Tips for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday

Fast on the heels of Thanksgiving Thursday comes Frenetic Friday, better known as Black Friday – the busiest retail shopping day of the year. If throwing yourself into the fray is how you choose to work off your Thanksgiving calories, we have some tips to make the best of it (below), as well as a few shopping safety reminders. But if you’d rather pull out your fingernails one by one than brave the bargain-hunting hordes, you can choose to celebrate the day as Buy Nothing Day. Whether you choose to buy nothing out of conviction or laziness, it’s a good day to practice the fine art of relaxation with friends and family.

But Friday is just the start. What began as a single shopping day has spawned a series of themed days.

  • Saturday is the 10th annual Small Business Saturday – and we really like that idea. It’s less crowded and crazy and it focuses on small local businesses in your home community. Small businesses are the lifeblood and personality of every community so we encourage you to get out and support your neighbors. Find a Small Business near you.
  • Cyber Monday is a huge online shopping day. A little know alternate name for the day is Low Productivity Monday because employees everywhere are surreptitiously shopping for deals at their desks.
  • Our favorite day is Giving Tuesday, December 03, 2019, a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world on December 3, 2019 and every day. It was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good, and since its founding, it has raised more than $1 billion in online donations in the U.S. alone. If you’d like to give something back after all that shopping, search for an organization near you to help you find organizations, events, and ways to give back in your own community. The Better Business Bureau has some Giving Tuesday tips to ensure you don’t fall for fake charities:

If you plan to shop online or off over the holiday weekend, here are a few pointers for getting the most out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

And a few tips to be safe and secure while shopping:

  • Keep packages out of site in your car. Lock them in your trunk and keep car doors locked
  • Be aware of your purse and wallet at all times – pickpockets love crowds. If you can, avoid a purse or wallet entirely and store phone, cash, credit cards and IDs in a secure inner pocket.
  • Carry only the money and credit cards you need. Don’t flash cash.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Thieves and con-artists specialize in distraction techniques.
  • Don’t overload yourself with packages and impair your awareness, mobility or vision – take some to the car.
  • Remember where you parked your car. Have your keys ready and be alert for strangers when you approach it.
  • Shop with a friend or family member, particularly at night. There’s safety in numbers.

Here are a few safe online shopping tips:

  • Update your web security, anti-virus and malware detection programs snf be sure your firewall is on.
  • Be on alert for email phishing offers, the spoofed mails look authentic. Don’t click the link, type in the website.
  • Purchase only in a secure environment – check for “https” in the address in your web browser – the “s” stands for “secure” – never conduct a transaction without it.
  • Public Wi-Fi is not secure so avoid doing banking and transactions that would expose your credit cards, passwords, or personal info.
  • Update your passwords before shopping. Create unique passwords for each site.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for “free” gift offers and contests from unknown sites.
  • Don’t give away any personal information or credit card numbers to anyone you don’t know.

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Turkey terror: When wildlife attacks

Here in New England, this is a season when drivers have to be on the alert for wildlife. October to November is peak season for deer-animal collisions. Your normal odds of a ruminant-related collision claim is about 1 in 169, but the likelihood rises in this season – particularly at dawn and dusk. The Insurance Information Institute offers good tips on avoiding a deer-car collision, and advises that you think about including Comprehensive Coverage on your auto policy if you don’t already have it.

But there’s no safety in being a pedestrian, either – wild turkeys band together to brazenly terrorize cities and towns. Right now there’s a huge flock of birds behaving badly and taking over a New Jersey town.

This is a good news bad news story. A few decades ago, the US wild turkey population was dangerously dwindling. The good news is, the wild turkeys are back. And the bad news is the wild turkeys are back. When they are in the wild, they are fearful of humans – but when they get used to us, watch out. They can be very aggressive and chase people down. They are a particular threat to kids and the elderly, but grown adults are intimidated by 25-30 lb. birds that run at 15-20 mph, fly in short spurts and sport sharp talons and beaks. The best advice we’ve heard is that if turkeys adopt your neighborhood, when taking walks, carry an umbrella which you can open and close to look bigger in a show of dominance they might understand.

