Going online has become part of everyday life, whether it is for everyday activities such as shopping, sending email or paying bills, and managing your accounts. But data breaches, in all their forms, can potentially expose the personal information that we share online, putting consumers at risk of identity theft.
According to the Consumer Risk Index, 57% of Americans worry about online identity theft. Fortunately, there are steps that consumers can take, including not opening unsolicited emails and avoiding unsecure websites, to protect their personal information while online.
The following tips can help you learn how to help stay safe online:
Emails and Attachments
General Online Safety
Is Your Home Insured to Its Replacement Cost?
If you lost your home in a fire, how much would it cost to rebuild it? The answer may be different than you think. And if your home isn’t insured to its full replacement cost, your homeowners policy may not cover the full cost for you to rebuild it in the event of a covered loss.
Rebuilding costs could differ from what you paid for your home and be more than its current market value what it would sell for today – especially in areas where the value of real estate has changed. A replacement estimate includes costs to rebuild your home component by component. Current costs for labor, materials and contractor fees may influence the replacement cost of your house.
Some key factors that affect the cost of rebuilding a home:
We are an insurance company that cares. We help you get the coverage that meets your needs to help protect the things that are important to you, so you don’t have to worry.
It’s important to have a current estimate for your home’s replacement cost, one that reflects any significant improvements that you have made to the house. For example, if you installed a central air conditioner or finished your basement after you took out your insurance policy and never updated the replacement cost, your home might not be fully covered in the event that you need to completely rebuild following a covered loss.
Here are some steps that you can take:
Making sure that your home is insured to its full estimated replacement cost is another way to help protect your home and the things you’ve worked hard to build.
Learn more about our homeowners insurance products, or if you’re ready to take the next step, click here to get a quote or find an agent.
In 2014, criminals committed more than 8.2 million property crimes in the United States, of which nearly 21% were burglaries, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
With those types of statistics, it is no wonder home security systems are on people's minds. But in a world where technology seems to evolve every month, home security systems have ventured into new territory: smart alarms.
What Is a Smart Alarm System?
As recently as 10 years ago, consumers did not have access to technology that let them manage their own home security systems. Smart alarm systems changed that. Originally, traditional security systems were hardwired into the home and monitored by a central station, usually a home alarm company. The customer paid monthly fees.
Fast forward and today, consumers have smartphones, home networks and wireless technology—all of which the smart alarm system can utilize. People can buy door sensors to detect if someone is outside or door locks that can be monitored and potentially controlled from one's cell phone.
In essence, smart alarm systems may be able to empower the customer to build their own network of security while retaining control, usually through their cell phones.
What Are the Benefits?More and more homeowners are installing their own smart alarm systems. The benefits are many, including:
What Are the Challenges?
One of the challenges smart alarm systems pose to the consumer is the risk of being hacked. Improper home network configurations, flaws in the devices or password compromise could allow a hacker to break into the system and determine if anyone is home, or even seize control.
Homeowners can take these three precautions to help prevent hackers from accessing their smart alarm systems:
Additionally, recognize that your entire system may not be designed to function during a power outage. To help ensure that your system continues to function during a power outage, if you do not have an automatically starting generator, consider employing sufficient battery back-up to power the Wi-Fi system, control panel and all the security monitoring equipment.
Consumer access to smart technology goes well beyond home security, enabling consumers to manage and monitor many aspects of home ownership, such as water-leak detection, loss of building heat, the ability to open or close garage doors remotely and the ability to turn on or off small appliances or lights.
Whatever technology you are planning to use to monitor or control aspects of your home, Travelers professionals emphasize reaching out to an organization or individual with expertise in smart home technology for help.
If you're working on your home or putting on a new roof, consider renovating to FORTIFIED standards.
Developed by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), FORTIFIED Home™ construction practices are designed to help homeowners and communities better weather future storms, including hurricanes, high winds, hail and severe thunderstorms. Building codes set a minimum standard for construction techniques and materials.
Building FORTIFIED means exceeding those requirements.
