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Baldwin / Welsh & Parker

Baldwin / Welsh & Parker

How clever is your password? If it’s on the list below, your password is just as easily stolen as it is remembered. Protect yourself by making sure you’re not using one of the top 25 most commonly stolen passwords, as determined by IT security firm SplashData.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 15:29

6 Tips: Shopping for a Safe Vehicle

September is the month when car sales and purchase incentives start to improve for car buyers. If you plan to buy a vehicle, review and download this guide to ensure that the car you buy is safe.

 

Did You Know?

Every new car must meet certain federal safety standards, but that doesn’t mean that all cars are equally safe. Many automakers offer safety features beyond the required federal minimums. Find out more about what safety features make a vehicle safe.

 

6 Tips To Know Before Shopping For A Safe Vehicle

Consider the following safety features:

  1. Crashworthiness: These features reduce the risk of death or serious injury when a crash occurs. Crashworthiness ratings can be found at: www.iihs.org.

  2. Vehicle structural design: A good structural design has a strong occupant compartment, known as the safety cage, as well as front and rear ends designed to buckle and bend in a crash to absorb the force of the crash.

Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the United States, was recently the victim of a massive cyber attack—an attack that may have compromised the personal information of 143 million people.
The breach itself occurred between mid-May and July 2017 when cyber criminals gained access to sensitive data by exploiting a weak point in website software. As a result of the attack, sensitive information like Social Security numbers, birthdays, addresses and driver's license numbers were compromised. In addition, Equifax said 209,000 credit card numbers were stolen, including information from international customers in Canada and the United Kingdom.

The recent attack on Equifax is the third major cyber security threat the organization has experienced since 2015 and one of the largest risks to personally sensitive information in recent years. The attack is so severe, in fact, it’s likely that anyone with a credit report was affected.

If you are concerned that you may have been impacted by the breach, Equifax has set up a website to help individuals determine if any of their personal information may have been stolen. Complete the following steps:

  1. Go to the “Check Potential Impact” page.
  2. Provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.

From there, a dialogue box will pop up and indicate whether or not your information was lost in the hack. All U.S. customers will also be given the opportunity to sign up for TrustedID Premier, which is an Equifax service that includes identity theft insurance, credit reports, and a service that crawls the internet and alerts you if your Social Security number is posted somewhere online. This service will be free for one year for those who sign up by Nov. 21st.

If you have been impacted by the breach, experts recommend engaging in a credit freeze. This effectively locks down your Social Security number on your credit report and prevents criminals from opening up new lines of credit under your name. For more information on credit freezes, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

It should be noted that it may not be obvious that you are a customer of Equifax, as the company gets its data from credit card companies, banks and lenders that report on credit activity. As such, it’s important to follow the appropriate steps and check to see if your information was compromised.
Additionally, you should review your online bank and credit card statements on a weekly basis. This will help you monitor any suspicious activity. Contact law enforcement officials if you believe criminals have used your stolen information in some way. 

Baldwin/Welsh & Parker Insurance Agencies, Inc. will continue to monitor the Equifax cyber incident, providing any major updates as necessary.

 

See Related Article: 6 Equifax hack rumors fact-checked

Monday, 11 September 2017 15:30

Glossary of Weather Terms

We are in the middle of hurrican season, which is June 1st - November 30th, and there's 24/7 weather coverage during which weather experts toss around a variety of terms. Have you ever wondered what they all mean? For example, during Hurricane Irma, the two terms that got a lot of air time were "the best track" and "the European model." If you wondered what all these terms mean, here's a list of storm terms and their meanings.

