Posts in March 2015

5 cases of arson gone bad

Blog | 0 comments | by maria farfan

Bedeviled by sagging bank accounts and burdensome mortgages, some cash-strapped building owners try to burn their way out of debt. Lighting up spilled gasoline or interior gas lines seems like an easy answer. One flick of a match and the problem is solved.

Except that these are amateur arsonists and screw-ups. Natural gas and gasoline are volatile. When lit, they can ignite with more force than TNT. Instead of obediently burning down, buildings can explode with unforeseen impact.

The blast can kill the arsonists and wreck neighboring homes and businesses. Fire fighters and bystanders can be seriously injured.

Data on insurance arsons of buildings is in short supply, but anecdotally they remain a persistent crime regardless of the economy. Intentional residential fires in general, however, steadily hovered around 20,000 from 2003 to 2012. That’s the latest year for which federal data is available. Surprisingly, home arsons dipped slightly during the economy’s meltdown of 2007 to 2010.

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NYC Mayor: Someone May Have ‘Inappropriately’ Tapped Gas Line

Blog | 0 comments | by maria farfan

Someone may have improperly tapped a gas line before an explosion that leveled three apartment buildings and injured nearly two dozen people, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday, March 27, as firefighters soaked the still-smoldering buildings and police searched for at least two missing people.

“There is a possibility here that the gas line was inappropriately accessed internally” by people in one of the destroyed buildings, but officials need to get access to its basement to explore it further, de Blasio said.

The number of people injured in Thursday’s blast rose from 19 to 22, with four critically injured. Police were searching for at least two people: Nicholas Figueroa, a bowling alley worker who had been on a date at a sushi restaurant in the building where the destruction was centered, and Moises Lucon, a worker there. Authorities also were exploring whether a third person was unaccounted for, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.

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House introduces cyber security bill aimed at private-public cooperation

Blog | 0 comments | by maria farfan

The U.S. House of Representatives has introduced a bill that will make it easier for private sector organizations to disclose information about cybersecurity threats to government agencies without fear of backlash, reports the International Business Times.

The bipartisan legislation would allow companies to report hacking activity to a civilian organization instead of the Department of Defense or NSA, although data would be doubly “scrubbed” to eliminate personal details contained therein.

In addition, the measure offers expand liability protection so companies feel more willing to voluntarily provide information about hacking incidents without fear of being sued.

The bill will be put to a committee vote, and if successful, would move to a vote in the House of Representatives.  It’s expected to pass, even though critics have voiced numerous privacy concerns, such as heightened surveillance.

Democrats believe that they’ve addressed these concerns sufficiently, as the bill includes language forbidding the NSA from monitoring the activity of individual Americans. 

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Here’s what bad credit can mean for car insurance rates

Blog | 0 comments | by maria farfan

A bad credit history won’t just boost the cost of your car loan. It will probably jack up your car insurance premiums.

More than 90% of insurance companies consider credit history as one of the factors when setting car and home insurance rates.

Almost all states let insurers do this—except for California, Hawaii and Massachusetts, which ban the practice.

Insurers say loads of data show a connection between credit history and the filing of claims. People who pay their bills on time on average file fewer and less costly claims than those with a lot of late payments or delinquencies.

Insurance companies don’t consider the same credit score that lenders do. They look at a score designed specifically for them. The credit score used by lenders predicts your ability to repay a loan. An credit-based insurance score predicts whether you’ll file claims.

How much does bad credit increase your car insurance rates?

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Here's what bad credit can mean for car insurance rates

Blog | 0 comments | by maria farfan

A bad credit history won’t just boost the cost of your car loan. It will probably jack up your car insurance premiums.

More than 90% of insurance companies consider credit history as one of the factors when setting car and home insurance rates.

Almost all states let insurers do this—except for California, Hawaii and Massachusetts, which ban the practice.

Insurers say loads of data show a connection between credit history and the filing of claims. People who pay their bills on time on average file fewer and less costly claims than those with a lot of late payments or delinquencies.

Insurance companies don’t consider the same credit score that lenders do. They look at a score designed specifically for them. The credit score used by lenders predicts your ability to repay a loan. An credit-based insurance score predicts whether you’ll file claims.

How much does bad credit increase your car insurance rates?

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5 pay-as-you-drive car insurance myths

Blog | 0 comments | by maria farfan

Most of the top auto insurance companies have rolled out pay-as-you-drive policies in at least one state, and industry leaders expect the programs to refashion the car insurance market over the next several years.

But a good portion of consumers aren’t ready to hop on board despite the promise of car insurance discounts, and many aren’t sure exactly how the programs work, according to a CarInsurance.com survey.

In the poll of 2,000 adult drivers, 9% said they were already enrolled in a pay-as-you-drive insurance plan, also known as usage-based insurance. Half of drivers said they’d consider signing up, but 41% said they wouldn’t consider it.

Of the consumers reluctant to try pay-as-you-drive, 43% said they didn’t know enough about the options.

Pay-as-you-drive programs use technology to track mileage and certain driving habits. The voluntary programs offer possible car insurance discounts based on the collected data. Some insurers partner with communications services, such as General Motors’ OnStar program, to provide monitoring, but most provide free telematics devices for customers to plug into their vehicles.

