Equine Insurance and Horse Insurance

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Scammers Turn to Smishing for ID Theft

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

This article is from Scambusters.org. They have great information to help all us avoid losses from scams.

Phishing, the scam that involves tricking people into giving away confidential information, is surging via text messaging, posing a greater than ever risk of identity theft.  The reason? People trust text messages more than they do email, so they’re more likely to fall for the scam.

This type of phishing, better known as “smishing,” has been around for years but because consumers have wised-up to email tricks and, in fact, are using email less and less for simple messages, scammers have switched their focus to SMS texts to target their victims.

According to computer blogger Luke Larsen, the crime “has come full-force to texting, and it carries even more potential danger than it does through email.”  Writing for the online tech site Digital Trends, he says that cyber crooks are buying up smart phone numbers from databases on the dark web and then targeting them to trick users into giving up personal info.  The text usually contains a link that downloads malware, which steals as much data as it can find.

And therein lies the threat:  “Your smartphone knows a lot more about you than your PC, so an installed piece of malware might steal the phone numbers in your contact list and spread the virus in hopes to exponentially multiply,” Larsen says.  “Even important bits of personal data, like banking credentials or your tracking location, can be at risk.”

Insider View

His views are echoed by industry insider Ruby Gonzales, communications director of NordVPN, which recently published a report on the trend.  She says that, as personal use of email is falling, legitimate marketing companies have turned to SMS and some social media sites to sell their products and services.  Users have become accustomed to receiving offers by text, including clickable links. They’re also less likely to have spam filters on their texting service, like they do with email, and it’s often difficult to check whether links inside SMS messages are valid or not.  “It’s a wider channel for criminals,” Gonzales says, “and they are trying to exploit it in the same way as all other channels that are opening.” 

Scammers are also using texts to pose as tax authorities, not just in the US but also in the UK and Canada. The tactic creates a false sense of realism because many people don’t realize that text messages can be a threat.

“They say that the user is due a tax refund or needs to provide more information,” she explains. “Basically, they try to get users’ information, and that can be used for stealing their money.”

Dangerous messages sometimes use shortcodes — one-word responses users are asked to key in to acknowledge they got it. That can be enough to trigger a malware download.

For example, scam messages posing as donation requests from charities may provide a single word response that immediately forwards a donation. Scammers have used the same tactic, Larsen says, to steal money right out of bank accounts.

You might also end up with additional charges on your phone bill, according to a recent warning from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Research suggests as many as one in three smartphone users had been targeted by a smishing attempt in just six months last year, although the actual number is likely to be higher since most people don’t report scam attempts.

What to Do

The best thing you can do to avoid falling victim is to never click on a link inside a text message.

Certainly, you should never respond to a request for a password or other confidential information. Instead, visit the real website of the organization that seems to be asking and check if it’s a genuine request.

You should also use extreme caution even if the message asks you to send the word “Stop” to stop receiving messages, as many do, unless you’re 100% sure that it’s genuine.

Sending a “Stop” message may not land you in immediate trouble but it signals to a phishing scammer that there’s a bite on the line.

In fact, for the same reason, you should never reply to text messages from someone you don’t know. It simply opens the door for an onslaught of spam.

In most cases, it’s actually illegal for businesses to send unsolicited texts to mobile devices without your permission. So, if you get one, that’s a big red flag.

Block the sender if you can. But otherwise, just delete the message.

And don’t share your cell phone number on social media.

In addition, it’s wise to install an anti-malware app on your phone.

Contrary to what many people believe, Gonzalez says, phones are more susceptible to malicious software than PCs.  “Specifically, Android phones,” she warns, “because Android is a more open system.”

To learn more about smishing, check out this article from Internet security company Kaspersky: https://usa.kaspersky.com/resource-center/threats/what-is-smishing-and-how-to-defend-against-it

March is Flood Awareness Month

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

Do you live in a flood zone?  You can find out by going to FEMA’s portal  and typing in your address. 

Many people believe their homeowners or farmowners policy will cover damage caused by flood; however, this is not true.  Most policies specifically exclude damage by flooding.  If you need flood insurance, you must purchase a flood insurance policy.  Talk to your homeowners agent or contact the NFIP Referral Call Center at 1-800-427-4661 to request an agent referral.