  • The best track is a smoothed representation of a storm’s location and intensity over its lifetime. The best track contains the storm system’s latitude, longitude, maximum sustained surface winds, and minimum sea-level pressure at six-hour intervals, based on a post-storm assessment of all available data.
  • The European model is considered by meteorologists to be the most accurate model for predicting hurricanes in the mid-latitudes. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), which runs the model, developed a its method for integrating real-time meteorological data into their algorithm (so it starts with more accurate initial conditions), and invested in very advanced computer hardware. Both the European and the American models are predictive mathematical models, so they don’t necessarily reflect the hurricane path issued by the National Hurricane Center.
  • The eyewall is the band or ring of cumulonimbus clouds that surround the eye of the storm. The most severe weather of the hurricane occurs in the eyewall: Towering thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, and high winds.
  • The Fujiwhara effect occurs when two tropical cyclones orbit around one another.
  • A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph.
  • The hurricane categories are a naming convention system. Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on the intensities of their sustained winds, which is known as the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.
    Category 1:Winds speeds of 74-95 mph; very dangerous winds will produce some damage
    Category 2:Wind speeds of 96-110 mph; extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage
    Category 3: Wind speeds of 111-129 mph; devastating damage will occur
    Category 4: Wind speeds of 130-156 mph; catastrophic damage will occur
    Category 5: Wind speeds greater than 156 mph; catastrophic damage will occur and most areas will be uninhabitable
  • A hurricane warning is an announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified area in association with a tropical storm.
  • A hurricane watch is an announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within the specified area in association with a tropical storm.
  • Latent heat is the heat required to convert a solid into a liquid or vapor without a change in temperature. When water vapor condenses to form clouds, latent heat (energy) is released, which helps storms intensify by warming the surrounding air and causing instability.
  • A major hurricane has winds greater than 110 mph.
  • Maximum sustained winds is the standard measure of a tropical cyclone’s intensity. It refers to the highest one-minute average wind speed (at an elevation of 10 meters with an unobstructed exposure) associated with that weather system at a particular point in time.
  • A monsoon is not a storm, but a large-scale, seasonal wind shift over a region accompanied by large amplitude seasonal changes in precipitation (whether heavy rains or draught).
  • The radius of maximum winds is the distance from the center of a tropical cyclone to the location of the cyclone’s maximum winds. In well-developed hurricanes, the radius of maximum winds is typically at the inner edge of the eyewall.
  • A storm surge is the rise in sea levels following a hurricane or major storm, where the height is the difference between the observed sea level and the level the water would be without a cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal high tide from the observed storm tide.
  • A storm tide is the actual level of sea water resulting from the normal tide combined with the storm surge.
  • A tropical cyclone is a general term for warm weather storm systems that occur over tropical waters, such as tropical storms, hurricanes, and typhoons. A cyclone has a well-defined center, and rotates counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • A tropical depression is a tropical cyclone with a maximum sustained wind speed of less than 39 mph.
  • A tropical storm is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained wind speeds between 39 mph and 73 mph.
  • A typhoon is a tropical cyclone that forms in the Pacific Ocean between 180° and 100°E, with winds of 74 mph or greater. Typhoons are the same weather phenomena as hurricanes; the only difference between them is the location where the storm occurs.

Now, the next time you hear one of these terms on a weather update, you'll have a better understanding of what it means.

Thursday, 07 September 2017 01:31

Are You Prepared For Flash Floods?

Flash floods can occur within minutes or hours of excessive rainfall, a dam or levee failure, or a sudden release of water held by an ice jam. Overland flooding, the most common type of flooding event typically occurs when waterways, such as rivers or streams, overflow their banks as a result of rainwater or a possible levee breach and cause flooding in surrounding areas. It can also occur when rainfall or snowmelt exceeds the capacity of underground pipes, or the capacity of streets and drains designed to carry floodwater away from urban areas.

Be aware of flood hazards no matter where you live or work, but especially if you are in low-lying areas, near water, behind a levee or downstream from a dam. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds or low-lying ground that appear harmless in dry weather can flood.

Wednesday, 06 September 2017 22:42

7 Ways to Prepare for a Hurricane

Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm, is expected to impact the United States this week when it reaches Florida. At this time, there's no way to know if the storm will impact New England; however, it is hurricane season and we have experienced hurricanes in New England in the past. Before a devastating storm reaches our area, it's a good idea to plan ahead. What can you do to prepare for a potential hurricane? Here's what you need to help you and your family remain safe:

 

1. Prepare a Basic Disaster Supply Kit

  • Water - one gallon of water for drinking and sanitation per person, per day, for at least three days
  • Food - at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio, and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Cell phone chargers and portable backup batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps with evacuation locations - find evacuation zone maps

Hurricane Harvey is the strongest storm to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004. News of the damage it has caused to southeastern Texas is prompting people to help in whatever ways they can. Unfortunately, there are dishonest people who prey upon people’s good intentions, creating fake charity campaigns to exploit victims and take advantage of those who want to help.