For your seasonal amusement, we bring you some clips of turkey terror. But be warned, there may be a bit of cussing.

For some reason, they are particularly aggressive to mail carriers

Here’s an overly dramatic but amusing compilation…

Here’s a good example why you should NEVER feed turkeys.


For more turkeys, see our prior post Real Life Angry Birds.

And geese are no better ….

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Thanksgiving on the road: best driving times & tips

Will your Thanksgiving festivities entail traveling 50 miles or more? If so, you’ll be joining 55 million other folks, according to AAA, who predicts this will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since they began tracking in 2000, trailing only the record set in 2005. That’s up by about a million over last year. Of those travelers, 49.3 will be motorists.

If you will be driving to your destination, try to get your car checked now. Be sure to check windshield wipers and fluid, tire pressure and oil and gas levels. AAA predicts they will respond to 368,000 calls for roadside assistance over the holiday, with the top three reasons being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. In addition to car maintenance, Gas Buddy will help you find the best gas prices wherever you are – and you can plan out expenses in advance using their Trip Cost Calculator. If you will be driving in states beyond your home state, brush up on traffic laws with the AAA Digest of Motorist Laws. This handy tool covers everything: headline use, distracted and impaired driving laws, accident reporting and more.

Best times for Thanksgiving road travel

If you’ll be on the road, AAA says that in the Boston metro area, avoid traveling between 4:30-6:30 PM. Google offers tools that might help you avoid the worst traffic times. Below, see the heaviest times mapped for major metro areas (click above link for larger). You can also use their calculator for avoiding traffic – enter the major metro departure city for various days to see predicted traffic patterns based on prior years.

chart illustrating worst traffic over Thanksgiving weekend
Here are some other safe Thanksgiving traveling tips:

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

What’s an insurance rider?

Every industry has its own business jargon and insurance is certainly no exception … in fact, we may have more than our fair share, and a lot of lingo can be quite confusing to the average person. One question that we get on the regular is “what’s an insurance rider?”

An “insurance rider” is more commonly known as an “endorsement,” a term which might also be confusing! The concept is actually pretty simple: an optional, written addendum to a basic insurance policy that modifies the terms of the insurance contract in some way.

Generally, an endorsement would be added to protect the insured by expanding or limiting the coverage in some defined manner. An endorsement or rider can occur at the start of a policy or can be added midterm. Depending on whether you are adding or limiting your coverage with the endorsement, it may have an impact on your premium

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is a great source of education on this and other insurance matters. See: What is an Insurance Endorsement or Rider? They offer this definition and explanation for how endorsements work:

An endorsement, also known as a rider, adds, deletes, excludes or changes insurance coverage. An endorsement/rider can also be used to increase standard limits of coverage and take precedent over the original agreement or policy.

An insurance endorsement/rider is an amendment to an existing insurance contract that changes the terms of the original policy. An endorsement/rider can be issued at the time of purchase, mid-term or at renewal time. Insurance premiums may be affected and adjusted as a result.

You can have an endorsement/rider on your homeowners and renters policy, life insurance and auto insurance policies. It can include adding or deleting people and locations to your current insurance policy. Endorsements/riders are important because they address issues or items not in the original contract or policy.

  • Additional Coverage – An endorsement that adds or includes coverage that would otherwise be excluded.

  • Exclusions – Some endorsements exclude coverage for certain types of claims.

  • Modification of Coverage – An endorsement can expand the scope of existing coverage.

Examples: for a standard homeowners policy, common endorsements might include coverage for a home business, coverage for damage incurred during natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods or windstorms, coverage for property’s replacement value rather than cash value or – as discussed in a prior post – an endorsement might expand coverage limits for valuables.