Go to FEMA’s How Do I Buy Flood Insurance to get good information to think about (and questions to ask your agent).

Check your flood zone status today and take the necessary steps to protect your home.  A flood is bad enough so don’t make it worse by finding out your not covered.

Why do I need insurance?

Monday, February 11th, 2019

We invest a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into our horses.  And money, lots of money! 

Mortality and medical insurance can help with the health care expenses should your horse get sick or be injured. 

Call us for a free quote for mortality and medical insurance. We can offer a variety of plans so best meet your needs.  Don’t think your horse isn’t valued high enough for insurance – we know he’s priceless to you!

Tax Scams: What to Expect in 2019

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

I received this article via email from Scambusters.org. They have very good information each week and you might want to subscribe to their newsletter.

It used to be that this time of year was the season for tax scams — during the run-up to Tax Day itself.

But no longer. Tax scams are a year-round event with crooks, in the main, either posing as the IRS trying to trick you into sending them money or faking a taxpayer’s identity to claim a refund. For example, one of the newest and most widespread tricks, known as the tax transcript scam, involves a fairly convincing phishing attempt that isn’t tied to the filing season.

Victims receive an email pretending to be from “IRS Online” with an attachment labeled “Tax Account Transcript.” Genuine transcripts are summaries of individuals’ tax records and histories. But this attachment carries a dangerous payload — a piece of malware that tries to steal information from your PC. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says not only does the agency not send unsolicited emails like this to the public, it also would never email a sensitive document such as a transcript to anyone. So, if you receive one of these messages, you know what to do: don’t click on the attachment, just delete the email.

Last year, the IRS reported a more than 60% rise in tax email phishing schemes. That doesn’t include the number of impostors — bogus callers — claiming to be with the agency, demanding payment of non-existent tax debts. According to a recent online report from Forbes magazine, tax impostor scams have netted more than $63 million for the crooks during the past five years.

The IRS repeatedly stresses that it never calls people to demand immediate payment. Nor does it threaten to involve law enforcement or arrest you for non-payment or ask you to pay bills via gift cards.

How the IRS Contacts You : “The IRS initiates most contacts with taxpayers through regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service,” the agency explains. “However, there are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, such as:
* When a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill
* To secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or
* To tour a business, for example, as part of an audit or during criminal investigations.

“Even then, taxpayers will generally first receive a letter or sometimes more than one letter, often called notices, from the IRS in the mail.”

If you do receive a suspicious message purporting to be from the IRS claiming you owe money, don’t get involved in a phone conversation or chain of emails. Instead, call the agency at 1-800-829-1040 to check it out.

Despite the year-round nature of some of these tricks, there’s no doubt that the coming weeks remain the hottest for tax scams, ranging from fraudulent refund claims to shady and fake tax preparers.

The agency’s own list of the most common scams — updated in 2018 — which it calls the “dirty dozen,” names them as: phishing, phone scams, identity theft, return preparer fraud, fake charities, inflated refund claims, excessive claims for business credits, falsely padding deduction on returns, falsifying income to claim credits, frivolous tax arguments, abusive tax shelters and offshore tax avoidance.

Five Key Actions : Note that a number of these actually relate to fraud committed by taxpayers themselves. The rest cover just about every type of scam around today. To protect yourself against these types of crimes, here are 5 key actions you should take.

1. Safeguard your personal information, notably your Social Security number. Ensure you have up to date security software on your PC to avoid data theft,

2. File your tax return as soon as possible. If it’s rejected, it’s possibly because someone already fraudulently claimed your refund. You’ll need to complete an Identity Theft Affidavit to put this right. Download it here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f14039.pdf

3. If you plan to use a tax preparer, seek recommendations from trusted acquaintances. Always check out the preparer’s credentials. Here are 10 tips from the IRS on how to choose: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/ten-tips-for-choosing-a-tax-preparer

4. Don’t be persuaded by individuals or groups claiming that, for some obscure reason, you don’t have to pay tax at all. This is what the IRS refers to as “frivolous tax arguments.” Learn more here: https://www.irs.gov/privacy-disclosure/the-truth-about-frivolous-tax-arguments-introduction

5. Don’t be tempted to make untrue statements or claims on your own return. If you do, you potentially risk going to jail.

