload them to an online photo storage site like Flicker or Photobucket.

Coverage Examination

Many homeowners have no idea what’s covered by their homeowner’s insurance until disaster strikes and they’re trying to submit a claim. Don’t leave yourself in the dark and compound emotional loss with financial loss. You may very well find yourself trying to replace expensive items out of your own pocket.

Make sure that you carefully examine your homeowner’s insurance policy so that you don’t suddenly discover a loss isn’t covered. You should pay close attention to any category that contains exclusions or limits losses to a specific dollar amount. You’ve already done an inventory and appraisal. Now, it’s time to compare the value of the items on your inventory list to your existing coverage. You should make sure that the coverage is suffice to compensate you should you suffer a theft or disaster-related loss. If you note any discrepancies or have any questions or concerns, then you should schedule a policy review with your insurance agent.

U R @ RISK for Employee’s Online Activities

Did you know your business is liable for how your employees use the internet while they’re on the job? Many business owners protect themselves by monitoring their employees’ email and internet usage, including instant messaging.

Some employers are reluctant to implement an email and internet oversight policy. But monitoring email communication and web surfing has become an important part of protecting your business.  

Suppose an employee at your business has been emailing inappropriate images or messages around the office, and these images make their way to a co-worker who finds them offensive. If that co-worker chooses to sue for harassment, your company could easily be held liable. Why? Because businesses can be held responsible for their employees’ activities while using company computers.

If your business had a monitoring policy in place that enabled you to review the emails going around the office (as well as your employees’ web surfing), you would have been able to take measures to stop the offensive email before it was sent.

Creating a monitoring program

Here are some useful tips to consider as you formulate your internet monitoring and usage policy:

·   Implement policies about what employees are allowed to send: Tell your employees never to write – or even forward – any material that could
be considered obscene, hateful, defamatory, offensive, harassing or otherwise inappropriate. This includes racist or sexist language and/or jokes.

·   Gain control over what can be accessed at your business: You have a right to ban questionable websites at your business. Forbid employees from viewing any sites containing sexually explicit messages or imagery, sites that are violent, or sites containing other content that may be considered inappropriate. Consider installing blocking software to stop access to these sites in the first place.

·    Disallow non-work-related web use while employees are on the job: It’s becoming increasingly common for employees to use the internet at work for non work-related purposes. This trend is only getting worse with the rise of social-networking sites like Facebook. Therefore, unless employees are on a break, it’s a good idea to insist that emails are being sent and web pages are being viewed for business purposes only.

·    Provide separate computers for off-the-clock purposes: Consider setting a few computers aside specifically for employee non-business use. Put them in a common area and allow employees to surf while on their lunch hour. Coupled with an internet monitoring program, this is an effective practice for many companies. (Just remind employees that your monitoring policy also applies to this non-business use.)

·    Communicate your monitoring policy to employees: A common pitfall of implementing an internet and email usage program is that many companies don’t tell employees about their policy. By not telling your employees, you’re actually increasing your exposure to employee lawsuits. Telling them you’ll monitor their email and internet use will help deter improper use.

·    Keep reminding your people about your internet policies: Once your policy has been communicated to employees, remind them about it regularly. It should be included in your company’s employee handbook. You might also want to consider having a reminder on your employees’ log in screen.

When you put effective internet and email policies in place, you’re taking a positive step toward protecting your company. It takes some time and effort, and communication must be ongoing, but it’s worth it to reduce liability exposure for your business.

How Uninsured Drivers Affect Responsible Drivers

Most Americans are surprised to learn that, nationally, approximately 1 in 6 drivers on the road are uninsured. This information comes from a recent study by the Insurance Research Council. The study further shows that in some states, as many as one in three drivers are uninsured or underinsured, and that there is a solid correlation between unemployment and lack of insurance. Furthermore, statistics show that nearly one out of every two accidents involves an uninsured or inadequately insured driver.

How Can You Protect Yourself from the Costs of an Uninsured Motorist?

You should ensure that your auto insurance policy includes both uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. As a rule, the limits on these policies should be as high as your policy’s property damage and bodily injury limits.

When someone without insurance causes an accident that involves your car, or if your car was damaged by a hit-and-run driver, UM coverage would pay for the resulting claims. On the other hand, UIM insurance provides coverage when someone else causes an accident, but does not have enough insurance to adequately cover all of your costs.

You also need to consider how much your life would change, if you were hit by an irresponsible driver. How would you make your car and mortgage payments, and pay your other expenses if you were permanently injured? UM and UIM coverages bear the cost of lost wages if you are unable to work after an injury. If you do not have these coverages and are hit by an uninsured motorist, the only other option is to pursue the driver in small claims or civil court. This often proves to be a difficult and expensive option. Thus, the benefits of this coverage can be substantial compared to the relatively low expense.

