Should Your Insurance Company Offer Cyber Protection?

Cyber security has become a growing concern for U.S. companies over the past couple of years, and for good reason. Information breaches have not only become increasingly common, but also much larger. Nothing illustrates the state of modern web security quite as well as the most recent breach, which saw hackers target the IRS by … Continue reading “Should Your Insurance Company Offer Cyber Protection?”

Cyber security has become a growing concern for U.S. companies over the past couple of years, and for good reason. Information breaches have not only become increasingly common, but also much larger. Nothing illustrates the state of modern web security quite as well as the most recent breach, which saw hackers target the IRS by exploiting faulty security to compromise over 100,000 taxpayer records.

Similar breaches have also affected much smaller companies, and it’s common to see a forward-thinking insurance company racing to adapt. Here is what you need to know to determine if, first, you’re actually in need of cyber insurance and, second, what you should look for in a policy.

Are You At Risk?

If you work with customer information of any kind, then the answer is likely yes. The term to look out for here is Personally Identifiable Information, or PII. It’s not a technical term, but rather a legal term that carries some teeth if you have to deal with it.

At its root, PII is any piece of collected information that could potentially allow a third party to identify a business’s individual clients. Given how good the Internet is at leveraging even tiny hints to track down a person, that definition is awfully broad. Full names, email addresses, site nicknames, and (sometimes) even web cookies can all qualify as PII.

If you’re storing anything that falls under the PII umbrella, you’re at risk of a breach. Breaches are enormously costly, both for affected customers and for the company responsible for the loss. Companies in the healthcare and retail industries are obviously at an increased risk, but when it comes down to it, any business that makes a habit of collecting information should ask their insurance company about cyber policies.

What Your Cyber Policy Needs

You’ll need to look for a few things in any cyber insurance policy. As you may expect, a good policy should cover the financial damages directly caused by a breach. However, cyber attacks can cause financial damage in a wide variety of ways. In particular, make sure that your company is protected against:

– Losses caused by lost time and productivity. A major hack can cause company gears to grind to a halt. Find an insurance company that guarantees coverage for the revenue lost during this period.
– Indemnification caused by a third party. Few modern companies handle their data on their own. Outsourced IT support or other companies can fall victim to a breach that affects your customers.
– Loss of Reputation. Breached companies, even those that have done their due diligence, almost always take a PR hit in the wake of an attack. A good policy offers some cushioning against the customer losses that generally ensue.

Finally, also try your best to work with an insurance company that has an educational component. Some plans will also come with training to avoid a breach. As nice as protection is, it’s safe to say that it’s best left unused. Installing a set of best practices can help keep you from having to rely on a safety net in the first place.

How the Little Guys Can Secure Business Loans

No matter how good of an idea or operation model you have, you cannot start an establishment without money. A lot of people struggle to get started simply because they cannot secure the funds to make their very real and concrete ideas a reality. Securing business loans is practically the only way for small, local shops to get off the ground. Since the economic crisis of 2008, the little guys have been having a hard time finding sufficient financial assistance. Banks and other financial institutions are wary of taking on risks after what happened in 2008. Still, there is hope. Let’s explore how you can go about getting financial backing so that you can get your shop up and running.

First, Make Sure You Can Meet Criteria That Banks and Other Institutions Want to See

As previously mentioned, the economic crisis of 2008 has made financial institutions wary of taking on risks and lending out money. If you want to succeed in securing money from these places, you need to ease their minds. They want to know exactly what the cash will be used for. Be sure that it will be used on something concrete and safe. They will not lend for speculative purposes or high-risk endeavors such as pyramid sales or investments. Show them a credible purpose for the cash, and you are on your way. They also want a very solid form of collateral. This generally is property, so make sure you really want the financing before you put up your home to secure it. Finally, you need to have good credit and character history. Business loans are typically not given to those with criminal records or poor credit. Banks consider these people to be high-risk and want to avoid them.

The Interview Process: Be Confident and Truthful

Once you ensure that you have the above criteria nailed down as solidly as you can, it is time to go to financial institutions and try to secure a loan. Business loans from the large banking players generally are not given to start-ups. This is due to the inherent risk that comes along with a start-up. If you are instead seeking cash for growth, you will probably have more success at one of the larger banking institutions than a start-up, but these institutions generally like working with other big corporate players where their money is safe. Visit the bank your personal accounts are in and talk to a professional. They will help you prepare for the process, and let you know if you qualify for their lending program. Do not be afraid to go to smaller community banks and credit unions. Believe it or not, the little guys are more willing to lend to the little guys. Business loans vary from institution to institution. You will be required to bring different information with you to each interview, but the credit history reports both for your operation and your personal life will always be required.