One final point: If you need to visit the IRS online, go straight to www.irs.gov. Any other address that turns up in a Google, Bing, Yahoo or other search could be a fake, even if it looks like it belongs to the IRS.

Paying taxes is a painful fact of life. Don’t make it hurt even more by falling for a tax scam — remain skeptical and vigilant!

It’s a new year!

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

We are two weeks into the new year. Did you make resolutions? Are you keeping them? One resolution that could help you financially is to take a look at your insurance. Have you updated your homeowner’s policy lately? Have you started an equine business such as boarding or lessons? Has your horse increased in value or do you need to think about medical coverage?

Fry’s Equine Insurance is here to help you with your equine insurance.

If you own a horse, we are here to help you look at the options available from mortality (life insurance) to medical (colic, surgeries, accident-sickness-disease coverage). Many horse owners don’t realize they have a liability exposure as well – if your horse hurts someone, you could be named in the claim (even if the horse is boarded somewhere).

If you are a trainer or instructor, we can give you the liability protection you need.

If you own a farm and you are running a boarding operation and/or giving lessons or training, we can help you with the right type of policy. Many homeowners policies don’t cover your barns properly and there may be exclusions if you are running an equine operation. Do you have independents on your property? Are they carrying the proper coverage for you as well?

Give Fry’s Equine Insurance Agency at all 614-875-3711 or 614-875-3755 and we will be happy to listen to you and answer your questions. We aren’t trying to sell you just any policy but rather we are here to help you choose the right policy for you.

Call Spoofing: Why You Should Never Trust Caller ID

Friday, January 4th, 2019

Call Spoofing: Why You Should Never Trust Caller ID **Article courtesy of SpamBusters.org

A new Social Security call spoofing scam provides all the evidence needed for why you should never trust caller ID. Spoofing is a computer tactic used by scammers to trick your caller ID service. Instead of revealing who’s on the line, a spoofed call appears to come from someone else — in fact, whoever the scammer wants it to be.

According to Hiya, a company that specializes in blocking spam phone calls, more than half of all calls received by its customers in the first half of 2018 were spoofed — both on landlines and cell phones.

In the latest incident, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) says crooks are spoofing its main customer service line — 800-772-1213. Mostly, however, that number is used by folks dialing into the SSA, not for outgoing calls from the organization. So if it shows up on your caller ID, there a pretty good chance it’s a fake call.

In this case, as so often, the scammers are after personal information including your Social Security number (SSN), which they can use for identity theft. They may even try threatening to cut off your benefits if you don’t give them the info. But, when you think of it, how could someone cut off your benefit when they supposedly don’t know your SSN? It’s a dead giveaway for a scam. In other cases, they may claim to be offering an increase in benefits in return for your cooperation.

SSA Acting Inspector General Gale Stone says the Administration doesn’t ask for SSNs if it has to phone people for customer service purposes. Nor, of course, do they make threats to withdraw benefit.

If you get one of these calls, the best solution is not to answer it at all. But if you do and the caller asks for your SSN, it’s definitely not the Social Security people — so just hang up.

If you’re worried, you can always call that same number given above and connect to the genuine department to check.

You can also visit www.medicare.gov/fraud to learn more about keeping your number and your card out of the hands of crooks.

Another favorite call spoofing trick that scammers are increasingly using is to mimic local area phone code calls, which they know people are more likely to answer, especially if the number is similar to the victim’s own number.

Jonathan Nelson, director of Reputation Data at Hiya was recently quoted by the Consumer Affairs website as saying: “Scammers are never idle with their tactics and, with the neighbor scam, they are experimenting with all the ways to spoof their number to get consumers to pick up the phone.”

Once again, the best tactic is to ignore calls that come from numbers you don’t recognize. And if you do recognize it but it turns out to be a spoofed call, hang up.

A couple of things you shouldn’t do: Don’t get involved in a conversation if the caller is a real person. Just hang up.

And, if it’s a recorded call (robocall) that invites you to key in a certain number to eliminate future calls, don’t do that either. The scammers just use that as an indicator that you’re really there on the end of the line and that, potentially, you’re gullible.