A specific endorsement may not be available from every insurer or in every state. A good insurance agent will likely inform you of any common policy options, but when discussing a specific type of insurance with your agent, ask if there are any options that would expand your coverage.

NAIC offers the reminder that because a rider/endorsement is part of the legal terms of your policy, be sure to keep a copy with the policy.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Last-Minute Halloween Liability Issues

Halloween is scary enough, we don’t mean to add to your fright, but if you are a homeowner or an apartment dweller, there are some safety precautions you should take to greet the little ghosts and goblins who will be ringing your bell or roaming the streets.

A few years ago, Christopher Boggs wrote a great Guide to Homeowners Liability for Injury to Trick or Treaters. He notes:

When the porch light is on, trick-or-treaters are considered invitees; the homeowner is inviting them onto the property (though not for a mutual benefit). Because of this relationship, the homeowner owes the candy seekers the level of “reasonable” care that falls under Ordinary Negligence.

Now anytime you have anyone visit your home, they could suffer an injury or an accident – that’s why you have insurance. But on Halloween, a steady stream of small feet traipsing across your porch in the dark increases the risk. Plus, you are giving out food.

Here are some tips to minimize Halloween hazards and reduce your risk.

  • Keep porches and walkways well-lit and free of debris and clutter that might be tripping hazards
  • Put reflective tape on your steps and along your walkway
  • When decorating, avoid candles – use LED lights and battery-powered lights instead.
  • Keep pets away from kids to avoid bites, scares or allergic reactions. Even friendly pets can be overexcited or upset by the unusual activity and may be skittish or overly protective.
  • Avoid mystery treats. Distribute labeled treats and tell parents what they are and if they contain nuts.
  • Provide alternative allergy-free treats – consider small non-food trinkets.
  • Be cautious about any spooky pranks for kids or guests – make sure they are safe and not too scary to young children.
  • If you are hosting an adult party, you have particular responsibility to take care in the serving of alcoholic beverages. See our post on holiday parties and liability issues.
  • If you are driving any time on Halloween, be super cautious. Little monsters may be out at any hour and frequenting normally quiet neighborhoods. Be particularly cautious at dusk an early evening.

Protect your home and car too!

Halloween is a huge night for vandalism. Here are a few tips to protect your property from fire, theft and vandalism.

    • Don’t overload electrical circuits with lights.
    • Paper and dried plant decorations can easily ignite. Keep them away from flames, lights, and electrical cords.
    • Lock up bicycles, gas grills and other outdoor valuables.
    • Park your car in a garage, if possible. Mischief makers may egg your house or car.
    • If you don’t have shelter for your car, consider stopping at the car wash for a coat of wax that may offer some protection.
    • If you are out trick or treating with your kids or partying with your peers, make your home looks occupied. Leave lights and the TV on.
    • Doorbell cams and motion activated lights can offer added protection.
    • If your car or home is egged, deal with it right away that night or in the morning before damage can set in. See How to Remove Egg Stains From Your Car’s Paint Job and 4 Ways to Wash Egg off your home

    Call your agent

    If you should suffer any damage to your property or have any accidents during Halloween weekend, file a claim as soon as possible to get the claim process in motion. Be ready with the details of where and when the event occurred, along with the names and addresses of any injured parties or witnesses to the event. If there is damage to your property, report it to the police, take photos, and record the details so you won’t forget them later.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Spooktacular guide to Halloween events in New England

It’s time to get your ghoul on! Between now and early November, there’s no shortage of spooky, haunted happenings to scare and delight you. We’ve selected a variety of haunted events and spooky places to help you enjoy the season over the next week. What’s the Weather Forecast for Halloween? Here’s the Farmers’ Almanac Prediction.

But remember – there’s one spooky place you want to avoid on Halloween at all costs!

New England Halloween Happenings

Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Jack O’Lantern Spectacular – from Zipline rides to Family Fun Nights, come enjoy thousands of carved pumpkins. Providence, RI

Sturbridge Village, The Legend of Sleep Hollow – “Recognized as one of the country’s top five Halloween plays, The Sleepy Hollow Experience is an immersive, outdoor theatrical experience that reimagines Washington Irving’s iconic 1820’s tale.