Besides these things, there is not much you can do except hope and see if one of the institutions will give you the money. If you can’t get cash, which will probably be the case for most start-ups, you should try to get financing from family members, use credit cards, or invest your savings into your idea.

Main Causes of Home Water Damage

Insurance companies report that approximately 93 percent of water damage claims last year could have been prevented by simple home maintenance or the use of a standard shut-off system or leak detection system. With most flood damage claims costing an average of $5,000 in repairs, it’s extremely beneficial for homeowners to understand and easily identify possible threats that might lead to water damage.

Rain

According to insurance companies, rain damage makes up for 8 percent of all water damage claims. Even small amounts of rain, over time, can wear down at your home and cause eventual damage to your home’s foundation or interior. Extreme weather conditions such as floods can also cause major damage to homes, especially without the proper protection. Flood damages lead to especially dangerous amounts of standing water, which can house harmful bacteria and pathogens that often lead to illness.

Plumbing Incidents

Many plumbing problems such as burst pipes and pipe leaks occur within walls and can be very difficult to detect. Left undetected for long periods of time, these plumbing problems can cause severe water damage. Leaky and burst pipes are the most common culprits of flood damage, often resulting from backed up drains and toilets. Experts suggest regular inspections of your pipes in order to catch potential problems and make necessary repairs before any real damage occurs.

Household Appliances

Older and malfunctioning appliances can wreak havoc on a home’s internal water systems. Weak hoses and rusted or cracked pipes can lead to future leaks and water accumulation. Homes most frequently experience damage from damaged or aged washing machines and hot water tanks; however, dishwashers, refrigerators, and water heaters can also become more and more susceptible to damage over time. Fixing or replacing older models can prevent future leaks and water damage.

Air Conditioning, Heating, and Ventilation Systems

Most homeowners don’t realize that their heating and air conditioning systems require regular maintenance. Without proper attention, these units can see severe moisture buildups which can contribute to the growth of mold and mildew deposits. To prevent these issues, schedule regular maintenance with a professional to catch possible damage. Replacing old fixtures may be necessary in the long run to prevent moisture buildups and, ultimately, water damage.

How to Prevent Water Damage

While some water disasters occur as a result of unpredictable and uncontrollable circumstances, most H2O damage can be prevented through regular home inspections and the periodic maintenance of household products. Homeowners can also install a shut-off system or leak detection system to catch leaks and shut off your water main automatically in the case of a hazardous leak. Investments in smaller repairs and other preventative measures can end up saving you hundreds, even thousands of dollars in the long run.

One Man’s Treasures

We’ve always heard the saying that one man’s treasure is another man’s junk or one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. And if you’ll look at all the garage sales and estate sales, you’ll see just how true it is.

I remember my one and only experience putting some of my junk in my garage and having a garage sale. I was shocked by the number of people who bought the items that I was throwing out. I hadn’t even advertised it; I just put a sign on my front lawn saying that I was having a garage sale on a certain date and a lot of people just showed up to buy things.

As difficult as this was for me to believe, and I’m still shaking my head at the memory, I used to do a lot of things out of sheer boredom, namely paint huge paintings by number and then I’d buy lovely frames and hang these abominations of art in my living room. And they sold. I had even done a paint by number on black velvet that sold. That one wasn’t so bad but you couldn’t possibly describe it as art. And I wondered how the spouses of the customers who bought these things viewed these “treasures.”

Even in the best of times, I’m not a shopper. The worst punishment you can give me is to take me shopping and have me pick out merchandise that I like. It’s absolute torture. For the first half of my life, those nearest and dearest to me bought my clothes and brought them home to me to try on because they knew I wouldn’t go into stores of my own accord. And that’s why I was absolutely amazed at the number of people who showed up that day to pick through my junk.

Even now, all these decades later, I still shudder at the memory of all those people who stood out in the blazing sun waiting for me to open my garage door to let them in. Maybe if this were an estate sale I wouldn’t have been so surprised but it was from an ordinary house and I hadn’t even advertised it. I hadn’t even put up posters on telephone poles, as was the custom in those days. I had just put up a little sign on my front lawn giving the date and the time.

