Monday, December 7, 2009

III - Holiday Shopping Season Has Begun; Protect Your Identity and Your Credit

III - Holiday Shopping Season Has Begun; Protect Your Identity and Your Credit:

"Holiday Shopping Season Has Begun; Protect Your Identity and Your Credit
November 23, 2009

New York Press Office: (212) 346-5500;
Washington Press Office: (202) 833-1580

NEW YORK, November 23, 2009 — Holiday shoppers can reduce the chances of becoming an identity theft victim this year by taking some simple preventative measures, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)."

Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft

To help protect your identity this holiday season, the I.I.I. has the following tips:
■Keep the amount of personal information in your purse or wallet to the bare minimum. Avoid carrying additional credit cards, your social security card or passport unless absolutely necessary.
■Guard your credit card when making purchases. Use your hand as a shield when using ATM machines or making long distance phone calls with phone cards.
■Always take credit card or ATM receipts. Do not throw receipts into public trash containers, leave them on the counter or put them in your shopping bag where they can easily fall out or get stolen.
■Proceed with caution when shopping online. Make sure that you are buying from a reputable retailer with a secure network.
■Monitor your accounts. Do not rely on your credit card company or bank to alert you of suspicious activity. Carefully monitor your bank and credit card statements to make sure all transactions are accurate. If you suspect a problem, contact your credit card company or bank immediately.
■Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. A law that took effect in 2004 entitles you to one free credit report per year. Make sure it is accurate and includes only those activities you have authorized. The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
■Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, any part of your social security number or phone number, or any series of consecutive numbers.
■Do not give out personal information. Whether on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet, do not divulge sensitive information or your social security number unless you initiated the contact, are familiar with the person or company and are confident that they have a secure line.
■Shred, shred, shred. Tear or shred any documents that contain personal information such as credit card numbers, bank statements, charge receipts or credit card applications, before disposing of them

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pay-by-the-mile auto insurance advances in California - Sacramento Politics - California Politics | Sacramento Bee

This story is taken from Sacbee / Capitol and California

Pay-by-the-mile auto insurance advances in California


Car insurance by the tankful?

Not quite, but California moved a step closer last month to pay-as-you-drive policies that could allow motorists to buy insurance like they do gasoline – a little at a time.

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner released regulations permitting and authorizing mileage verification for pay-as-you-drive, without dictating what form such plans must take.

The goal is to use per-mile pricing to entice Californians not to drive so much, thus easing air pollution, relieving traffic congestion and lowering the number of traffic collisions.

A first-of-its-kind plan is MileMeter, available only in Texas, which last year began offering six-month policies with chunks of insured miles ranging from 1,000 to 6,000 miles. When the "tank" runs dry, motorists buy more.

"We absolutely anticipate coming to California," said Chris Gay, MileMeter founder and chief executive officer.

"Our take is that half the market out there is being overcharged and underserved – and that's who we aim to address."

A more conventional pay-as-you-drive plan might offer a yearlong policy based on projected mileage, then upon expiration, provide a refund or rebill the driver based on actual mileage as verified by odometer readings or an electronic device.

Spokesmen for State Farm, Allstate and Progressive insurance companies said they are considering the issue but have not decided whether to offer pay-as-you-drive in California. Such policies routinely use various other factors, such as age or type of vehicle, in creating a per-mile price.

Under Proposition 103, approved by voters two decades ago, California insurance premiums already are based partly on miles driven, but insurers say they have lacked authority to adequately verify motorists' estimates, thus resulting in an honor system that often is abused.

California's new regulations allow both mileage-estimated and mileage-verified plans in an attempt to encourage options.

Poizner and other supporters tout pay-as-you-drive as a way to accurately tie insurance cost to accident risk, and to provide an incentive to walk, bike or use public transportation.

"Economic conditions are tough," Poizner said. "The opportunity to actually get a big discount on your auto insurance by driving less? ... It will be very attractive."

Pay-as-you-drive policies, available in various forms in numerous states, is supported conceptually by groups ranging from the California Air Resources Board to the Environmental Defense Fund.

Ken McEldowney of Consumer Action predicted that per-mile policies would succeed in altering habits.

"They may cut back in terms of leisure driving," he said of buyers. "They may combine trips to the store in a way they weren't doing before."

Pay-as-you-drive will not be for everyone, however. The push to cut rates for low-mileage drivers could spark a move to raise rates for high-mileage drivers based on more accurate risk assessment, though no such increase currently is under consideration.

Pedestrians in downtown Sacramento last week had mixed feelings.

"I don't want anybody tracking me, even just for mileage – no," said Michael O'Gara, 60, of Davis.

"I wouldn't do it," added Linda Nguyen, 35, of Sacramento. "Even when I rent a car, I don't want (it billed) by the mile."

