Hard Lesson Learned: A Hacker Victim’s Story

Since October of last year, I always try to have my phone’s ringer turned up if I am not working, and I’m much more adamant about picking up a phone call. Like many people, I?tended to silence my phone a lot because of the constant alarms and alerts. Well, if I would have heard and answered my phone on October 18, 2019,?I probably would have saved my future mother-in-law $1,000 by preventing scammers from gaining access to her PC. 

I had just gotten home from a college class, and had put my phone down while doing homework. It was ringing but I didn’t know it. When I finally checked my phone, I saw the missed calls and tried  calling my mother-in-law back, but she didn’t pick up. An hour went by before my fiancee finally called me frantic because her mom’s computer got hacked!

I rushed over to their house and immediately? saw the stress in her mom’s eyes. She had fallen victim?to a persuasive speech about her “critical computer problem.” She gave these people money to fix it without even realizing who they were or what the problem was.  

Immediately, I changed all of her settings to the strictest possible while making sure all access to the computer through external sources was shut off. As a programmer, I know that if a scammer could get into her PC, they could try to embed something that would give them access to steal more information. One of my concerns was that they could have installed a Key Logger onto her PC. This allows passwords and sensitive data to be sent to them as she typed them on her computer. I fervently searched her system and files, and I found a Key Logger file. I removed it right away.

You may be asking yourself, how did this all happen? How did she get in a position that allowed a scammer into her computer? Well, she is not alone. According to the Microsoft Digital Crime Unit, in 2018, there was a total of $1.5 billion stole from around 3.3 million users due to online scams. She became a part of that statistic for 2019. 

In my mother-in-law’s case, she followed a link in Pinterest and a screen popped up saying her computer was hacked and and to call Microsoft. Following random links is a great way to allow an unwanted person into your computer. Never follow a link if you don’t know where it is going, and never ever download things off of random websites.

Of course, the pop up was kind enough to give the number to call in big, bold print. The automated voice at the beginning of the call sounded authentic to Microsoft, so she didn’t second guess. At this point, she was just worried that she would lose all the photos and important information on her PC. Believing she was speaking to Microsoft, they informed her that, due to security reasons, they do not take personal credit cards or PayPal. Her only safe option was to go to the store and buy two $500 Google Play Store gift cards and pay by using those. They gave her a time limit and told her the computer would be wiped clean by the so-called “hackers.” She reluctantly told me that she went to the store and came back with the cards, then used a remote desktop connection to allow them into her PC to “fix” the problem. The Google Play Store gift card numbers were entered in on a text file for her secure payment as the REAL hacker sat typing random commands?into the computer, just like you would see in a movie. When the page went away, he hung? up and was never heard from again.??? 

A hard lesson learned. Although I still cannot understand how anyone falls for this scheme, it became real that day. I took her through a computer crash course on how to avoid this next time:

  • Press CTRL – ALT – DELETE.
  • Open the task manager.
  • Right-click on the browser.
  • Press “End Task.”

Boom! Problem solved! Be careful when searching the web and always be wary of who you are allowing to “help” you with your computer issues. If the methodology sounds sketchy, then it most likely is. Always make sure that you have your computer data backed up and your personal info secured on your PC or not on it at all. If you think you have been hacked, contact someone reputable immediately to help you fix the issue.  

Another way to protect yourself is to invest in cyber insurance. Many insurance companies offer solutions for both personal and business protection. Contact your independent agent to learn more about these coverages and how they can protect you, your family, and your business from the effects of cybercrime.

Finally, I want to share this video. Many don’t think about the consequences of clicking on a link or attachment in an e-mail that contains a virus, but the ripple effect from that one click can quickly become a tidal wave of trouble! Watch below to learn more about protecting not only yourself, but your place of employment!

Copyright © 2020 Central Mutual Insurance Company. All rights reserved.

Coverage for the College Student

This is the time of year I often receive questions about the coverages needed to protect students who are going away for school. These requests are common for parents sending their children off to college for the first time. College campuses won’t look the same this coming fall semester, but growing numbers of U.S. colleges are pledging to reopen, so there will be students heading to college soon.