If anyone can explain the phenomenon of why perfect strangers would get such a delight in picking over someone else’s junk, and actually buying it, I wish they would explain it to me. For now, I just shake my head in wonder, just glad that I got rid of those atrocious paint by number paintings.

Filling Up With The Wrong Fuel – A Customer Experience

October 17th 2014 – Accidentally putting petrol in my VW Passat instead of Diesel

The following is my tale of woe about my wrong fuel experience. Please don’t make the same mistakes that I made and save yourself the hassle.

On the Friday morning in question, I was driving my 6 month old VW Passat to work in Worcester as usual. The car is a B7 model 2 litre turbo diesel, not as good to drive as my previous VW Passat which was the B5.5 2 litre petrol model but not a bad car either. I had only had the car for 3 days and I picked it up with about a third of a tank of fuel in it on the previous Tuesday. I was sitting in the crawling traffic going into the town centre when the low fuel warning light lit up with a ping. I could easily have made it to work and back home on the remaining fuel but as there was a fuel station on my route into work and I was early anyway, I thought I would stop off and fill up with diesel before the weekend as I had a lot of running around to do on Saturday with the kids.

I pulled up at the pump and I remember running through the day’s tasks in my head so I wasn’t really concentrating on putting in the fuel, I was just doing that on autopilot. I filled the tank right up and then went to the kiosk to pay. I got back into the car and started the engine. It sounded rough which worried me and as I drove to the exit the engine stalled altogether. It then dawned on me what I had just done. I’d filled up with the wrong fuel. I’d had my previous car for 10 years and had got so used to filling up with unleaded petrol that I had just done what I was used to doing. I’m sure I probably turned as pale as a ghost and I just had an almost overwhelming feeling of panic because I was sure that I had just ruined a £14,000 car. To make matters worse I was blocking the station exit and there was a line of motorists behind me waiting to leave the station. I had to sheepishly explain to the chap behind me what I had done and I asked him if he would help me push the car out off to one side. He refused and told me to get it moved. Nice. The young lady in the next car, however, did volunteer to help and together we managed to move the car with her steering and me pushing on my own.

Wrong Fuel Removal – The Wrong Approach

The forecourt staff were sympathetic but I could tell this was a hassle for them too, one of them handed me a card that someone had left on the desk from a firm of wrong fuel removal engineers. I didn’t realise that the industry even existed until I saw the card, I did think that I should call my breakdown assistance firm and ask their advice first and they explained that they could have someone out to me in an hour and a half and that if they could remove the fuel from the car then it would cost me £250. I didn’t fancy sitting around for that long and I thought the cost was a bit steep so I called the firm on the card I had been given and spoke to a bored sounding lady who said they could have someone with me in about 30 minutes as there was a van in the area and that the cost would be £150. Whilst I waited I used my smartphone to search for “wrong fuel Worcester” to see what came up on Google. I found quite a few other companies offering the wrong fuel removal service but I couldn’t find the company named on the card who I had just called. I decided to sit tight and see what happened anyway.

About 45 minutes later a scruffy, dented Ford Transit pulled up next to me and door opened and clattered into the driver’s door on my car, my mood wasn’t good as it was and I got out of the car to confront this individual who had gone around to the back of the van. Thankfully, there was no damage to my car as the van had a plastic protector on its door. The van driver then appeared and announced that he was here to do the fuel drain. He was dressed in a paint covered overall and had paint all over his face and head. Quite obviously, he had just been painting. I followed him to the back of the van where he had an array of large 5 gallon plastic containers, a length of rubber hose and some sort of electric pump contraption. The equipment looked like it had just been thrown in to the back of the van along with various bits of rubbish and paper towels and the smell of petrol coming from the back of the van made my eyes water. I began to feel the panic rising again and had visions of a huge explosion occurring with me in the middle of it. When the “engineer” started to attempt to feed rubber hose down into my new car’s fuel tank (with no care being taken of the car bodywork which was now filthy all around the fuel tank aperture) something told me that this just wasn’t right and was probably downright dangerous. My sense of duty towards my fellow motorists on the forecourt kicked in and I asked him to stop what he was doing. I explained that I thought what he was doing was putting everyone at risk and he became somewhat aggressive and began to demand payment for wasted time. I had no intention of giving this chap my credit card and so I locked the car and told him I was going to speak to the police which, unsurprisingly, changed his attitude. As I walked off towards the kiosk I looked behind me to see him hurriedly packing the hose and container back into his van which then sped off in a cloud of smoke.