Unfortunately, there’s no sign of an improvement in the spoofing crime or in the reduction of robocalls.

Another spam-blocking company, First Orion, recently told a government hearing on call spoofing earlier this year: “The fraudsters are very sophisticated, evolving their practices to avoid being labeled or blocked. As a result, we are in an arms race, not a marathon with a finish line, and will be in it until we make it unprofitable.”

And the Washington Post says that half of all complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) were about unwanted calls. The FCC estimates Americans received around 2.4 billion unwanted calls every month.

Yes, you can try to limit unwanted calls by signing up for the free Do Not Call registry (1-888-382-1222). But crooks are unlikely to take any notice of this list.

If you’re lucky, your phone service provider also may offer some kind of call filtering service.

Or you can consider using call-blocking services such as those mentioned here (we’re not recommending them as we haven’t tested them).

Remember, the scammers are constantly trying to find ways around call-blocking technology.

Ultimately, your best defense is, first, to be wary and skeptical whenever your phone starts ringing, ignoring or doubting your caller ID.

Second, if you do pick up, refuse absolutely to give confidential information in response to any incoming call. After all, there’s a near 50 percent chance it’s a call spoofing scam.

Keep your insurance up-to-date

Monday, December 10th, 2018

The holidays are upon us but don’t forget to keep your insurance up-to-date.

Did you get a new horse recently or maybe one is coming for Christmas? You may want to get insurance for mortality/medical.

Do we need to update your farm policy with new jewelry to schedule? Or have you added a building?

It is important to keep your insurance policy in mind whenever you make a change like purchasing an item (such as jewelry, tack, cameras) or activities change (you start boarding horses, you rent your house out, you start another business). Some changes won’t require a change to your policy but it is always a good idea to talk with your agent.

Wishing you a very happy and prosperous 2019!

Stay safe shopping online

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

Staying Safe When Shopping Online this Holiday Season – from Third Federal Savings & Loan newsletter

There’s no better time to shop online than during the holidays – no fighting traffic to drive to the mall and making endless circles around the parking lot. It is easy to compare prices between multiple retailers online, and read product reviews before you buy. Online stores are open 24/7, and you can even wear your pajamas while you shop. But, nothing can ruin your holidays more quickly than becoming a victim of a cybercrime. Follow these tips to help keep the Grinch from stealing your personal information when shopping online this holiday season.

  • Buy from a secure site. Reputable websites use technologies that encrypt your data during transmission. Look for a small padlock in the address bar or a URL that starts with “https” instead of “http,” as the “s” stands for secure. Do not enter payment information on a website that is not secure.
  • Make sure everything is up-to-date. Make sure your software is updated, and install new updates as they become available. This includes: your operating system, browser, antivirus software and any apps on your computer, or mobile devices. Hackers are on the lookout for security vulnerabilities in unpatched systems. These vulnerabilities are regularly being repaired in updates.
  • Be careful of your clicks. Your inbox may be full of emails promoting great holiday deals, but beware of clicking on links included in those emails. It could be a phishing scheme where shoppers who click through are led to a site designed to steal your personal information. If the deal is too good to pass up, go to the retailer’s official website to make the purchase.
  • Don’t make purchases on public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi connections are easily compromised, making your shopping and payment activity accessible to hackers. If you are using a public network, it’s best to limit yourself to window-shopping and price comparing, rather than buying, saving your purchases for when you are on a secure network connection.
  • Don’t let a website save your credit card information. As you check out on a retailer’s website, you might see an option to save your credit card information for faster payment on your next visit. Do not let websites save your credit card or banking information. While it is more work to type it in each time, if the website is breached by hackers, your information is less likely to be compromised.

Just as you would exercise caution with your wallet or purse in a crowded store, remember to be cautious online. Keep your cyber information secure while enjoying safe shopping online this holiday season.

Why That Warranty You Bought Might Be Worthless

Friday, November 9th, 2018

This article is from Scambusters Newsletter and may provide valuable information – especially as we are looking into buying high-ticket items during Black Friday season.  Did you know that some retailers start their Black Friday pricing in early November?

