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Archive for March, 2011

How to Protect Yourself from Auto Insurance Fraud

March 25th, 2011 at 09:50 am

With auto insurance fraud on the rise itís important to know how to spot a staged accident. Itís also important to know that staged accidents arenít the only type of fraud. If youíre involved in a fender bender it may be truly an accident but fraud could still be perpetrated by the other person. If they had previous damage to their car this could be a perfect opportunity to get you to pay to have it fixed. Another form of insurance fraud is policies that promise far more than they ever intend to deliver. These are usually sold door-to-door or by unsolicited telephone calls. You think youíre protected until it comes time to file a claim, then the agent is nowhere to be found or you discover that virtually every conceivable reason is given to deny the claim. Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself from auto insurance fraud.

Basic Types of Fraud

There are two basic types of fraud, with a myriad of variations on each. The first is called hard fraud, which usually involves some sort of staged accident. The second is called soft fraud, and it consists of things like including extra body work from a previous accident into a claim or saying a vehicle is worth more than it actually is in order to receive more money.

Deliberate Accidents

There are a lot of ways crooks can stage an accident and make the authorities and your insurance company believe itís for real. Some involve more than one vehicle, or even an "innocent bystander" who just happens to witness the collision. These types of deliberate accidents can be avoided, but scammers can be very sophisticated. As a result, these "accidents" have occurred often enough to be given a title.

Sideswipe

When there are multiple turn lanes be prepared for the sideswipe artist who will deliberately but slowly move into your lane and then claim it was you who drifted into them.

The Drive Down

This scam involves a driver that is waiting to pull into traffic. They notice an oncoming driver wave them into the lane. As they pull out that driver speeds up and hits their car. Of course, that driver claims not to have waved and the one who pulled out is considered at fault.

Swoop and Squat

This is where a vehicle with a number of passengers will suddenly stop in front of you while a partner in another vehicle blocks your way so you canít avoid hitting the first car. The blocking car will quickly leave and it will appear youíre at fault. The passengers in the car you rear ended will all claim injuries.

The T-Bone

A very dangerous scam, the t-bone involves a car that waits at a crossroads, like a four way stop, until another vehicle goes through the intersection. They pull out quickly and hit that car in the side, and then claim the car never stopped at the corner. Frequently these scammers will be accompanied by a witness or two who just happened to see the whole thing take place and will back up the perpetrator.

What You Can Do

The best thing you can do to protect yourself from a hard scammer is to drive defensively. Make sure you donít tailgate and are aware of your surroundings. Give yourself plenty of distance between vehicles and focus on your driving. Donít be distracted by cell phones or CD players. If youíre in an accident get as much information as possible from everyone involved, and call the police immediately. Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as you can, and try and get as much visual evidence as possible by using a digital camera or camcorder.

Soft Fraud

These types of deceptions may be more difficult to spot, but they end up inflating the claim and ultimately costing you money because your insurance rates will probably go up. In order to protect yourself itís important to get visual evidence of any damage as quickly as possible. If there were any bystanders try and get a statement from them. Call the police immediately and donít settle on the spot, always contact your insurance company. You can also avoid fraud by dealing with a reputable insurance company and not buying insurance from someone you donít know and trust simply because itís cheap. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There is no sure way to avoid a scammer, but by simply being observant and alert you can increase your chances of not falling victim to fraud.

Guest post from Bailey Harris. Bailey writes about online car insurance quotes.

Cold and Flu Guest Post

March 24th, 2011 at 08:03 am

I recently had the opportunity to guest post on http://thriftculturenow.com. You can check out the article here:

http://thriftculturenow.com/frugal-living/664-top-natural-re...

Life Insurance 101

March 21st, 2011 at 10:41 am

Making sure your loved ones are taken care when you pass away is something that most people consider necessary. Having a life insurance policy in effect that will meet the needs of your family is the most important method of making that come about. But all life insurance policies are not the same, the varieties are almost limitless. You can tailor your policy in nearly any way you choose, including a way to get a return on your money while youíre still alive. Grasping the intricacies of life insurance isnít difficult; it just takes a bit of study to comprehend. Following is a primer on the subject, a sort of life insurance 101.

What Is Life Insurance?

Basically a life insurance policy is an agreement between two entities; you, the insured, and the provider, the insurance company. The purpose of the contract is to supply the insured with the monetary peace of mind that their designated beneficiaryís needs are met when theyíre no longer around to look after them. In return you consent to make periodic payments to the provider over the course of the contract. In the event you pass away the provider releases the agreed upon financial remuneration to the previously named beneficiaries.

Types of Life Insurance

There are two fundamental types of life insurance; term and whole life. Although they both accomplish the same purpose, to make sure your loved ones are provided for, they go about it in vastly different ways. Whichever you choose the peace of mind provided by life insurance coverage is well worth the cost.