How to Avoid Scams

Despite the sense of urgency to help when disaster strikes, it is important to do some research before donating. Consider the following best practices to ensure that your resources go to a legitimate charity with experience in disaster relief:

  • Never wire money to someone who claims to be a charity. Legitimate charities do not ask for wire transfers. Once you wire the money, you’ll probably never get it back.
  • Be cautious about bloggers and social media posts that provide charity suggestions. Don’t assume that the person recommending the charity has fully researched the organization’s credibility.
  • Only donate through a charity’s official website, never through emails. Scammers have a knack for creating fake email accounts that seem legitimate.
  • Ensure that the charity explains on its website how your money will be used.
  • Be wary of charities that claim to give 100 percent of donations to victims. That is often a false claim, as well-structured organizations need to use some of their donations to cover administrative costs. 
  • Never offer unnecessary personal information, such as your Social Security number or a copy of your driver’s license. However, it is common for legitimate charities to ask for your mailing address, and it is safe for you to provide it.
Thursday, 10 August 2017 20:10

National Motorcycle Safety Week

Motorcycle Week runs from August 14 through the 20th this year. There are events throughout the country, which means many people take to the roads for the annual bike week quest. As with every Motorcycle Week, there are accidents and fatalities. There is a growing trend in the number of motorcycle fatalities and accidents each year, making motorcycle safety a real concern for riders. Read on for some basic tips to help you arrive at your destination…safely.

 

Thursday, 10 August 2017 14:14

Beware Fake Eclipse Glasses

The moon will pass between the Earth and Sun on August 21st, entirely blocking the sun and briefly turning day into night in some parts of the United States. New Englanders will see a partial eclipse, weather permitting. This must see event is the first of its kind in the United States in over 38 year -- the last one in America was February 26, 1979. It is estimated that nearly 100 million people in the United States will view a portion of the 2017 solar eclipse, making it the most-viewed eclipse ever. If you plan to view the eclipse, you will need protection for your eyes.

According to Prevent Blindness, "Exposing your eyes to the sun without proper eye protection during a solar eclipse can cause 'eclipse blindness' or retinal burns, also known as solar retinopathy. This exposure to the light can cause damage or even destroy cells in the retina (the back of the eye) that transmit what you see to the brain. This damage can be temporary or permanent and occurs with no pain. It can take a few hours to a few days after viewing the solar eclipse to realize the damage that has occurred." The Prevent Blindess website offers a  download with guidelines for viewing the solar eclipsesolar eclipse. Also check out the safety guidelines for ISO and CE certified eclipse glassesISO and CE certified eclipse glasses at Eclipse Glasses Online.

How to Safely View the Solar Exclipse

The only safe way to view the partial or total solar eclipse is with eclipse glasses and solar filters. Homemade devices are not safe. Follow these steps for a safe viewing experience:

  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun.
  • After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device.
  • Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.
  • Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars or any other optical device.
  • If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. As soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to glance at the remaining partial phases.
  • There are many websites and stores where you can purchase  handheld viewing devices or glasses, however, not all products will truly protect your eyes. Therefore, to ensure you have the best protection available, make sure you choose viewers that have been verified by an accredited testing laboratory to meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has approved of the following well-known telescope and solar-filter companies. Those with an asterisk (*) are based outside the United States. 

Solar Viewer Brands

Using the proper equipment will ensure a safe, memorable experience. Protect your eyes and enjoy this historic event!

 

*This information about eclipse sunglasses or other products is not an endorsement from Baldwin | Welsh & Parker. The article is for informational/educational purposes only.