But Armando Martinez, 52, who was visiting Sacramento from Oklahoma, said he owns three cars and could benefit from per-mile policies.

"I wouldn't have to worry about paying insurance for the ones that are just sitting there," he said.

A pay-as-you-drive study last year by the Brookings Institution, a public policy research group, concluded that driving would drop by 8 percent nationwide – and oil consumption by 4 percent – if all motorists paid for car insurance by the mile.

Two-thirds of U.S. households would save money – averaging $270 per car – under pay-as-you-drive policies, which routinely would be adjusted for rural vs. urban driving, the Brookings study concluded.

"I think it will make a huge difference, if successful," said Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who has pushed for pay-as-you-drive the past two years.

But Carmen Balber of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit public policy group, said the new regulations cater to the insurance industry by neither requiring firms to offer pay-as-you-drive policies nor requiring premiums to drop as mileage does.

Balber said insurers could abuse the new regulations by proposing policies that verify miles driven, something the industry has desired, without offering price breaks.

"I think the regulations were drafted to guarantee that insurers win, because they were left with all of the choice," Balber said.

Michael Gunning, vice president of the Personal Insurance Federation of California, whose members write more than 50 percent of auto insurance policies statewide, said pay-as-you-drive is being taken very seriously.

"Given the competitive nature of the marketplace, I think this is going to be a selling point for companies," he said.

Poizner said the best way to drive change is to spark competition and encourage innovation, not to dictate policy terms.

"We won't approve products that aren't great for consumers," he said.

The new regulations provide insurers with several options for verifying odometer miles, including using their own agents, smog-check stations, Department of Motor Vehicle records, automotive repair shops or a technological device that could be placed on a policyholder's vehicle.

Addressing privacy concerns, the regulations prohibit per-mile policies from using technological devices to collect information about the location of a vehicle.

In 16 states, Progressive offers pay-as-you-drive policies that track mileage as well as driving habits, such as the hour and the speed that a vehicle is driven.

Balber contends that California's new regulations will serve as a springboard for insurers to push for the right to collect similar data.

"It's definitely a foot in the door," she said.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Before you cut back insurance, consider discounts, adjustments -

By Christine Dugas, USA TODAY
Cash-strapped families might be tempted to let insurance policies lapse or, at the very least, reduce auto, home and life insurance coverage.
That may be possible in some cases, but making dramatic changes may not be necessary to save money. "Families should consider whether a short-term saving is worth the long-term risk," says Roger Sevigny, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

As you consider ways to cut corners on your insurance, you should start by shopping around. Many people stick with their policy for years without comparing prices and may be missing a much better deal. And if you rely on different insurers for your home and auto insurance, bundling them together with one company could save you money.

"In many cases, that simple act of bringing together your auto and home insurance can save you hundreds of dollars a year," says Paul Ballew, a senior vice president for Nationwide.

Keep in mind that price is not the only important factor. "When you see a price that you like, you want to make sure that you're not buying from a company that also gets more than their fair share of complaints," says Amy Danise, editor of Most state insurance departments release annual rankings that show the relative number of complaints for insurance companies.

Some other belt-tightening tips:

Car insurance

• Increase your deductible. Comprehensive and collision insurance coverage usually has a deductible, which is the amount of money you pay before your policy kicks in. You could raise it from $200 to $500 or even to $1,000. That could lower your cost by 15% to 40% or more, according to the Insurance Information Institute. "Even a very, very high deductible — even higher than $2,000 — is better than having inadequate insurance, because you're in some way capping your loss," says Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president of the Insurance Information Institute.

• Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverage if you've had your car for four or more years. You can check the National Automobile Dealers Association's used car guides to see what your car is worth, Danise says. It may not be cost-effective to continue insuring a car that is worth less than 10 times the amount you pay for coverage, the Insurance Information Institute says. That's because you may receive a claim payment that would not substantially exceed your premiums minus the deductible.

• Ask about discounts. Your agent may not go out of his way to offer discounts. He also may not know that you are eligible for some discounts.

You may qualify for a discount if you are a safe driver, have lower-than-average mileage and recently added a car alarm. There are even discounts for teenagers with good grades.

• Ask about benefits. Bad credit can cause insurers to charge more, although some states don't allow it. If your credit score has improved, you should ask if that can lower your premiums.

"And some people aren't aware that marital status is part of the underwriting process for car insurance," Danise says. "They believe that you are more responsible if you are married."

•Eliminate extras. If you are paying for towing coverage or rental reimbursement, you may want to drop them and save some money.

Homeowners insurance

• Follow some of the same steps that you can take to lower auto insurance costs. Consider raising your deductible. You should also ask about discounts. For example, if you are 55 or older and retired, you may qualify for a discount, says the Insurance Information Institute.