Courts have long determined that a dependent child away at school is still legally a resident of their parents’ household. In fact, with the policy contracts used by many insurance companies, there are situations where no additional coverage needs to be purchased.

On the most commonly used homeowners policies, a student under the age of 24 is covered by his or her parents’ homeowners policy as long as they are enrolled full-time in school and were a resident of the household before moving out to attend school.

So what coverages apply to your student while they are away at college? First and foremost, they are protected by the Personal Liability section of your homeowners policy for bodily injury or property damage they cause. However, it’s important to note that intentional acts are not covered. Your son or daughter will be facing new responsibilities and exposures, so it’s a great time to consider purchasing a Personal Umbrella policy to provide an extra layer of liability protection for your family.

For all the “stuff” that will be moved into a dorm room, coverage for personal property is available up to an amount that is equal to 10% of the personal property coverage limit on the parents’ policy. Personal property includes things like clothing, small furniture and appliances, and electronics. Of course, the policy deductible would apply in the event of a property loss, such as theft of personal property.

Electronics, such as a laptop or tablet, may be one of the greatest concerns. Some insurance carriers allow these items to be listed separately on the homeowners policy, so that a deductible would not apply to a loss. However, I often discourage this type of coverage on most of these items as I think it’s prudent for policyholders to self-insure smaller losses. Small losses may be looked upon unfavorably by insurance companies, may increase the premium at renewal time, or could even result in coverage being discontinued when combined with other losses.

In some cases, the student (or parents) may sign a lease for an off-campus apartment. While it’s possible that coverage may still be available by way of the parents’ policy, this is often a good opportunity to equip the student with their own Renter’s Insurance policy to ensure that there’s no coverage question. See our blog post for more Reasons You Need Renters Insurance!

Last but not least, we occasionally receive requests to add an apartment building owner to a renters policy. Essentially, this means the landlord is requiring the renter to carry insurance coverage – particularly liability coverage. In these instances, the landlord can be added to the policy as an Additional Interest. This allows the building owner/landlord to be listed on the policy declarations and to be notified in the event that the renters insurance cancels. The Additional Interest endorsement does not provide any coverage to the landlord.

I hope that this summary is helpful to families that will be heading to campus this fall. Be smart, be safe, and best of luck!

The policy coverages described above are in the most general terms and are subject to the actual policy exclusions and conditions. For specific coverage details and policy exclusions, refer to the policy itself or contact your agent.

Original blog published July 2014.

Copyright © 2020 Central Mutual Insurance Company. All rights reserved.

Our Continued Response to COVID-19

To our valued clients and friends,

At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. we wrote to let you know the steps we were taking to protect our employees, while keeping our commitment to serve the insurance needs of our clients.

It has been two weeks since our agency took the unprecedented step of moving our front-line employees to a remote working environment and limiting all client activity within the office. While we look forward to a return to normalcy, the dedication of our employees and our agency’s investment in technology has allowed us to not miss a step in our transition to a remote service model. 

We have learned valuable lessons along the way in implementing this structure, but it has only strengthened our ability to serve our customers regardless of the circumstances. We will continue to improve our processes as we go. Our employees are accessible by email during business hours and our main phone number 860-582-8161 is staffed by a live receptionist weekdays between 8:30 am and 5 pm as usual. Our full team of Sales Executives and Account Managers are ready to assist in any way necessary. 

We continue to be in constant communication with our Insurance Company partners. If the current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted your ability to pay your insurance premiums, please let us know and we will advise if alternate arrangements can be made.

As always you are welcome to contact us.

Melanie Dumont
860-302-7612

Matt Dumont
860-212-7555

Greg Provencal
860-716-9469

Medical Payments – The Forgotten Homeowner Insurance Coverage

There are a few homeowner insurance coverages that almost everybody has but very few think about. Personal liability is one of those coverages and even lower on the totem pole is medical payments coverage. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important (especially this time of year).

For starters, let’s clarify what it is along with what it isn’t. It’s a coverage that covers medical expenses to others. It isn’t a coverage that applies to you or the regular residents of your household.