The Haunted Graveyard, Bristol CT– At dusk, take a terrifying 1 mile journey through darkly glittering catacombs to an eerie graveyard, to a vampire’s haunt, to a witch’s lair, then onto a misty lake and an ancient temple.

Haunted Happenings in Salem MA – What better place to experience Halloween than the city of the witch trials? There are a variety of events to choose from – this site says:“A festive celebration of Halloween and fall in New England. From the Grand Parade and Family Film Nights on Salem Common, to ghost tours, haunted houses and so much more.” Get an event calendar, a free guide & more.

Portsmouth NH Halloween Parade 10/31 – in its 25th year, this grassroots, all-inclusive celebration of community, creativity and free expression walks, stalks, dances, trumpets and drums its way through downtown Portsmouth.

Spooky World – Spooky World presents Nightmare New England and the Haunted Hayride. It is New England’s largest haunted attraction. (Litchfield, NH)

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Spooktacular guide to Halloween events in New England and South Florida

It’s time to get your ghoul on! Between now and early November, there’s no shortage of spooky, haunted happenings to scare and delight you. We’ve selected a variety of haunted events and spooky places to help you enjoy the season over the next week. What’s the Weather Forecast for Halloween? Here’s the Farmers’ Almanac Prediction.

But remember – there’s one spooky place you want to avoid on Halloween at all costs!

New England Halloween Happenings

Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Jack O’Lantern Spectacular – from Zipline rides to Family Fun Nights, come enjoy thousands of carved pumpkins. Providence, RI

Sturbridge Village, The Legend of Sleep Hollow – “Recognized as one of the country’s top five Halloween plays, The Sleepy Hollow Experience is an immersive, outdoor theatrical experience that reimagines Washington Irving’s iconic 1820’s tale.

The Haunted Graveyard, Bristol CT– At dusk, take a terrifying 1 mile journey through darkly glittering catacombs to an eerie graveyard, to a vampire’s haunt, to a witch’s lair, then onto a misty lake and an ancient temple.

Haunted Happenings in Salem MA – What better place to experience Halloween than the city of the witch trials? There are a variety of events to choose from – this site says:“A festive celebration of Halloween and fall in New England. From the Grand Parade and Family Film Nights on Salem Common, to ghost tours, haunted houses and so much more.” Get an event calendar, a free guide & more.

Portsmouth NH Halloween Parade 10/31 – in its 25th year, this grassroots, all-inclusive celebration of community, creativity and free expression walks, stalks, dances, trumpets and drums its way through downtown Portsmouth.

Spooky World – Spooky World presents Nightmare New England and the Haunted Hayride. It is New England’s largest haunted attraction.Litchfield NH

Halloween happenings in Miami and south Florida

Zoo Boo – families and kids under 12 can trick or treat in costume, see wild animals get their Halloween goodies and more at the Miami Zoo.

Coconut Grove Pumpkin Patch Festival 10/26 and 10/27 – Pumpkins, Cornstalk Maze, Carnival rides, Scarecoew Village and more.

Howl-O-Ween at Pinecrest Gardens 10/27 – four-legged ghouls and their scary human companions enjoy a costume contest, a Doggie Fun Zone Agility course, food, drinks, live entertainment, a spooky Kids’ Zone and pumpkin patch.

3rd Annual Spooky Science Monster Mash, Frost Museum of Science 10/27 – Get ready for Halloween with a new chemistry potions show, Into the Cauldron; view underwater aquarium pumpkin carving., have a live animal encounter with one of our owls. Be spellbound as you discover how fun science can be!

Monster Splash Halloween Bash – Miami Seaquarium – through 10/31

Halloween on Lincoln Road 10/31 – 11/1 – Attracting over 50,000 participants each year, the landmark celebration is world famous for its spontaneous parades of the most creative and outrageous costumes.