What Should You Do if You Are Hit by an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist?

If the driver has insurance, copy down the other driver’s insurance and contact information. Whether they have a policy or not, get the driver’s name, address, and phone number. Furthermore, you should always write down the license plate number and call the police, even if the accident appears to be minor. A police report is always valuable in determining who was at fault.

Make Sure You’re Covered for On-The-Job Injury Claims By Temporary Workers

If you use workers from staffing or leasing agencies to supplement your workforce, how adequately do your current insurance policies protect your company in the event that one of these individuals is injured on the job?

If you’re covered under an Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) commercial general liability (CGL) policy and your workers’ compensation and employers liability policies are written on National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) forms with no additional coverage endorsements, you may not be as protected as you think. You should consider adding the Coverage for Injury to Leased Workers (CG 04 24) endorsement to your CGL policy.

A potential gap in coverage arises from the way the CGL policy defines “temporary” and “leased” workers. A leased worker is a person leased to your company through an agreement with an employee-leasing firm to perform duties related to the operation of your business. A temporary worker is a person furnished to you to fill in for a permanent employee on leave or to meet seasonal or short-term workload conditions. Under the terms of the CGL policy, “employee” includes a leased worker, but does not include a temporary worker. The distinction is important, because the CGL policy’s Exclusion e: employers liability, excludes from coverage bodily injury claims made by an employee of the insured.

Thus, if your CGL policy definitions consider the worker to be an “employee”-even though that worker is provided by a staffing agency-the policy will not cover any bodily injury claims by that worker. If the worker is not specifically substituting for a permanent employee who is on leave, or meeting a seasonal need or short-term workload conditions, the worker is not a “temporary worker” in the eyes of the insurer, and instead is considered your employee for purposes of Exclusion e. To be a “temporary worker,” that individual must have a specific end date to his or her employment with you. A temporary employee who is hired for an indefinite period of time simply does not meet the criteria stated above, and is therefore considered an employee, and subject to Exclusion e if they are injured on the job.

Adding the Coverage for Injury to Leased Workers (CG 04 24) endorsement to your CGL policy will help you fill this coverage gap. This endorsement states that the term “employee” does not include a “leased worker” or “temporary worker,” making the employers liability exclusion of the CGL policy inapplicable to the claims for injuries to a leased or temporary worker.

Another way to protect your company in lawsuits by injured temporary workers is to require the staffing agency that provides such workers to include the Alternate Employer Endorsement (WC 00 03 01 A) on its workers’ compensation and employers liability policy, and specifically schedule your company as the alternate employer. This endorsement will provide you with coverage as an alternate employer in the event the temporary worker files a tort suit.

Without the right coverage in place, on-the-job injuries to temporary workers can present a significant potential liability to your company. Examine your current CGL policy and arrangements with any staffing or leasing firms you use to make sure your company is protected.

Do You Know How to Handle a Vehicle Accident?

According to The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, there are more than six million U.S. motor vehicle crashes per year reported in the United States. Most of us don’t like to think about what if, especially when it comes to vehicle accidents. However, the odds say that you’ll most likely find yourself involved in a vehicle accident at some point in your life. Do you know how to handle a vehicle accident?

There will be an initial shock. Once you’ve realized what has happened and checked yourself for injury, you should attempt to exit your vehicle. You might need to use a window if your door has been damaged. As you find your way out of the vehicle, make sure to pay attention to the oncoming traffic and stay clear of it.

If your vehicle is still drivable, then move it to a public location. From there, you’ll be able to safely exit the vehicle and report the accident. Moving the vehicle is usually a good idea if there’s an immediate danger like being hit again on a busy interstate. Do keep in mind that some states require you to stay on the scene.

You should dial 911 to report the accident. The dispatcher will automatically know your location if you’re calling from a land-line. You’ll need to know your location when using a cellular phone since it’s a more difficult and lengthy process for an emergency dispatcher to determine your location through a cellular phone.

In the event that your vehicle ends up in water, staying calm is a must. You won’t be able to open the door due to the pressure from the water if the vehicle submerges. Calmly take a deep breath and roll down the window to escape. If the electric windows won’t work, then you should break the window by hitting it with an object or kicking it.

As far as insurance goes, most insurance carriers recommend the following universal steps be taken following an accident:

* Take note of how many passengers are in each of the other vehicles involved in the accident, as this will help prevent the future addition of passengers during insurance scams.

* Collect the full name, insurance information, and home address of all other drivers involved in the accident. You should also provide your information to the other driver(s).

* Write a brief summary of the accident, recording as many details as possible – the make, model and year of the vehicles involved; the time of accident; and weather conditions.

* Collect the names and contact information of any witnesses, especially if you feel something or someone other than yourself caused the accident.