Side note: many insurance companies, including Central Mutual, clarify this on their policy declarations pages by titling this coverage “medical payments to others.” However, there are still insurance companies out there that don’t specify this on the declarations page, so I wanted to point this out.

Let’s get back to what the coverage is. It will pay for reasonable charges for medical, surgical, x-ray, dental, ambulance, hospital, professional nursing, prosthetic devices, and funeral services sustained by someone as a result of an accident causing bodily injury. Typically, injuries caused by animals owned by the insured will also be covered.

However, if my five-year-old son would have sustained some sort of injury by accidentally swallowing his loose tooth (true story that happened a few weeks ago), there would not have been coverage since he’s a resident of my household.

There are also limitations and exclusions in the homeowner policy pertaining to injuries that are sustained away from the insured location as well as anyone who is eligible to receive benefits under workers compensation, non-occupational disability, or occupational disability.

I mentioned earlier that this coverage is important this time of year. The reason that was brought up is that the most common type of medical payments claim we see is of the slip and fall variety. Unlike personal liability coverage, a homeowner does not have to be legally liable for an accident in order for medical payments coverage to kick in. Therefore, icy and/or snowy conditions create a perfect recipe for medical payments claims.

With this in mind, take a look at the medical payments limit on your homeowner insurance policy and consider whether or not you feel the limit is adequate. It’s quite common to see a $5,000 limit for this insurance coverage and we still run across situations where someone has $1,000 as the limit. Typically, you can increase the medical payments limit from $5,000 to $10,000 for just a few dollars a year, so it might be worth it to provide yourself with a little extra protection in case a guest at your house slips on snow, ice, or a loose tooth.

The coverages here are described in the most general terms and are subject to the actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions, and exclusions refer to the policy or contact your agent.

Copyright © 2020 Central Mutual Insurance Company. All rights reserved.

Original Post – https://blog.central-insurance.com/2020/02/18/medical-payments-the-forgotten-homeowner-insurance-coverage/

Cyber Security Awareness – Be Aware!!!

Article Reposted; Original Source: https://blog.central-insurance.com/2019/10/10/cyber-security-awareness-be-aware/

Now that it is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, what better time to educate yourself on the current levels of cybercrime around the world. More than half of mid-market businesses have experienced a data breach[1], and more than 175 million individuals become victims of cybercrime annually[2]. In fact, cybercrime is growing so rapidly it is projected to cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, representing “the greatest transfer of economic wealth in history,” and becoming “more profitable than the global trade of all major illegal drugs.[3]

Cybercrime affects individuals, families, and businesses.

Cybercriminals seek out vulnerabilities in our computer networks and online behaviors. Hackers and identity thieves spare no person or business. Particularly vulnerable groups include minor children, college students, senior citizens, natural disaster victims, and small businesses.

What are the most common cyber risks for individuals and families?

As the average person spends more time online, both individuals and families encounter many new cyber risks, from identity fraud to dangerous doxing and cyberbullying. Identity thieves can gather personal information from social media and cyberstalking, as well as phishing e-mails and fake websites to help them impersonate you and/or take over financial accounts.

Other online threats can be both physical and emotional. Doxing—or publishing a person’s physical location and contact information—can result in reputational harm and even threats of physical confrontation. Cyberbullying causes emotional dismay and reputational damage. On dating websites fake profiles get created to “catfish” victims—sometimes for the perpetrator’s personal fun but other times for more nefarious purposes. Finally, cyberstalking can lead to very real—and dangerous—physical stalking behaviors.

What are the most common cyber risks for businesses?

Modern companies run on information technology. Data about customers, employees, sales orders, operations, research and development, and financials are the beating heart of any business. Between cloud software, the Internet of Things, and e-commerce, more business information gets exchanged online than ever before.

The greatest cyber threats to businesses are the theft of company data through a data breach and the disabling of IT networks by ransomware. Many times, cybercriminals gain the information or credentials they need to attack business networks by sending phishing e-mails to employees or executives. These e-mails can look very authentic and appear to come from people inside your company. Cybercriminals spend time researching organizations in order to use social engineering to fool their targets into opening the phishing e-mail.

Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.

This year, the theme of National Cyber Security Awareness Month is “Own IT, Secure IT, Protect IT.” Hackers are always at work—they never rest. There is no time to wait. Take action now to secure and protect your personal identity and business data.

OWN your IT and personal information by educating yourself about cyber threats.

  • DON’T OVERSHARE personal or financial information on social media platforms.
  • BE SELECTIVE about who you connect with on social platforms or dating websites.
  • REVIEW PRIVACY SETTINGS for social media and other applications.

SECURE IT changing your online habits to enhance your cyber defenses.

  • STRENGTHEN PASSWORDS on computers, devices, and websites and change them regularly.
  • AVOID PHISHING e-mails and don’t click on links from people you don’t know or e-mails that don’t seem legit. When in doubt, telephone the recipient and ask.
  • TURN ON MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION to make your logins more secure, especially on any website where you do online banking, bill payment, or shopping.
  • SHOP SAFELY by making online purchases only from well-known stores and brands and always looking for the https:// in the URL before entering payment information.

PROTECT IT by implementing solutions and services that can increase cybersecurity and monitor against suspicious events.

  • INSTALL SECURITY SOFTWARE including anti-virus and anti-malware to protect personal and business computers.
  • UPDATE SYSTEMS to ensure your web browser and operating system have the latest security updates.
  • IDENTITY AND CREDIT MONITORING services watch for unusual activity 24/7/365, alerting you to any trouble.
  • BACK-UP DATA regularly to protect yourself and your business from hard drive/server failures and ransomware.

Another way to protect yourself is to invest in cyber insurance. Many insurance companies offer solutions for both businesses and personal protection. Contact your independent agent to learn more about these coverages and how they can protect you, your family, and your business from the effects of cybercrime.

Content provided by CyberScout.

[1] “Small and Mighty—CyberSecurity Special Report,” Cisco, July 2018.

[2] “Norton Cyber Security Insights Report Global Results,” Symantec, 2017.

[3] “2019 Official Annual Cybercrime Report,” Cybersecurity Ventures

© 2019 CyberScout Breach Resources. All rights reserved.

It May Have Been Covered but HOW Was It Covered?

If you’ve watched any college football over the past several years, you’ve probably seen multiple commercials from a certain insurance company that likes to show an imaginary college professor walking an individual through a building containing exhibits that represent different claim situations. The commercials show what happened while the professor narrates, then at the end of the story he states, “we covered it.”

Although many of these claim scenarios appear to be unusual, they would likely be covered by anypersonal insurance program – as long as the right coverage is in place.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most common insurance coverages that are often misunderstood. Making sure your personal insurance program includes these can make the difference between having your claim fully covered versus having it denied due to lack of proper coverage.

Comprehensive Coverage: This is physical damage coverage on auto policies that is sometimes referred to as “other than collision.” In short, this coverage protects your vehicle against physical losses that don’t result from a collision (although there is one animal-related exception to this). Perils such as fire, theft, vandalism, glass breakage, and hail are all covered under comprehensive coverage. In addition, if your vehicle collides with a bird or animal, it will be deemed a comprehensive loss rather than a collision loss (this is the exception).

Collision Coverage: This is a little more straightforward, as it covers your vehicle against accidents where the vehicle is “upset” (turned over) or where it impacts another vehicle or object.

Personal Umbrella Policy: Possibly the most misunderstood personal insurance coverage out there, the personal umbrella policy is not a property-centered insurance policy that “covers everything;” rather, it is a liability policy that provides you with additional liability limits (typically in $1 million increments) that extend over your various forms of liability insurance, be it personal liability, auto liability, watercraft liability, landlord liability, etc.

Inland Marine Policy: While personal umbrellas are typically the most misunderstood, inland marine policies are the most confusing because the items covered under these policies usually have nothing to do with marine exposures! These are also referred to as personal articles floaters or scheduled personal property endorsements. No matter what they are called, they can provide protection against losses to unique and valuable items such as jewelry, fine arts, and collectibles that are scheduled, stated, or listed on your policy Declarations Page.