• Take advantage of improvements that you have made. If you have modernized your home, you may get a break. If you haven't made any recent changes, consider upgrading electrical, plumbing and heating systems. They improve safety and will reduce premiums, Sevigny says.

• Don't lower your home insurance for the wrong reason. The price of your coverage is based on the cost of rebuilding. Too often, people wrongly believe they can lower their coverage because the value of their home has declined.

However, if construction costs in your area have gone down, you may be able to safely reduce your coverage. Ask your insurer to help you determine if rebuilding costs have changed.

• Review any riders. You may have asked for additional coverage for jewelry, silverware or artwork when you set up the policy. If you no longer own those items, remove the riders.

Life insurance

• Consider the value of life insurance. Many people don't have any life insurance and consider it too expensive. But it can be a smart idea during tough times because it will provide financial security for your family at a relatively low cost.

Even if you have coverage, you should re-evaluate it to see if you need to supplement it. "Especially if you have children and you want to cover them through college-tuition years, it's a good time to see if it's enough," Danise says.

• Term life is an affordable choice. It pays if death occurs during the term of the policy. The premiums for term policies are lower today than they have ever been, Salvatore says.

But keep in mind that your rate is affected by your health and lifestyle. Fortunately, today even someone with high blood pressure or high cholesterol can get fairly affordable insurance.

• Look into group policies. If your employer offers a group policy, it may be a cost-effective way of buying life insurance. But life insurance usually isn't portable if you leave the company.

• Don't rush to cash in whole life insurance. (Unlike term insurance, whole life has a savings component as well as a death benefit.) If you have a whole life policy, and you need to raise money, you may consider surrendering it. But that could jeopardize the long-term financial security of your family, the Insurance Information Institute says. Another option: Ask your agent if you can borrow against the cash value of your policy.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Avoid Self-Insuring and Talk to Your Agent

In the wake of the economic conditions, individuals are more exposed to financial loss related to uninsured claims because of dropped coverages, reduction in coverages, or late payments causing a lapse in coverage. This unfortunate result of a mass fear of worsening economic conditions perpetuated by, in my opinion, the very negative press is causing, in some cases over reaction by businesses and consumers to cut-back, layoff, and overall just sit on their hands.

Consumers today are scared. They are operating in an almost panic mode and cutting cost ever way they can. Many of the cost cutting measure I support, after all if there is a silver lining, it's that we will become better stewards if our money. However, one trend that we are seeing in the insurance industry is non-mandatory insurances are being let go while other coverages are being reduced.

Mandatory Insurance is insurance that is required by law or by contract. Some examples include;
• Car Insurance
• Home Insurance
• Some Flood Insurance
• Workers Compensation Insurance
• And General Liability Insurance that a business must carry for a landlord, client, or vendor.

These are just a few of the Mandatory Insurance that need to be kept in force and the alternative will certainly be more expensive. The consequences of dripping these coverages include, force placed coverage that could cost more than double the cost and for half of the coverage, state fines, penalties and suspensions, breach of contract, and lost business.

Then there is the non-mandatory coverages that can have a substantial financial impact when coverage is altered or flat out dropped or lapsed. They include;
• Insuring boats, motorcycles, jet skis, etc.
• Condo or Renters Insurance
• Umbrella Policies
• Health Insurance
• And reduction or deletion of Business Property coverage to offset costs.

The consequences here can be even more dramatic in the event of a claim brought against a business or individual, because there will be no warning letter from a lender, state agency, or contractor to warn you of the poor judgement. These decisions could lead to a self insured situation and can be financially devastating.

Don't get me wrong, Americans are hurting and so long as Americans continue with their spending contraction the more painful the economic environment could become. However, insurance is one of the factors that must be prioritized. If as a consumer you wish to take on more risk by dropping coverages that protect the assets you've worked so hard to accumulate, then in the end, the risk is yours.

My advise:
Prioritize Your Coverage: Home, Car, and Health Insurance need to be your first priorities. Maintain the appropriate limits of liability and property coverage. Increase your deductibles, especially on your Home Insurance; the savings can be significant between the different insurance companies.

The toys, rental properties and other coverages need to be evaluated based on your lifestyle and asset protection. However, as long as you own and use them, not insuring yourself against liability is outrageous. Losing a $5,000 boat, for example, is one thing, but a $300,000 lawsuit can wipe you out. Carry the correct limits of liability and insure the toys for physical damage based on your individual needs. You can also, increase your deductibles to lower costs.

If you own a business, the options might not be so obvious. All coverages provide benefits to your company and some, like Workers Compensation, are required by law.

My suggestion: stay in touch with your agent to discuss alternative options. You may consider shopping your insurance, or adjusting your payrolls, revenue, or inventory limits. These could all have a beneficial impact to your business without sacrificing coverage.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Travelers Insurance Co. Announces New Distribution of Products

This morning, Travelers Insurance Company put out a web cast to Independent Agents announcing their new Personal Insurance Distribution Channel. Forgetting how their company was built, Travelers runs the risk of harming relationships with current Independent Agents.