South Miami Safe Streets Halloween Block Party 10/31 – Enjoy a visit from Scooby Doo, free candy, games, prizes, music, inflatables, and much more!

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

How to avoid rogue tow truck scams

Bad enough if you are in an auto accident – that’s stressful enough. You might be injured or at the very least, shaken up. Suddenly a tow truck appears on the scene saying they are from your insurance company. While that might seem like lucky timing, it should actually raise your suspicions. High pressure tactics from rogue tow truck operators can lead to exorbitant towing and storage fees or your car being taken to a body shop that is in league with the tower. The National Insurance Crime Bureau recently released a public service announcement to raise awareness about rogue tow truck operators and how to avoid becoming a victim.

NCIB offers these tips:

  • Never give permission to a tow truck operator who arrives unsolicited to take your vehicle.
  • If you or law enforcement did not call a tow truck to the scene, do not deal with that operator.
  • Do not provide tow truck operators with your insurance information.
  • Do not provide tow truck operators with personal lien holder information.
  • Determine that the tow truck signage is identical to what appears on any documentation the tow truck operator provides (they may say they “work with” your insurance company).
  • If the tow truck does not display signage identifying the name of the tow company, ask for company identification.
  • If a tow operator’s legitimacy is in doubt, call the police.
  • Do not give a tow truck operator permission to tow your vehicle until they:
    –Provide a printed price list, to include daily storage fees and miscellaneous charges that will apply if they tow your car (if the prices seem too high, ask the police or your insurance company to call a towing service for you).
    –Provide printed documentation indicating where the vehicle is being towed if it is not a location of your choosing.

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud offers more information on tow truck cons and scams, as well as extensive tips to for what to expect and what your rights are.

Check out the full article but here are a few tips from their list:

Think ahead: Join an emergency road service club or organization such as AAA. Also know your auto insurer’s roadside assistance program, with the tollfree number printed on your insurance card. They’ll set you up with reputable towing firms and repair shops.

Photos. Take a photo of the scene, including the tow truck. Use your cell phone or a disposable camera stored in your glove compartment.

Complain. File complaints if you’re scammed. Contact your insurer, state insurance department, local Better Business Bureau and the police.

Know your rights. State laws protect you if your vehicle is towed while you were away, such as while shopping. Confirm and complain if you suspect violations of these rules in most states:

  • The property owner or manager of a business that had your vehicle towed must be at the scene and sign the towing authorization in most states;
  • The operator must leave a small sign at the scene. It should have the firm’s name, address, phone, reason for towing, and who requested the tow;
  • Towing firms must take a photo of your vehicle in the “illegal” spot and notify the local police department to ensure the car is not classified as stolen. Get the photos from the towing firm (though expect a fee); and
  • The towing operator must release your vehicle if you will not or cannot pay the requested towing free. This is true in most states, and then becomes a matter for civil courts.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Focus on Phishing: Take these quizzes to see if you are smarter than the criminals

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the time of year when cybersecurity experts from government, academia and industry remind us of the importance of safeguarding our digital information and reviewing our online safety practices.

One of the most common ways that crooks and criminals get your personal financial data is through phishing. Phishing is using email spoofing and other tricks to get you to give up personal info or click to a dangerous website that might expose you to a virus or a computer hijack. Never ever click on links or download things from a stranger!

But don’t just worry about bad emails from strangers – worry about bad emails from people and brands you trust. Many of the big brands we use everyday – Microsoft, Netflix, PayPal, Amazon, Apple – are regularly spoofed and we are tricked into clicking when we see messages like “your account is being disabled” or “thanks for your recent purchase” when you hadn’t made one. Or from a friend or family member, emails saying “this is a riot – click here” or a boss saying “We need your bank credentials for direct deposit.” If something seems off or strange or odd, it probably is. It’s better to be safe and not sorry so double check if you have doubt. Phishers are good at gaining our trust or exploiting our fears.