Finally, just in case you were wondering, one of the commercials in the aforementioned series shows a truck crashing into a house. Most homeowner insurance policies would typically cover this, so don’t think that you need some sort of extra coverage for it!

When in doubt about a coverage term or the type of coverage you need, reach out to your local independent agent as he or she is always ready to help.

The information above is of a general nature and your policy and coverages provided may differ from the examples provided. Please read your policy in its entirety to determine your actual coverage available.

Copyright © 2019 Central Mutual Insurance Company. All rights reserved.

Original Article – https://blog.central-insurance.com/2019/09/19/it-may-have-been-covered-but-how-was-it-covered/

Protecting Your Identity After a Data Breach

Capital One announced recently that a hacker had accessed the personal information of 100 million individuals in the United States and 6 million in Canada that had applied for credit with the Virginia-based bank. The affected information includes credit scores, linked bank account numbers, Social Security and Social Insurance numbers and additional information that was provided at the time of credit application.

With the full scope of this breach still unfolding, here are some immediate steps you can take to protect your identity:

  1. Consider placing a credit freeze on your files to make it difficult for someone to open a new account in your name.
  2.  Check your credit reports. Identify what information it contained and look for any unusual activity that could indicate identity theft.
  3. Pay extra attention to your account and billing statements. Check for unauthorized charges.
  4. Change all user access credentials. If you use the same passwords for all financial institutions, change them. Watch out for suspicious e-mail, phone and snail-mail scams. Enable text and e-mail alerts and turn on two-factor authentication when possible.

For additional tips and resources, visit www.cyberscout.com/knowledgecenter to learn about the best ways to minimize your risk and help protect your personal information.

© 2019 CyberScout Breach Resources. All rights reserved.

How Does Your Homeowner Policy Respond To Total Losses?

While homeowner insurance covers individuals and families for many day-to-day claims involving water damage, roof damage, and the like, it is potentially there for you when the unthinkable happens and your house is completely destroyed.

Dozens of questions arise whenever a catastrophic circumstance occurs; however, there is one question you should ask yourself prior to such a situation: how will my homeowner insurance policy respond to the loss of my home?

Traditional homeowner policies have specific limits of insurance for the dwelling, detached structures located on the residence premises, and for contents. Once those limits of insurance are exhausted, additional payments cannot be made for property covered under the exhausted limit. However, several coverage enhancements have entered the marketplace over the years and homeowners now have additional options to guard them against the worst-case scenario of not having enough insurance coverage to adequately rebuild or replace their home.

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Buyer Beware of Online Insurance Shopping

There is no disputing that the internet has changed our lives in the past 15-20 years. It has altered how we live, shop, and interact with each other. Companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple have become household names. But technology has also brought the expectation that everything should be quick and easy. To meet this demand, some technology companies have tried their hand in the insurance space which can be problematic for the consumer.

While being able to access a quote online is a convenient and viable option for the consumer, there is a very dangerous reality that the consumer may end up with serious deficiencies in coverages if they only view the price when quoting online. The fact is not all quotes or policies are alike; some quotes offer higher limits, more “enhanced” coverages, coverage exclusions, and different deductibles. Unfortunately, most consumers do not realize these differences or deficiencies until a loss occurs.

Seeking a trusted independent insurance agent is the best option to avoid coverage gaps or deficiencies. Independent insurance agents are licensed professionals who can find the right coverage for the individual needs of a client, and at a fair price. Independent agents represent several different insurance companies so they can present the best options for the client. Insurance is an essential product in our everyday lives that can provide the invaluable piece of mind knowing your assets are protected. But buying insurance online to seek the best price, may leave you exposed to uncovered loss exposures you were not aware of. As the old saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” It may be prudent, but it’s important to take your time when quoting online so coverages can be compared and reviewed more closely. Your assets are more valuable than a few quick minutes of your time.

Copyright © 2019 Central Mutual Insurance Company. All rights reserved.