5 Easy Resolutions to Make for a Better 2014

There are only a few more days before 2013 makes its exit forever! While you’re more than likely gearing up for your New Year’s Eve parties and get-togethers, you’re probably trying to construct your goals and wishes for 2014 as well. Perhaps your New Year’s resolutions include losing weight, saving money, and spending more time with your friends and family. While all those are all great ideas to include in your 2014 goals and plans, maybe you should think about some resolutions you can make for your health, your safety, and your wallet as well!

Read all about our 5 easy New Year’s resolutions that you can make to be safer and more secure in 2014!

Put Down Your Cellphone – Using your cellphone while driving is not only dangerous, but it will also become illegal in the state of Illinois on January 1, 2014. If you happen to be involved in an at-fault accident and were using your cellphone, chances are that your insurance company will see this accident in the light of running a stoplight or a stop sign and hitting another car as it is a high degree of negligence. Be smart and safe – put down your cellphone when you drive. Never text and drive; pull off in a safe location if you must respond to a text. If your car has Bluetooth capabilities, use that instead to talk to your friends and family if you must so that you may keep both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road.

Make a Home Inventory – No doubt you probably received a lot of great gifts for Christmas – jewelry, new electronics, and maybe a new cellphone. In 2014, try to take inventory of what household belongings you have. If you ever have to file a homeowner’s insurance claim, you will want to know exactly what was lost, damaged, or stolen. Take a camera and either take photos of your valuables or go through your home room by room and closet by closet and record everything. Don’t forget your garage and backyard as well!

Save Some Money – Saving money is probably on everybody’s New Year’s resolutions list. While it might seem like a daunting task, saving a few bucks doesn’t have to be very difficult, especially when it comes to your heating and electric bills! Save more on your heating bill by keeping the thermostat at a cooler temperature and snuggling with blankets instead, and make sure that your home is weatherproofed so that you can keep the warm air in. Turn off all lights and devices that aren’t being used to save more money on your electric bill. Finally, talk to us to see if you qualify for any discounts on any of your insurance policies!

Grab an Umbrella – As great as insurance policies are, the standard homeowner’s insurance policy doesn’t cover every risk you and your family may encounter. If you want the ultimate protection for you and your family, you will want to seriously consider getting an umbrella insurance policy, which is designed to give you added liability protections beyond the scope of a typical policy. Read more about the great benefits of umbrella insurance policies here!

Protect Your Identity – This is something you should strive to do every day. Thieves are coming up with more and more clever methods of obtaining and using your social security number, credit card numbers, and more. It wasn’t long ago when Target found out that thousands of customers between Thanksgiving and a week before Christmas could have had their card information compromised. Always keep your card information a secret from everyone else, shred any information that might be making its way to the trash, and never give out your information or social security number to anyone over the phone. Remain vigilant throughout the year by keeping close watch on your bank accounts and credit card accounts as well. If you notice unauthorized purchases on your accounts, notify the bank and police right away.

Need any more tips for 2014? Want to come in to review your insurance policies, discuss an umbrella insurance policy, or to see if you qualify for any discounts? We’re here for you! Call us at 1-800-766-MMIC, visit us online at www.madisonmutual.com, or stop by to see us in person to have all of your questions answered! We hope you have a wonderful New Year and look forward to doing business with you in 2014!

Keep Your Holidays Happy and Safe! 18 Holiday Theft Prevention Tips You Need to Know

The holiday season is filled with the hustle and bustle of shoppers, the excited wrapping of the gifts, and spending lots of time with the ones we love. Amongst all this joy and light, it’s very easy to forget that thieves still lie in wait, ready for the right opportunity to seize your valuables, whether they are in your home, in your car, or even online.

This holiday season, prevent thieves from stealing your valuables and breaking in your home or car. Keep your holiday happy and safe with these 18 tips below!

Keep Your Car Safe

*When exiting your car, be sure you always take your purse, wallet, MP3 player, cellphone, laptop, and other items with you.

*If you cannot take your valuables with you, lock them up in the trunk before you leave your home. By placing them in the trunk upon your arrival, you could alert thieves to the valuables that lie defenseless in your trunk.

*If you’re out shopping, don’t leave your purchases visible in your car; place them discreetly in your trunk instead. Additionally, be sure to park in areas that have adequate lighting, and consider shopping with someone rather than going alone, especially if you are shopping in the evening hours.

*Be aware of your surroundings at all times and walk with purpose. Keep your keys ready in your hand before getting into your car, and report any suspicious people or activity to the law enforcement right away.

*Keep the amount of available cash you have on you at a minimum. In the same vein, keep track of all your credit and debit cards and keep receipts to compare to your monthly statement.