Many of these insurance companies believe selling direct, via the internet, is the Holy Grail of insurance marketing. Despite recent moves for companies like Gieco and Esurance that have purchased agencies or store front offices. For some reason, when they (Travelers) look at these Internet insurance companies as successful examples, they some how miss the fact that when millions of dollars are spent on television advertising, people are more inclined to buy. It's not the distribution channel that makes the difference, but the gross advertising expenditure provided by consumer premiums that impacts the consumer psyche.

Below are some bullet points of their announcement - enjoy!

•Travelers Announced they are "Going direct, online", selling their personal insurance products in conjunction with the Independent Agent Channel.

•They plan on keeping the pricing structure the same. Although, in the future, they will have the ability to raise and lower prices for direct purchases based on loss or profitability of the business written.

•Travelers will not use existing customer data that has been provided by Independent Agents for direct marketing purposes. Even if the client does not purchase from an Independent Agent or is no longer a client, Travelers will not use any of the information to market their direct program.

•If a customer of an Independent Agent calls Travelers direct, Travelers intends to push the contact, file notes and information back to the agent.

•BOR's will be accepted by agents, so moving a client from the Direct Program to an Independent Agent will be accepted.

•Travelers claims to be committed to the Independent Agent.

•Did they buy another company? No discussion about acquisitions.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Allstate gets OK to hike homeowner insurance 6.9% in California - Los Angeles Times,0,6356876.story

Allstate gets OK to hike homeowner insurance 6.9% in California
The state Insurance Department cites increased losses in approving the change.
January 6, 2009


Allstate gets OK for 6.9% rate increase

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner has granted a request from Allstate Insurance for a 6.9% increase in its rates for homeowner coverage, according to the state Department of Insurance.

The hike followed by five months an agreement between Allstate, California's third-biggest home insurer, and the commissioner to cut average rates by 28.5%.

"Allstate's losses have increased from prior years, and a new rate was warranted," said department spokesman Darrel Ng.

The rate-increase proposal, which was not subject to a public hearing because it was below a 7% legal threshold, was approved after Poizner allegedly "weakened" rate-setting regulations last spring, charged Douglas Heller, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica advocacy group.

Monday, December 1, 2008

California Homeowner's Insurance Responsibility

LOS ANGELES - (Business Wire) Californians overwhelmingly consider it their responsibility to prevent underinsurance, with homeowners in areas struck by catastrophic wildfire most strongly recognizing that they must keep their homes adequately insured, according to a new statewide poll.
Sixty-one percent of those surveyed in the poll commissioned by the Insurance Information Network of California said that homeowners have the primary responsibility to keep their insurance policies current. Of the 800 people interviewed, 73 percent of San Bernardino County and 68 percent of San Diego County respondents – people located in areas devastated by recent wildfires – call insurance updates a personal responsibility.

California courts this year reaffirmed that homeowners have the primary responsibility to make sure their home insurance is up-to-date. In the case, Everett v. State Farm, the state Appellate Court ruled that, “It is up to the insured to determine whether he or she has sufficient coverage for his or her needs.”

In the IINC poll, likely voters were asked, “Which of the following (do) you believe has the responsibility to make sure that your homeowners insurance policy is kept current?” Of the 800 likely voters surveyed, 61 percent called it their own responsibility; 17 percent said it was the responsibility of their insurance agent; 12 percent, their insurance company; 5 percent, all of the above and 6 percent either did not know or did not answer.

The new poll was conducted for IINC by Public Opinion Strategies September 21st – 24th with a margin of error of 3.46 percent.

“Only the homeowner will know if they have done substantial renovation work that requires an increase in insurance limits,” said IINC Executive Director Candysse Miller. “Year after year, our independent surveys have confirmed that Californians understand that.”

Past surveys by IINC revealed that while as many as two-thirds of those surveyed said that homeowners have the primary responsibility to keep their insurance policies current, only about one-third had actually had read their homeowners policy in the past year.

“Financial preparedness is a key and sometimes overlooked part of disaster readiness,” Miller said. “It may sound like a chore, but understanding your insurance coverage is a critical step in protecting your home and assets.”

IINC offers a number of free Web-based tools to help consumers track and evaluate their insurance and finances, including software to create a home inventory, track financial goals and create a wallet-sized insurance information card. For more information, visit the IINC Web site at

IINC is a non-profit, non-lobbying association dedicated to helping the public understand insurance and manage risk.

Insurance Information Network of California
Media Relations, 800-397-1679

Posted : Mon, 20 Oct 2008 18:57:26 GMT
Author : CA-IINC
Category : Press Release
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