* While it’s okay to express concern over what happened at the scene, you should never admit that the accident was your fault or claim liability.

* Have your insurance information, driver’s license, and vehicle registration available for the police. Once the police are on scene, the officer will collect your information. The officer will ask all the drivers what happened and record the account(s).

* Make sure that you ask the officer for the police report so that you can give it to your insurance carrier.

* You should contact your insurance agent or carrier as soon as possible. Most major insurance companies have a 24-hour phone number for claim reports.

Protecting Your Business from Workers’ Comp Fraud

Tempted to hire a private investigator to spy on employees claiming workers’ compensation? You’re not alone. Luckily, covert operations can be avoided by taking a proactive approach to preventing workers’ compensation fraud.

Here are some effective tips for shielding your business.

Watch for red flags

Knowing common signals of workers’ compensation fraud is an important step in protecting your business. Some red flags to watch out for are:

·   There are no witnesses of the accident (or the only witnesses are friends/family members of the injured employee).

·   It is difficult or impossible to reach the employee.

·   The employee changes his or her story about the accident.

·   The accident happened on a Friday afternoon but wasn’t reported until the following week.

·   The accident happened outside of the employee’s normal working hours.

Not all claims that occur under these circumstances are fraudulent, but it may be worth it to take a second look.

Make safety a priority at your business
Creating a safer work environment not only lowers the chance of accidents, it also reduces the opportunity for employees to fake an injury. Your business should frequently conduct safety inspections of all work areas and any equipment. Remove hazards immediately, and be sure to document the repairs you make.

Thoroughly investigate workplace injuries
Take the time to review any surveillance videos of the area where the incident allegedly took place. Also, be sure to interview all witnesses shortly after the accident happens – and take any rumors of dishonesty or fraud seriously.

Hire wisely
People who lie on rГ(c)sumГ(c)s are more likely to lie about workplace injuries. Make it a routine part of your hiring process to conduct background checks on all applicants. And don’t neglect to verify their references and any other information included on their applications and rГ(c)sumГ(c)s.

Clearly communicate your workers’ compensation policies
It’s important to discuss your workers’ compensation policies with all employees. Tell them what to do when an injury occurs, and explain that insurance costs affect the amount of money available for raises and bonuses. Also, make sure you tell your employees that workers’ compensation fraud is a serious crime that will lead to termination and prosecution. Post fraud awareness posters in conspicuous locations explaining what fraud is and what its consequences are.

Implement a return-to-work program
Workers’ compensation fraud is less inviting when employers have transitional duty for injured employees. Make sure your employees know that if they get injured on the job, your business will work with the doctor to help them return to work as soon as possible.

Stay in touch
Don’t lose contact with employees who are off work because of an on-the-job injury. Injured workers who are hard to get a hold of might be committing workers’ compensation fraud. Contact them periodically, and document each contact (whether you were able to reach them or not).

Get signed statements when employees leave
In your exit interviews, obtain signed statements from exiting employees stating that they have or have not had any unreported injuries at work. This will go a long way in discouraging post-termination claims.

Workers’ compensation is a major expense for most businesses, and workers’ compensation fraud makes it more costly for everyone. It pays to take a proactive stance to reduce workers’ compensation fraud at your company.

Consider Options to Lessen Homeowner’s Insurance Premiums

Home is where the heart is, and for most homeowners, a large portion of your net worth resides there as well. We all know that insuring this valuable property is both necessary and expensive. In fact, homeowner’s insurance premiums can take a healthy bite out of a family’s monthly expenditures. Homeowners owe it to themselves to look at some approaches that could potentially lower monthly premiums.

Six Ideas to Reduce Premiums

  • Take steps to make your home as disaster resistant as possible. For instance, consider adding stronger doors, storm shutters and reinforced roofing for added protection from hurricanes and other disasters. Many insurance companies will reduce premiums based on these upgrades.
  • Ask your insurance agent if they offer homeowners discounts for new or recently renovated properties. Because a newer home usually results in fewer losses, some insurers reduce rates by up to 25 percent for homes that are less than five or ten years old. Likewise, homes that have had significant renovations completed by a qualified contractor can also qualify for reduced insurance premiums. In this case, your insurance company may require documentation of the renovations, and when they were completed.
  • Improve the safety and security of your home. Items such as burglar alarms, deadbolt locks and smoke detectors can reduce your monthly premiums. Your insurance company might also offer a discount for installing a sophisticated home-security system.
  • Maintain an outstanding credit rating. Many insurance companies utilize credit scores in determining homeowner’s premiums. Achieving and preserving a strong credit score can result in a monthly premium discount.
  • Ask questions to determine if your home is over insured. Be aware that the value of your home, and the value of your land are separate. If your home is severely damaged and needs to be rebuilt, the reconstruction costs should be based on the replacement value of your home, and not on the value of your land.
  • Consider the possibility that other discounts may apply. Insurance companies offer a variety of options such as: long term customer discounts, senior citizen discounts, loss-free discounts, or multiple policy discounts.