The goal of building FORTIFIED is to take action today to make homes and communities more resilient to natural disasters tomorrow. Using data from more than 20 years of storm damage, IBHS created a set of standards for new and existing construction that can be affordable and can be incorporated into your home’s building design.
Travelers Insurance allows you to customize your coverage to fit your unique needs. We focus on understanding you, so you'll feel right at home working with us.
Three Levels of FORTIFIED Home Designations
Adding Value and Safety
After a certified, third-party evaluator verifies that the home meets FORTIFIED standards, you receive a certificate and a unique ID number valid for five years. The FORTIFIED designation helps show you have made consistent and defined structural updates to your home.
To learn more, visit the IBHS website.
Learn more about Calfee homeowners insurance products, or if you’re ready to take the next step, click here to get a quote.
For many, the winter holidays are a time of joy, celebration and tradition. Decorating your home, yard or office is a fun, festive way to celebrate the season. A little planning can help you enjoy your display all season long. Following are some tips ask Calfee Insurance to help keep your family and friends safe around your decorative displays.
Planning your Holiday Display
During the Holidays
Packing and Storage
If the water supply lines on your washing machine fail, it can cause significant damage to your home. If that leak goes undetected because you are away from home, the accumulated water can cause potentially catastrophic damage.
From moldy walls, to damaged, unreplaceable personal belongings to warped floorboards, virtually every surface in your home is exposed to potential water damage. The smart technology in water-sensor systems can help quickly alert homeowners of potential leaks and prevent the need for costly and time-consuming repairs.
Water damage is a common and costly cause of loss in the home. Today, smart home technology is helping consumers manage their personal risks. In addition to potentially mitigating serious damage, water sensors can also help a homeowner avoid the loss of personal possessions and the hassle of coordinating disruptive repairs to their home.
How Do Water Sensors Work?
Water sensors detect the presence of water and, when placed in locations where water should not be present, a leak. When Wi-Fi is enabled, the sensor can send out a notification to the homeowner through a smartphone app. If the homeowner will be out of town, family members, friends or other caretakers can be designated to receive notification of a leak, so they can act quickly to help prevent further damage.
Some water-sensor systems can be programmed to shut off the water to the house to help prevent a small leak from becoming a large one. If your home is heated by an older steam-heating system, or if it’s protected by an automatic fire sprinkler system, check with a qualified professional before installing sensor-activated water shut-off devices.
Where Should Water Sensors Be Placed?
It’s a good idea to place water sensors in areas where water damage inside the home can occur, often without warning. Those areas include: washing machines, hot water heaters (they may fail), dishwashers (they may leak), supply lines to automatic ice makers (they may be damaged) and toilets (they may overflow). Performing regular maintenance and visually checking for rusty, corroded, worn or damaged water supply lines and valves and other potential problems before you have a leak is one of the best ways to help prevent water damage.
You might want to install water sensors in areas near:
As a homeowner, you have a lot to think about when it comes to taking care of your home. But one thing you may not have considered is how water-connected appliances and systems can lead to water damage. Learn how to proactively defend against potential water issues. Just a few simple tasks can help you come home happy.
9 Home Areas to Keep an Eye on for Water Issues:
1. Refrigerator Water Supply Line
Look for kinks, cracks, and other signs of wear and tear in the water supply line. If you move your refrigerator to inspect the supply line, be careful not to damage or kink the line when you put it back into place.
2. Water Heater
Corrosion on the external pipe on the tank could be a sign of internal problems. Look for crystal-like deposits that may be white, blue, or green. And remember, water heaters don’t last forever. Check the manufacturer’s warranty for guidance about the lifespan of your water heater.
3. Main Water Shut-off Valve
In the event of a sudden water leak, the main shut-off valve can stop the flow of water to your home and help mitigate resulting damage. Take a minute to locate your main water valve before there’s an issue, and flag it with tape or a tag to help people spot it.
4. Sink Fittings and Connections
If you notice a drip or signs of a leak or other potential plumbing problems, immediately call a professional. To be alerted early to signs of a leak, install a smart water sensor under your sink.