Do you feel confused, bamboozled and even suspicious when anyone utters the word “warranty” to you? Or, when a letter or email arrives saying your warranty is about to expire?

You are not alone. Warranties are supposed to protect you against faults with products you bought. But sometimes they’re like a license to print money for whoever’s offering them.

For instance, did you know that, according to Consumer Reports magazine, retailers and manufacturers who offer “extended warranties” — sometimes referred to as service contracts, a type of insurance that kicks in after a standard warranty expires — pocket 50% of the fee you pay?

That’s one reason why the magazine says you’re better off putting money aside every month to cover faults and repairs, rather than buying a warranty.

With domestic appliances, for example, the publication found that even when a consumer had to pay for repairs themselves, the cost was only on average $26 more than a service contract fee. And bear in mind most consumers don’t suffer a product fault or failure.

(It’s worth reading the magazine’s full report, which you’ll find here: https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/extended-warranties/buying-guide/index.htm)

In some cases too, warranties or service contracts are a downright scam, especially when whoever issued them refuses to honor them, either ignoring claims or using small print to wriggle out of their legal commitment.

In one example, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has come down on companies who said they wouldn’t honor warranties if the consumer either used a non-branded part or an unauthorized repair shop, or if the “warranty” seal on the product was broken.

Those restrictions are illegal says the FTC.

More recently, the agency has addressed confusion about the difference between regular and extended warranties, or service contracts.

The cost of a standard warranty usually is included in the price of the product you buy and is covered by the manufacturer. But you usually have to pay for an extended warranty or service contract, which may be issued by an insurer, other third party, or the original manufacturer themselves.

Oftentimes, a sales person will use high-pressure tactics to try to force you into buying the extended coverage at the time you make your initial purchase, warning that the deal won’t be available afterwards and implying you’d be foolish to miss out. That’s because they get paid commission for selling them.

In some cases, the contract you buy might cover exactly the same period of time your manufacturer’s warranty does. Or they may just cover part of the product. Either way, you’re pouring money down the drain.

Other times, you receive an official-looking warranty expiry/renewal notice in the mail, which is actually just sent out on spec to random consumers, when the issuer really has no idea when the product warranty they’re writing about — usually a car — finishes.

Whoever sent it often adds to the buy-now pressure by including a list of the high costs of having to pay for repairs yourself.

If you fall for this, again, you might be duplicating coverage you already have or, in a worst case scenario, just handing over money for nothing to a scammer.

Consumer champion and broadcaster Clark Howard reported this past August that these dubious vehicle service contract (VSC) providers “often go bust and leave their customers high and dry when repair bills need to be paid.”

And he draws attention to small print get-out clauses in one sample bill which insisted consumers making a claim first had to pay a deductible out of their own pockets. They were also required to produce every single receipt showing they had followed recommended service requirements before the policy would pay out.

He suggests that if you can cover the cost of repairs from your own wallet, you should never buy one of these contracts. If money is likely to be an issue, only consider buying coverage from the manufacturer, never from a third party.

We’d also like to add that you should never buy an extended warranty or service contract without first reading it, including the tedious small print, looking particularly for get-out clauses.

And if you’re thinking about buying an official extended warranty on a new auto from the dealer, think twice.

First, this may not be from the manufacturer but just another third-party warranty company. Check who the warranty is from. If it’s not the maker, ask the dealer if the manufacturer offers an extended warranty.

Just as important, bear in mind that the reliability of new cars these days means that claims are rarely made on an extended auto warranty, which often cost a couple thousand dollars. It’s easy money for the seller but not for you.

Holiday Hours for Fry’s Equine Insurance announced

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Fry’s Equine Insurance announces holiday hours for 2018:

Thanksgiving, we will be closed on Thursday and Friday, November 22nd and 23rd.

Christmas, we will be closed Monday and Tuesday, December 24th and 25th.

New Years, we will be working Monday morning 9-12 on December 31st and closed on January 1st.

If an emergency comes up, our agent-on-call can be reached at insurehorses@gmail.com – this email is good anytime the office is closed (after hours, holidays, weekends).

We highly recommend that you have your policy information on hand in case you need to contact claims immediately (in the event of an emergency with your horse).