Stay Safe at Home

*Create an up-to-date home inventory including the make, model, and serial numbers of your items. Include detailed descriptions and photographs of your valuable items as well. This inventory should be kept somewhere safe.

*Inscribe valuable items such as your televisions, computers, and stereos with an identifying number. When doing so, be sure not to use your entire social security number.

*Make sure your doors and windows are locked when you leave, even if you have an alarm system in place.

*Consider installing an alarm system and activate it whenever you leave home.

*If you have to leave home for an extended period of time, ask a neighbor or trusted friend to pick up your mail and newspapers while you’re away, or just have the post office hold them until you return. Nothing tempts a potential thief more than a mailbox full of mail and several newspapers scattered on the sidewalk.

*If you’re ordering your gifts online, keep in mind that if you are not home that the boxes sitting outside your home or apartment can easily be stolen. Consider being home when they are slated for delivery or asking a friend or relative to pick your packages up to keep them safe until your return.

*Did you purchase a big ticket item that came in a large box like a brand new HD television? Be sure to break down the box when you throw it away otherwise you could be tempting potential thieves to come on in and steal it (and your other expensive items) away.

*If you’re going away from the holidays, be sure not to mention this on your voicemail or on social media until after you return!

Shop Safely

*Keep your wallet in a tight location like a pants pocket or somewhere more secure in your purse rather than a loose location like your jacket pocket. It’s much more difficult for thieves to steal your wallet if it’s in a tighter location.

*If you’re using a purse, use one with one strap and keep it in front of you so that you may see it at all times. Never leave it on the ground or in the cart unattended.

*Cover your password if you use a public ATM in the mall so that potential thieves won’t be able to see any of your information.

*Carrying cash itself isn’t bad, but be sure not to carry too much in case it is misplaced or stolen.

*If you’re shopping online, be sure that you use official websites and use secure sites that implement https://. Read our blog here for more online shopping safety tips!

Remember, no line of defense against thieves is complete without an insurance plan. If you don’t have insurance yet or would like to revise your current policy, stop by our office at Madison Mutual Insurance Company and see how we can keep you and your family and everything that matters to you safe. Call us at 1-800-766-MMIC or visit us online at www.madisonmutual.com to get started! Have a wonderful holiday this year!

4 Safety Tips Young Drivers Must Know to Stay Safe on the Road

The road is not an entirely safe place for a young driver to be. According to MoDot, nearly 600 people have died in traffic accidents in Missouri in the last three years, and of those who had access to a safety belt, 78% were not buckled up. Additionally, young or novice drivers are overrepresented in traffic crashes – 10% of the licensed drivers are young people while 30% of young drivers are involved in traffic accidents.

Why are young people so at-risk on the road? Three factors come into play when it comes to young drivers – inexperience, risk-taking behavior or immaturity, and a greater risk exposure. Young people are new to driving and don’t have the understanding of the nuances and complexities that comes with operating a motor vehicle. They also might be pressured by their peers in the car to take risks on the road and might be distracted by music, other passengers, or their cell phones.

We at Madison Mutual Insurance Company have compiled 4 main tips for young drivers to stay safe on the roads. Read them below and stay safe! Please pass these along to youthful drivers in your family.

Obey the Speed Limit – This is a rule that goes without exception. You might feel “cool” driving fast and zipping in and out of traffic like your favorite actor or t.v. character, but it’s not cool when you cause a wreck and harm yourself or another driver on the road. Obey the posted speed limit; remember, it is the maximum speed that is allowed under normal conditions. Slow down when it’s raining, foggy, snowing, or icy, and keep at least twice the amount of normal stopping distance between you and the person in front of you. Always slow down and drive cautiously in heavy traffic, on curves, and especially in work zones.

Give Driving Your Full Attention – Taking your eyes off the road, even for only one second, can result in a crash, and potentially a fatal accident. Your focus when traveling should be the road and the road only. Program your radio stations or make your CD selections before you get on the road, never read or look at directions when you’re traveling, and plan your trip before you leave. You should also avoid putting on makeup, shaving, and eating when you’re driving. Most importantly, put the phone down and DO NOT TEXT while you’re on the road. Any message can wait at least long enough for you to pull over somewhere safe. No message is worth your life or the life of another!

Use the Lanes Properly – Make sure that you are in a legal passing zone before you pass another vehicle. Never pass on the right side of the road or on the shoulder of a roadway – it’s illegal and dangerous for you and other drivers. Remember to use your turn signals about 100 feet before making a turn, and don’t cross over into another lane of traffic. Finally, keep your vehicle in the center, and do not pass on hills, curves, or at intersections.