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Cyber insurance in the spotlight: Senate mulling federal data breach protections

Blog | 0 comments | by maria farfan

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, held a hearing March 19 titled “Examining the Evolving Cyber Insurance Marketplace.” The hearing explored the growing cybersecurity risk insurance market and heard from experts about coverage, challenges, and opportunities in the industry and the impact on cybersecurity.

The March 19 event followed two previous hearings that were held last month on the same topic. The first one, “Building a More Secure Cyber Future: Examining Private Sector Experience with the NIST Framework,” examined the federal National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)’s partnership with the private sector to improve critical infrastructure cybersecurity. (NIST’s continuing role in cybersecurity was defined in the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2014.) The second hearing, “Getting It Right on Data Breach and Notification Legislation in the 114thCongress,” provided the Committee with more information to assist its efforts in drafting a federal data breach bill.

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Drunk Driver Ignition Locks Offer ‘Significant’ Benefits, Savings: Study

Blog | 0 comments | by maria farfan

Putting technology that prevents drunk drivers from starting a vehicle into every car and truck in the U.S. could save 59,000 lives and $343 million over 15 years, according to a University of Michigan study.

U-M’s Injury Center and Transportation Research Institute said in the study, released Thursday, that cost savings from widespread use of ignition interlock technology could outweigh the expense of the devices after three years.

“The sheer numbers of preventable fatalities and serious injuries were surprising,” Patrick Carter, an assistant professor in emergency medicine at U-M Medical School and the lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Our analysis clearly demonstrates the significant public health benefit and societal cost savings” with making the devices standard equipment in all new vehicles.

Current ignition interlock technology prevents a vehicle from being started if a driver’s breath registers a certain amount of alcohol. The devices have been around since the 1960s, and in recent years some states have mandated their use for convicted drunk drivers.

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Target Agrees to Pay $10 Million to Settle Consumers’ Data Breach Claims

Blog | 0 comments | by maria farfan

Target Corp has agreed to pay $10 million in a proposed settlement of a class-action lawsuit related to a huge 2013 data breach that consumers say compromised their personal financial information, court documents show.

Under the proposal, which requires federal court approval, Target will deposit the settlement amount into an interest bearing escrow account, to pay individual victims up to $10,000 in damages.

The claims will be submitted and processed primarily online through a dedicated website, according to the court documents.

The proposal also requires Target to adopt and implement data security measures such as appointing a chief information security officer and maintaining a written information security program.

“We are pleased to see the process moving forward and look forward to its resolution,” said Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder.

CBS News, which earlier reported the settlement, said a court hearing on the proposed settlement was set for Thursday in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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Home remodeling time: 9 things to know about insurance coverage

Blog | 0 comments | by maria farfan

As the weather improves, many homeowners start planning major remodeling or renovation projects. According to Statistic Brain, in the next two years 26% of homeowners plan a bathroom renovation or addition and 22% plan a kitchen renovation or addition.

I’ve been through five major remodeling projects, including rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy, and I’m planning a full kitchen remodel next year. I’ve learned a lot about the insurance coverage issues for the homeowner, the contractor and the subcontractors, and I’m sharing what I’ve learned

Some people hire a general contractor to manage the renovation process while others prefer to manage the project themselves. Some homeowners are willing to be do-it-yourselfers and actually do some tasks while hiring licensed subcontractors for plumbing and electrical work.

However you choose to remodel, keep this in mind: The homeowner, the general contractor and the subcontractors—plumbers and electricians, for example—all need insurance coverage.

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Here are the top 10 areas most at risk for wildfire damage

Blog | 0 comments | by maria farfan

Nearly 900,000 homes across 13 states in the western United States are at “very high” or “high” risk for wildfires, according to a new CoreLogic report. And the price to reconstruct those homes? More than $237 billion.

This value represents a considerable increase from the analytics and data provider’s 2013 report, which priced reconstruction costs for the at-risk homes at $189 billion.

The 2015 Wildfire Hazard Risk paper analyzes homes at risk for wildfire damage in 13 western U.S. states and assigns risk levels of “very high,” “high,” “moderate” and “low” to each property. Two additional categories, “urban” and “agriculture” designate homes of even lower risk, where a dense concentration of buildings or irrigated land are unlikely to enhance wildfires. Residences include single-family structures, mobile homes, duplexes, manufactured homes and other non-traditional dwellings.

California, Colorado and Texas have the largest number of properties designated “very high” risk, with a combined reconstruction value of $36 billion.

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10 things drivers have to pay for when they only have minimum liability insurance

Blog | 0 comments | by maria farfan

Opting for your state’s minimum liability car insurance may be fine if you only want to comply with the insurance laws required to get behind the wheel.

But you’ll have to buy more coverage, higher liability limits and comprehensive and collision insurance, if you want protection from other highway risks while safeguarding all your financial assets.

Here are 10 things that you may have to pay for with only a bare-bones policy:

1. Severe damage to others

The other driver or drivers can sue if you’re involved in a major accident. Found to be at fault and you could be responsible for all the expenses tied to the crash, from property damage to hospital costs. An insurer will pay up to your coverage limits, but the rest could be on you. Your savings, property and even wages may be targeted.

States have different liability minimums, but the Insurance Information Institute (III) says many are similar to New York’s, which break down like this:

  • $25,000 per injured person for bodily injury.
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