Term Insurance

Term insurance covers the insured for a predetermined period of time. When that time is up, the coverage ends. If you want to be protected, you must either take out a policy with different terms than the one that just ended, with either the same company or a different one, or renew the old policy. One of the major advantages of term life insurance is the relatively low premiums, which make it a popular form of insurance for single people or those just beginning a family. Itís a reasonably inexpensive way to make sure their dependents will be provided for. Another advantage of term insurance is that the choices are limited, which makes deciding on the details of the policy much easier to make. The downside of term insurance is that the older you are the more your premiums will cost you, and if youíve suffered a medical problem that may continue to affect your health, you could be denied coverage.

Whole Life Insurance

A whole life insurance policy is different in a lot of ways. For one thing, a whole life policy generally remains in effect from the time you sign the papers until you either pass away or cash in the policy. The reason you have the option of receiving cash back is that the money you pay in premiums is invested and the value of the policy increases as the investments pay off. You can borrow against the value of the policy, or take all the cash out and terminate the policy. There is a caveat, however; because there is the opportunity to see a very good return on your investment your periodic premiums will be significantly higher than with term insurance, and of course, if you drop the policy entirely you wonít be protected. It can also be difficult to decide on the details of a whole life policy because there are so many options.

Combination Policies

It is possible to combine whole life insurance with term insurance resulting in a policy that is customized to meet your specific needs. Whichever option you choose it is a good idea to consult with an insurance agent and have them explain the details of their companyís life insurance plans. Once youíve determined the choice thatís right for your present situation youíll be able to relax knowing your loved ones will be provided for.

Guest post from Jessie Mars. Jessie

A Guide to High Deductible Health Plans

March 21st, 2011 at 10:31 am

People who want to make sure theyíre completely covered in case of a medical emergency may want to check into a high deductible health plan (HDHP.) Commonly referred to as catastrophic health insurance, high deductible health plans are intended to take care of the financial problems associated with medical expenses beyond what a normal health care plan would normally cover. Following is a guide to high deductible health plans.

Starting Out

A high deductible health plan goes hand in hand with a health savings account. They work in tandem. Basically a HDHP will cover you and your family in the case of a medical emergency. By definition you will be required to pay a rather substantial portion out-of-pocket. Having a health savings account (HSA) can help meet the cost of the high deductible. Because the money in a HSA is tax deductible the system is attractive to those who can put enough money in their health savings account to ensure theyíre protected against the high deductible in the HDHP. This type of plan is only good for major medical expenses and doesnít apply to certain types of medical care. One of the major benefits of a high deductible health plan is that the premiums are significantly lower than with a more traditional health care plan.

Tax Advantages

One of the major attractions of a HDHP is the tax advantage of a HSA. You can place more than $6,000.00 for a family or over $3,000.00 for an individual into a health savings account per year and 100% of that money is tax deductible. The money can then be used to pay the deductible for any emergency medical expenses that may be incurred. There is no limit on how much you can place in a health savings account, only on what is tax deductible. One caveat is that the money needed to be deposited before December 1, 2010 to qualify for a tax deduction in 2011. Consult your insurance agent, a tax attorney or an accountant to find out the deadline for 2012. Be aware the deadlines and amounts that are tax deductible may vary from state to state.

Coverage

A high deductible health plan will cover all major medical expenses and some routine medical costs. Preventative care, which includes such things as regular checkups for children or adults, weight loss programs, or plans designed to help a person quit smoking, are not included. There is usually a cap on the annual deductible. Once the cap is reached, the policy may cover all or part of routine medical expenses. The idea behind this type of plan is to protect you in case of a high-cost medical emergency. The HSA helps defer the out-of-pocket expenses caused by the high deductible. Itís a wonderful two-tiered system that can provide ample protection at reasonable rates.

Shop Around

As with any other type of insurance itís advisable to shop around before signing any papers. The amount of the deductible in a HDHP has an upper and lower range stipulated by law, but individual plans may vary. The minimum and maximum amounts may change from year to year, based on the cost of living. Talk to your insurance agent about the potential benefits of a high deductible health plan. Have them explain how a high deductible health plan works, and what your advantages or disadvantages may be. It might even be worth your time to consult a tax attorney or accountant before making a decision.

Guest post from Jessie Mars. Jessie writes for http://www.healthinsurancequotes.org.

10 Tips for Shopping at Thrift Stores

March 8th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Thrift stores are a great resource for the frugal shopper, the environmentally friendly shopper, or anyone looking to find a good deal. You can find everything from clothes and old record albums to furniture in a thrift store. Many thrift stores support a nonprofit organization, so you can be confident that the money you are spending is helping someone.

Shop Often

Shopping frequently is a very important part of thrift store shopping. Since new items arrive daily, you have to shop often to find the best products for the best deals. You may want to ask the store if they restock on a certain day or a certain time of day, and plan your trips around that information.

Be Friendly

Some thrift stores may not have paid employees; they may just be volunteers. Being nice to the employees--whether they are paid or volunteers--may help you get more discounts, coupons, or exclusive information on upcoming sales. Remember this is someplace you plan on visiting a lot; you don't want to be remembered as the rude customer.

Keep Your Eyes Open

When you are shopping in thrift stores, you have to keep your eyes open at all times. You never know when you will see a great deal. Don't be afraid to dig, a treasure may be buried under something or at the back of a rack.