It’s vital to learn about how to avoid being caught by a phisher. We’ve assembled some quizzes to give you practice. But be warned, these are pretty difficult. If you take the time, however, even wrong answers will teach you something about what to look for and how to spot a fake.

Our top tips for avoiding phishing scams

  • Don’t click any links or download anything from a sender you don’t know or trust. It’s always worth double-checking. If it’s a web link from your bank, instead of clicking, go to your bank website directly by typing in the Web address in your browser. If it’s a phone call, hang up and call your bank.
  • Get in the habit of hovering over links to see who the email is really coming from and where a link is actually sending you. Learn how. On a mobile device? It’s a little trickier but you can and should still learn the source of a link from someone you don’t know. Here’s how: How to Check Embedded Links on Your Mobile Device
  • Phishing emails often have poor grammar or spelling mistakes. That’s a big clue that it’s a fake.
  • Be suspicious of any email or phone calls that demand you take action right away or that threaten you. The IRS and Medicare don’t call or email to threaten you or demand money. Urgency and threats are hallmarks of fraud.
  • Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information. You should only communicate information such as credit card numbers or account information via a secure website or the telephone.
  • Always ensure that you’re using a secure website when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via your Web browser. Look for “https” in the URL. How Can I Tell If a Website Is Safe? Look For These 5 Signs
  • Consider installing a Web browser tool bar to help protect you from known fraudulent websites
  • Regularly log into your online accounts to ensure that all transactions are legitimate
  • Ensure that your browser is up to date and security patches applied
  • Always report “phishing” or “spoofed” e-mails to the following groups: forward the email to reportphishing@antiphishing.org; forward the email to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov; when forwarding spoofed messages, always include the entire original email with its original header information intact
  • Take extra precaution when traveling. Don’t login to financial sites when on a free, public Wi-Fi..

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

Fall is time to batten down the hatches before old man winter comes to call. Depending on where you live in the country, your maintenance may vary a bit. While snow can happen in all 50 states, in some states it’s pretty darn rare. Louisiana, Florida and Hawaii are the least likely states to get snow, while New York, Wyoming and Vermont top the list – check your state. But surprise storms do occur, even in the south. And the toll that winter takes on your house and yard isn’t limited to snow: winter cold snaps, freezing rain, harsh winds, hail and ice can also cause damage so it’s good to prepare now while the weather is mild. And don’t forget that hurricane season continues through November!

Check out our prior post on Winterizing: Money saving ideas for heating your home – something to think about over the autumn months. We’ve also compiled a checklist of other tasks to tackle before the colder weather sets in.

  • Have your furnace, heating and hot water system inspected and cleaned by a professional, This is important for oil-fired  to prevent puffback.
  • Inspect and clean chimneys and fireplaces.
  • Clean air ducts and vents.
  • Check and replace air filters and reverse ceiling fans.
  • Winterize water pipes.
  • Turn off exterior faucets and water sources.
  • Drain lawn irrigation systems.
  • Check roof and shingles and make any repairs.
  • Take steps to prevent ice dams
  • Clean gutters.
  • Check foundation, cellar and garage for gaps where critters could get in.
  • Insulate doors and windows to prevent drafts.
  • Test smoke and CO2 detectors; replace batteries.
  • Check and repair walkways, stairs, driveways.
  • Check and repair garage doors.
  • Clean outdoor pools and prep or cover for the winter.
  • Store or cover outdoor furniture and grills.
  • Bring in summer yard equipment.
  • Cover air conditioners.
  • Check and repair outdoor lighting.
  • Clean the clothes dryer to prevent fires.
  • Check and test winter equipment such as your snowblower.
  • Ensure you have shovels, sand, ice scrapers on hand.
  • Stock up on firewood if you have a fireplace or stove. Here are good tips for storing firewood.
  • Review your homeowners policy to understand what it covers. Have a talk with your independent insurance agent to address any gaps.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.