Your home is your castle, and there are many steps you can take to protect this valuable asset in the most efficient manner possible. Speak with your agent to see if these or other discounts apply.

Reducing the Risk of Workers’ Compensation Claims Begins with the Hiring Process

Workers’ compensation claims can occur in any workplace. While employers understand that solid safety protocol can reduce the incidence of these claims, many don’t realize that steps taken during the hiring process can also have some impact on managing this liability. Not taking the time to thoroughly interview applicants to determine if they are a good fit for the job and the company can result in hiring workers who might create problems later on, like filing too many workers’ compensation claims.

Although federal and state laws prohibit certain questions being asked during the interview process, there are techniques you can use that will help you decide if the applicant might be the type to file problem claims. Begin by reviewing the applicant’s resume prior to the interview. Pay careful attention to gaps in employment history. During the interview, ask the applicant to explain the reasons for these gaps. Also ask the applicant about his or her attendance record during previous jobs.

Follow up with open-ended questions to see what the applicant would do in certain situations, such as resolving conflicts with managers, subordinates or co-workers. Quiz the applicant as to what he or she perceives to be the procedures necessary to effectively perform the essential functions of the applied-for job in your company.

Inform the applicant that all new hires go through a fitness-for-duty physical, which includes questions about medical history. Watch for any signs of discomfort like a change in facial expression or body movement.

Administer a skill and/or personality test to assess competency and work ethic. Whatever screening tools you use, establish reasonable criteria and apply them uniformly for all applicants.

Obtain written consent from the applicant to conduct a complete background check. As part of this:

·   Verify past employment history and follow up with references.

·   Conduct a criminal background check. Use a public records service to uncover any criminal convictions.

·   Check on past job-related injuries, workers’ compensation claims, substance abuse and safety records.

·   Contact the schools and universities listed on the candidate’s job application or resume to verify education and certifications. If the applicant listed having a professional license, call the issuing organization to verify.

·   For candidates whose job duties would include driving a motor vehicle, compare the results of the applicant’s official motor vehicle report with the answers provided on the job application.

If you do extend a job offer, make it conditional, contingent upon the candidate’s ability to perform the functions of the job. You can withdraw a job offer, if in the opinion of a licensed medical doctor, the prospective employee poses a direct threat to their own, or others’, health and safety. However, in determining the suitability of an offered job, make sure you make all reasonable accommodations necessary for those candidates subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Thorough job interviews not only help you to hire the right person for the job…they help you hire the right people for your company.

How to Prevent Garage Door Injuries

Most people wouldn’t overlook a 300-pound football linebacker or a 400-pound boulder coming their way. For some reason, a garage door, which is also typically 300 to 400 pounds, opening and closing usually isn’t given a second thought. While this object may seem benign, it’s often the heaviest moving feature of your home and should be a safety concern area.

The majority of garage door-related injuries involve pets and young children that are oblivious to the potential dangers presented by such a heavy moving object. Children can easily get an extremity caught between the ground and the bottom of the garage door as it descends to a close. To avoid such a catastrophe, garage door owners should pay attention to three areas – educating children, safety precautions, and maintenance.

Garage door owners should make sure young children are clear of the garage door before it closes. Children should be taught never to run under a moving garage door and to never play near it, even when it’s not in motion. Children should be taught the emergency response, including how to reach an adult and call for emergency assistance, should an accident occur. Older children should be taught how to correctly operate the garage door and use its’ emergency release.

Garage door owners should also make sure that they are taking the appropriate safety precautions to avoid a garage door accident. Make sure to position the operating push buttons five feet or higher from the floor when it’s installed, as this will help prevent small children from playing with the buttons or inadvertently pushing it. Garage doors manufactured since 1993 have been subject to a federal law requiring all garage door openers to contain an automatic reversing mechanism that will immediately reverse the closing if the garage door comes into contact with anything as it’s closing. You might consider upgrading your garage door if it was manufactured prior to this law. You can check your garage door by placing an unbreakable item, such as a piece of wood, under it to determine if it reverses as it comes into contact with the item. Do try to perform this test away from the watchful eyes of children that might think of it as a new game to play.

Garage doors should be regularly inspected for any problem areas that could create a malfunction – worn or warped tracks, rollers, cables, pulleys, and springs. Worn springs are a particularly dangerous problem since they could dislodge and go through the air to strike someone with great force. This is not a DIY area; always consult a professional for maintenance.

With the right education and use, preventative measures, and maintenance, a garage door can be a convenience and a protective feature of your home, not a disaster waiting to happen.