The Wrong Fuel – The Right Approach

It was more than an hour since I had put the wrong fuel in my car by this time, so I called work to keep them updated and then looked at my smartphone search page again for another wrong fuel removal company. The company that came top for the search “wrong fuel Worcester” had a great website, tailored for mobile display and had images showing uniformed engineers with well-maintained vans and also, many positive customer comments. I called the number and explained my predicament to a kind and sympathetic operator who assured me that an engineer was close and would be with me very quickly. My previous experience had left me a little suspicious and so I questioned her about the company, their engineers and their vehicles and she explained clearly to me about the procedure and the professionalism with which their representatives conducted themselves. This was good enough for me and 20 minutes later a smart looking van with company livery pulled up next to me on the forecourt and a uniformed engineer with a big smile on his face, got out.

He was a real breath of fresh air after the last chap. He was kind and courteous and spent a couple of minutes talking me through the process of removing the wrong fuel from my vehicle, explaining what the sparklingly clean equipment in his van did and roughly how long this would take. He explained about the cost involved and made sure that I was comfortable with this before going ahead. As he put protective padding onto my car around the fuel tank aperture, which he cleaned up beforehand, the engineer explained about the SPA passport that he held and he also gave me his Environmental Agency paperwork which allowed him to handle and transport dangerous chemicals, legally. This information and the engineer’s general attitude and consideration put my mind at ease and filled me with confidence that, this time, I had done the right thing.

I also discussed my fears about the damage done to the vehicle engine when the wrong fuel is introduced to the system and he supplied me with the following information which put my mind at ease on that front. Firstly, it is very rare that damage occurs to the engine of fuel system of a diesel vehicle when petrol is added. Only in circumstances where common sense is not applied, is there a risk of long term damage. Petrol is a solvent and doesn’t have the lubricating qualities of diesel fuel, therefore, if any amount of petrol is introduced to the system and is allowed to remain in the system then there is potentially a risk that, where there is metal to metal contact of components within the fuel system and the normal lubrication is compromised, excessive wear of those components can occur leading to failure in extreme circumstances. Also, the seals within the system can be affected by the solvent properties of the petrol which may lead to damage. There is a myth that it is OK to top up with diesel fuel if you’ve only added a little petrol to the tank, and to continue driving. This will lead to fuel system damage as described previously resulting in potentially expensive repairs being required. The most sensible and cost effective action is to get the fuel system completely drained and flushed through with fresh diesel to remove all traces of unleaded petrol.

This is just what the engineer did to my VW Passat and within 25 minutes I was ready to go. I was very impressed with the second wrong fuel removal company that I called out, they were prompt, efficient and the customer service and general attitude were brilliant, unlike the first company. The engineer explained to me about the problem existing within the industry whereby various “cowboy” companies had been set up and were being run by inexperienced and unlicensed individuals who were taking advantage of motorist’s vulnerable positions when they had put in the wrong fuel. Many people were being intimidated into paying up front for a fuel drain that was then performed by dangerously ill equipped individuals with no regard to the customer’s safety or the safety of others in the locality. He told me of many cases where he had been called out to jobs that he had to rectify after the “cowboy” wrong fuel company had done an incomplete job and had still made off with the money. It seems that I had had a lucky escape.

Once the fuel drain and fuel system flush was completed, the engineer started my car and it ticked over as if nothing had happened. I paid him with a credit card and thanked him for his assistance, in just 45 minutes he had come out to me and carried out a professional service with which I was very happy.

The Conclusion To The Wrong Fuel Situation

It’s fair to say that I learned a few things on that day when I put in the wrong fuel. Hopefully, someone else in the same predicament may come across this article before taking action and avoid some of the potential pitfalls. In summary, this would be my advice:

Pay attention to which fuel nozzle you pick up on the forecourt (this one goes without saying!)
If you have put in the wrong fuel, let the forecourt staff know, so that they can help you move your vehicle, if necessary.
Once you have told the staff or if you have left the forecourt, do some quick smartphone internet research and choose a wrong fuel recovery company with good customer feedback and a good informative website that shows a well organised and professional outfit.
If you don’t trust the engineer that arrives or you feel there is anything amiss with his/her conduct, don’t be afraid to speak up and, if necessary, turn them away from the job. Your safety is paramount and your vehicle was probably expensive. Don’t take a risk either way.
Don’t pay up front. Make sure you’re happy with the cost and the work involved. A good engineer will be courteous and will check with you beforehand anyway.