5. Caulking Around Your Tub/Shower
Caulking used to seal the perimeter of a tub or shower can fail over time. Look for cracks, missing caulking or other signs of wear and tear. Regularly check sealants to ensure they are properly sealing against unwanted water intrusion.
6. Inside Your Toilet Tank
Look for corrosion, degradation or discoloration. Some cleaning products that can be added to the tank can prematurely degrade the components. Regularly check the components in your toilet tank. If they show signs of wear and tear, replace them.
7. Washing Machine Supply Lines
Supply lines are made of rubber or braided stainless steel. A cracked line could not just lead to damage to the room where the leak occurred, but also to the floor below. Turn off water supply, whether your washer is on an upper floor or in the basement, when you’re not running the machine.
8. Sump Pump
To test your sump pump to see if it’s functioning properly, pour water into the sump (pit) to make sure the pump kicks on. The float inside the sump will begin to rise with the water and activate the pump, an indication that it’s working.
9. Central Air Conditioning Unit Drain Pan
Extreme temperatures in an attic can cause plastic drain pans to crack and leak. An overflow sensor switch in the pan will shut off the air conditioning system if the pan is full. A leaking pan or malfunctioning sensor can lead to a bigger issue. Check the drain pan and test the overflow sensor switch regularly.
While you’re taking steps to help protect your home from a non-weather water disaster, it’s also a good time to make sure you’ve got the appropriate insurance coverage. Contact your local agent to review and update your homeowners insurance coverage.
If you’re a homeowner, you may be surprised to learn that the bulk of water damage to a home isn’t due to natural disasters or flooding. It’s actually due to unchecked plumbing issues that lurk on the property — things like slow leaks, corroded pipes, and degraded valves and supply lines. Even your water make-up can be a culprit.
Fortunately, many of these issues are preventable with some basic, proactive home maintenance.
Do you want to reduce the chances of water damage in your house? Here are some home maintenance tips that risk control specialists recommend:
1. Locate your main water shutoff valve and learn how to turn it on and off
Knowing how to turn off your main water valve is critical in the event of a burst pipe or other water emergency. In many homes, the valve is located on an exterior wall of the home, in the garage, or in the basement. If you have a public water supply, the main water valve is typically on the street-side of your home. For homeowners who have wells, the main water valve will most likely be located on the same side of the house as your well. Typically, to turn off the main water valve, you simply turn the valve handle clockwise until it stops. Closing the valve should shut off all water supply into your home in the event of a leak, or if a repair is needed.
2. Have your plumbing systems professionally inspected
If you’re unfamiliar with your plumbing system or have concerns about it, have a licensed plumber inspect it for any issues (or signs of impending ones). One good tip is to ask the plumber to tag your main water valve — as well as any other important plumbing valves — for example, with a red flag or piece of tape. This can help you locate them more quickly in an emergency.
3. Visually inspect your pipes regularly
You don’t have to be a professional plumber to recognize potential problems with your pipes. It’s a good idea to regularly walk through your home to take a closer look at any exposed pipes, fittings, valves and supply lines you can see.
You’ll want to look for signs of damage. These can include things like:
4. Watch for evidence of slow or weeping leaks
Not all leaks are obvious. In fact, slow leaks can be some of the most insidious, as they’re often very difficult to spot before a larger problem occurs. Routinely check your appliances, such as your washing machine, dishwasher, or even fixtures, and the area around your appliances for signs of leaks.
Look in cabinets and areas that have pipes connecting to appliances or fixtures (under the kitchen sink, for example) for telltale signs. Is there discoloration or damage on the wood below a pipe or fitting? Is the paint peeling? These environmental signs could point to a slow leak.
5. Tag or label any items you replace or repair
If you do end up having a licensed plumber replace a part or make a repair, be sure to label the item with the date it was replaced or repaired and keep records of the work done. Plumbing fixtures have a set lifespan and knowing when you last replaced or repaired a part can help you plan ahead for a maintenance check of that fixture.