Test Electronics

It is not possible for a thrift store to make sure that every item on the shelves is in working order. Most of the items are donated and it is assumed that they are in working condition. Before you buy any electronic items, you should test them to make sure they work correctly.

Make a List

Before you go thrift store shopping you should make a list of things you would like to find. This list should include sizes, colors, and any other item specifics you are looking for. Having a list will help keep you on track once you begin shopping. Use this list until you have found everything you were looking for.

Try It On

Many thrift stores do not provide dressing rooms, which can cause problems. You should always try clothes on before buying them. If you plan on going shopping at thrift stores, take your measurements before you leave the house. Take the measurements and the measuring tape with you while shopping. It is also a good idea to check the stores return policy.

Bring Cash

Many thrift stores do not accept personal checks, credit cards, or debit cards. When you are making your list of items to look for, also try to estimate the amount of money you are willing to spend. Before you go to the store to do your shopping, stop at the ATM and grab some cash.

Don't Impulse Shop

This one is pretty simple--don't buy something because it is cheap. Only buy items that you know will be used. You may like that end table but if you already have one, what will you do with it?

Be Creative

You are shopping in a thrift store so you already know how to reuse items, but can you repurpose items? Many items in a thrift store can be used for something other then what they were made for. For example, a curtain can be made into new pillows, old sheets can be made into curtains, and old shirts can be incorporated in a quilt.

Some Things to Avoid Buying

Thrift stores are a great place to shop for most items, but some things should not be bought there. Shoes, hats, and underwear should not be bought at a thrift store. You should not buy baby items like, cribs, highchairs, or swings from a thrift store either. These items may not be safe for your child.

Guest post from Bailey Harris, who writes about http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/ and related topics for www.homeownersinsurance.org.

5 Things to Think About Before Buying a New Car

March 8th, 2011 at 12:09 pm

The old clunker has finally had it, and youíve decided to shell out the money and get a new car. The prospect of tooling down the highway in a brand new vehicle is invigorating, but there are a lot of things to consider before you sign the papers. Doing your homework before rushing off to visit a car dealer is a wise course of action. Following are five things to think about before buying a new car.

Trade or Private Sale

One of the first things you need to think about is what to do with your old car. Hopefully you have a little set aside in savings so you donít actually need to use whatever the old car will bring toward a down payment, but it will help lower the monthly payments if you do. Your old car may not be worth a lot, but it does have value. You need to decide whether to sell it yourself or trade it in. Most sources agree that a private sale will bring a better price than a trade in. That is a consideration, but you have to realize that selling the car yourself may take time. If youíre in a hurry, a trade-in is probably best. It may all come down to how much you think the old car is actually worth--to you.

Type of Vehicle

Before you set foot inside a car dealership, you need to be certain what type of vehicle you need. If you carry a lot of large, heavy loads then a pickup truck, cargo van, or large SUV may be called for. Or, maybe a smaller truck would do the job. Stay-at-home moms generally car pool their kids, and their kidís friends, to school, soccer practice, karate meets, or band rehearsals. They need comfortable seating for multiple people. Business men and women may have to play host to out-of-town clients so a two-seater convertible is out of the question--theyíll need a full-size four-door vehicle. Living in a rural environment, or someplace that gets lots of snow may have you leaning towards 4-wheel drive. If you drive a lot but donít like spending half your income on gas then a fuel efficient car may be your choice. The point is that you should base your decision of what type of vehicle to buy on what you need and not necessarily on what you want. Knowing this ahead of time can save a lot of frustration when you begin actually looking at vehicles.

Lease or Buy

Another consideration is whether to lease or buy your new car. There is no definitive consensus about this issue. It seems like half the people you talk to swear that leasing is the most economical choice, while the other half contends that buying is the only way to go. The only thing you can do is research the deals offered by various car dealerships and determine which would fit your personality and pocketbook. A leased vehicle will generally cost less per month for the duration of the lease, but then you have to turn that car in and make the same choice again. Buying a car outright means you own it, as long as you make the payments. After itís paid off you still have the vehicle, but without payments.

Financing

Financing goes hand in hand with the decision to buy or lease because there is usually a disparity between the amounts you will pay per month--frequently less with a leased vehicle. If you lean heavily toward one side of the fence or the other then the next consideration is where to get your car financed. Whatever you choose, it is best to have financing arranged before you actually begin shopping. Borrowing the money for the car from a bank or credit union is usually cheaper than getting the loan through a car dealership--generally lower interest rates. There are exceptions, however, because lenders affiliated with brands, such as Ford Motor Credit or GMAC, frequently offer low interest loans.

Insurance

Another consideration before hitting the road is insurance. If you are making payments on your new vehicle, your lender will more than likely require you to carry full coverage for the duration of the loan. But that doesnít mean you donít have decisions to make. Before choosing an insurer you need to compare rates. Shop around and get quotes from a variety of insurance companies before signing any papers. If you have your home and health insurance with a certain company, they may offer discounts if you get your car insurance through them, too.

Guest post from Bailey Harris who writes about car insurance rates and related topics for the Car Insurance Blog.