 

Friday, 04 August 2017 03:02

Auto Claims After a Car Accident

Auto insurance is meant to protect you by covering your bills after an accident. However, the amount of compensation can vary greatly depending on the type of claim that’s made by insurance carriers and the value of your vehicle. The decision to have your vehicle repaired or declared a total loss directly impacts how much you receive.


Determining a Claim

If you’re in an accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier will analyze the approximate value of your vehicle before the accident as well as the cost to repair it afterward. Typically, the pre-accident value of your vehicle is determined by finding its actual cash value. This value is found by taking the price of a similar replacement vehicle in your area and then subtracting any pre-accident depreciation, such as your vehicle’s mileage and history.

If the cost to repair your vehicle is less than its actual cash value, insurers will usually opt to compensate you for the repairs. However, if the cost is too high or if the vehicle can’t be restored to a safe condition, insurers may declare it a total loss.


Total Loss Claims

If your vehicle is declared a total loss, you’ll be compensated with the full actual cash value of your vehicle, minus any applicable policy deductible. 

However, if a financed or loaned vehicle is declared a total loss, the insurer will pay the remaining balance to the finance company first. Here’s a breakdown of the two most common scenarios that occur when a financed vehicle is declared a total loss:

  • The actual cash value of the vehicle is greater than the remaining balance of the loan. In this scenario, the insurer pays off the loan and then gives you the amount by which the actual cash value exceeds the loan balance.
  • The actual cash value of the vehicle is less than the remaining balance on the loan. In this scenario, you are responsible for the difference between the actual cash value and the remaining loan balance.

Repairs and Diminished Value Claims

Getting a check for the full cost of your vehicle’s repairs may seem like a best-case scenario. However, repairs can substantially reduce your vehicle’s value. Even if it drives better than ever after being repaired, the fact that it was in an accident will taint its history and lead to a lower price if you ever choose to sell it. However, you can file a diminished value claim against an insurance carrier to try to recover any value that’s lost as a result of repairs.

Most states and insurance contracts prevent policyholders from bringing diminished value claims against their own insurers. However, if another driver is at fault for an accident and his or her insurance pays for your repairs, you may be able to use a diminished value claim to recover any lost value.

Because few vehicles are appraised immediately before they’re involved in an accident, it can be hard to prove that value has been lost after they’re repaired. Here are some tips you can use before and after an accident to prepare yourself for a successful diminished value claim:

  • Check third-party websites to get an approximate value for your vehicle’s make and model.
  • Take your vehicle to a pre-owned dealership after an accident for an appraisal. You can then ask for a letter that shows that your vehicle’s lower-than-average value is due to its repairs or accident history.
  • Keep documentation about any repairs or enhancements to your vehicle. These documents can help show a more detailed history of your vehicle when determining its value.
  • Contact us at (508) 358-5383 for more information about diminished value claims and to discuss the specifics of your situation.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A CAR ACCIDENT

If you are in a car accident, you can contact our agency directly to report claims during regular business hours. You can also file a claim anytime. Visit our auto insurance claim reporting page to find your insurance company contact information, and report the acccident directly to your company.


DOWNLOAD A MASSACHUSETTS CRASH REPORT

Download the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report form and follow the instructions for submitting the form by mail to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.

When Should You File a Report

  • You should file a report if you’re the operator of a vehicle involved in a crash where the damage to any one vehicle or property is over $1000, or if there is an injury to any person, even if a police officer was on the scene. You should file the report within 5 days of the date of the crash.

When Should You NOT File a Report

  • You should not file a report if the crash occurred on a private road, driveway, private parking lot or other private way.

Why this Report is Important

  • Data from this report is used for many purposes including:
  • Identifying locations with a large number of crashes.
  • Improving dangerous highways and intersections.
  • Developing highway safety public information programs.
  • Developing programs to save lives and reduce highway injuries.

Be Prepared

There are few things more dangerous and stressful than getting into an accident. Contact us at (508) 358-5383, and we will provide you with a variety of resources.

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Hudson, MA - 978-562-5652

Wayland, MA - 508-358-5383

Winthrop, MA - 617-846-0731

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