6. Have your water tested
The chemical make-up of your water can lead to corrosion. Mineral content, pH, and chlorides are examples of water characteristics that should be measured and controlled to prevent issues with your plumbing system. This is especially important if you own a well. Consider having your water tested and treated, if necessary, by a certified professional to help guard against an often-overlooked threat to your home’s plumbing.
7. Inspect and replace toilet supply lines and valves proactively
Just as you inspect your exposed pipes, you should also check your toilet supply lines and valves regularly. Make sure the supply hoses going to and from your toilets are in good condition and consider replacing them if they have signs of wear and tear or are more than a few years old. Read the installation instructions carefully and do not overtighten connections. Many of these products are installed hand-tight only, which means don’t use a wrench. You should also open your toilet tank and evaluate the flushing valve for signs of degradation, including crazing, cracking, or discoloration of plastic components.
More Ways to Protect Your Home
Technology has made water loss prevention easier than ever. There are now “smart” water leak detectors and sensors you can install near or around your appliances and connection points that can alert users of leaks in their earliest stages.
These water leak detectors come in both DIY and professionally installed options, so there’s likely something for every budget and capability.
Finally, having the right amount of homeowners insurance coverage is also an important step toward protecting yourself from the potentially devastating costs of water damage. If you are not sure if your home and belongings are covered in the event of non-weather water damage, reach out to your agent or representative today. Calfee Insurance is here to help.
Do you know where most home fires start?
If you guessed the kitchen, you’re right. One of the most popular rooms in the house also has the potential for danger.
But a few simple habits can help prevent damaging fires from ever starting in the first place.
To find a little more peace of mind this season, here are four ways to make your home safer.
1. Don’t walk away from an active stove.
Unattended cooking is a leading cause of kitchen fires. If you need to leave while frying, grilling or broiling, make sure to turn your stove off first. It’s easy to lose track of time when you step away to answer the door or check on the kids, and it doesn’t take long for trouble to start.
2. Keep clutter under control.
It’s not uncommon for kitchen counters to get loaded up with stuff. Make it a priority to clear your kitchen countertops of anything flammable, such as wooden utensils, papers and dish towels, especially around the stove.
3. Use space heaters, fireplaces and woodburning stoves safely.
If you use a space heater during colder months, consider replacing older models with one designed to turn off if it tips over. Position space heaters with a 3-foot distance from everything else and always turn them off before you leave the house or go to sleep.
If your home has a fireplace or wood-burning stove, have it inspected annually by a professional. Use a mesh screen to keep sparks inside the fireplace.
4. Practice candle safety.
As with a stove, a lit candle is an active fire that you shouldn’t leave unattended. Blow out candles before leaving a room and keep burning candles on level surfaces and away from flammable objects, young children and pets.
Have questions about your insurance coverage? Reach out and we’ll be happy to help.
What’s your biggest challenge at home? For many of us, it’s a lack of space.
So how can you carve out an extra bedroom, a home office or a study nook for a school-age child? The answer may not be as out-of-reach as you think.
Here are four solutions for a range of spaces and budgets.
1. Transform the Garage
Are you wishing for a home gym, an artist’s cottage, an office, a family room, an in-law suite or a rental apartment? Your garage may be the answer.
Both attached and unattached garages can be converted into an extra room. To get started, research local building codes and zoning ordinances. If you belong to an HOA, you’ll need to check their rules, too. If you’re doing more than small cosmetic changes, it’s also a good idea to consult with a professional architect, engineer and contractor.
2. Consider a Prefab Shed
Modern and inviting, a prefab shed is an easy way to add a room if you don’t have a garage to work with. And unlike with a garage remodel, you may not need a permit for installation.
3. Convert the Attic or Basement
As with a garage, an attic or basement could be remodeled into an inviting living space for a variety of uses. Consider adding a half-bath and/or kitchenette if you have the budget and want to create an in-law suite or apartment.
4. The “No-Remodel” Option
Finally, there are less expensive and invasive ways to create more space in your home. With more people working remotely, closet offices have become popular. Scan your space for any closets and corners where clutter has accumulated. How could these nooks be put to better use?
Have questions about your insurance coverage? Is there anything else we can help with? Reach out anytime.