Never Mix Alcohol with Driving – Underage drinking is against the law to begin with, but you must NEVER attempt to drive home if you have alcohol, even if you think that you’re okay. Instead, ask a friend who hasn’t had any alcohol for a ride home. If no one has abstained from alcohol, call a parent, older sibling, or a cab to take you home, or stay at your friend’s home for the night. It is better to be cautious than to gamble with your life or the lives of others on the road. Additionally, if you see a friend of yours stumbling toward their car, take their keys from them and find them a safe way home. You could be saving his or her life!

It’s always best to be prepared because anything can happen. Make sure that the young driver in your life is adequately insured in case of an accident. Stop by our office or call us at 1-800-766-MMIC to look over your preexisting policy or begin a new one today!

Stay Safe Shopping Online With Our 9 Tips!

The holiday shopping season is here, which means that people nationwide will be driving to local stores and malls or taking to their computers to do some shopping for their friends and loved ones for the holidays. With the almost nonstop hustle and bustle throughout the month of December, consumers will likely take to the Internet to get their holiday shopping done. While the Internet provides a quick, easy, and quiet place to get our holiday shopping done, it can also be a place in which online thieves can easily steal your identity, if you’re not careful.

This holiday season, feel safe and secure online while getting your shopping done for your loved ones. Check out our 9 handy tips below to see how you can protect your identity and your computer!

Use Familiar Websites – One of the best ways you can keep safe is by shopping through a trusted website than through a search engine. If you know the websites, chances are that you won’t be ripped off. Sites such as Amazon, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart won’t lead you astray. Additionally, be careful that you don’t misspell the URL for the website and stay away from sites that are misspelled or use “.net” instead of “.com.” The sales on these sites might look really great, but it is the oldest trick in the book to lure you into giving up your information.

Don’t Share Everything – When ordering online, you will need to input your name and address so that the package can be sent to you; however, no retailer needs to know your birthday or social security number to do business with you. If thieves on the other end receive your birthday or social security number in combination with your credit card number, they can do quite a bit of damage to your bank account pretty quickly. The more they know, the easier it will be to steal your identity. If at all possible, give out the least amount of information as you can.

Look for Secure Sites – Never purchase anything online from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed, at the very least. You can tell if a site has SSL because the URL will begin with https:// instead of just http://. You should also see a locked padlock either at the status bar at the bottom of your web browser or right next to the URL in the address bar, depending on your browser. Also, never give your credit card information over email.

Check Your Statements – Stay vigilant this holiday season; don’t wait till the end of the month to worry about your bills. Go online regularly and view your electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Be sure that you don’t see any fraudulent or unexplainable charges, even from sites like PayPal. If you see something wrong, address the matter right away and only pay your bills once you know all the charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify your bank or credit issuer of the situation. Past that, however, you could be liable for the charges anyway.

Use Strong Passwords – You’ve heard it over and over again – use strong passwords. This is absolutely crucial when it comes to online shopping. Avoid using short, common words and opt for a more unique password that includes numbers, punctuation, and capitalization.

Protect Your Computer – Sometimes, thieves will go the extra mile in trying to steal your identity by offering you something “extra” to help things along. You need to keep your computer protected against malware and malicious files with regular updates to your anti-virus program. At the very least, protect your computer with the free Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0 to give yourself an edge against viruses and malware.

Be Smart on Your Phone – According to the National Retail Federation, approximately 6% of adults will use their smartphones to do comparison shopping before making a purchase, and 32% will do comparison shopping online with a computer as well. These days there’s no need to be hesitant to shop on your smartphone instead of on a computer. The trick is to use apps provided directly by the retailers such as Amazon, Target, and other large companies. When you use these apps, you can make quick, safe purchases without having to go to the store!

Avoid Public Terminals – When you make online purchases, you should really use your own laptop, desktop computer, or smartphone, not a public one. If you have no choice but to use a public computer to make purchases, remember to log out every time you use a public terminal, even if you’re just checking your email. If you’re making purchases on your laptop in a public area like a café, be sure to deter any potential over-the-shoulder on-lookers and sit with your back against the wall.

Privatize Your Wi-Fi – If you decide to shop online on your laptop in a public area, you should only use the wireless if you access the Internet over a virtual private network (VPN) connection. If you don’t get one from your employer, you can set one up for free with AnchorFree Hotspot Shield, if you’re willing to deal with the ads or pay $4.99 a month to avoid the ads. Additionally, stick to known networks, even if they’re free, like those found at Starbucks or Barnes & Noble stores. You can also find free Wi-Fi at McDonalds, Panera Bread, and FedEx Office locations along with libraries and local cafes.

Remember, skepticism and vigilance in most cases can go a long, long way toward saving you from a stolen card number or a stolen identity. For more safety tips, be sure to call us at 1-800-766-MMIC or visit us online at www.madisonmutual.com! Happy shopping!