Wrap up the Small Business Week by supporting local businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of the US economy. They also create two out of every three new jobs. To survive they need our support.

So, when you run your errands this weekend, stop by and support your local small businesses.

The compromise of business email is on the rise, particularly for cloud-based applications, according to the most recent report from Beazley Breach Response Services, part of specialist insurer Beazley P.L.C.

The industries most affected were the financial services, health care and professional services industries, according to the Beazley Breach Insights report, released Monday.

Many of the incidents involved Office 365, the cloud-based suite of Office applications, which accounted for 13% of incidents, the report said. 

Hack or malware accounted for 42% of incidents, followed by accidental disclosure at 20%, and both social engineering and insider at 9%, the report said.

Other causes were portable devices at 5%; physical loss/non-electronic record at 4%; payment card fraud at 1%; and unknown/other at 10%.

Spreads among the different industries varied widely. In higher education, hack or malware accounted for 47% of incidents, followed by accidental disclosure at 21%, less than half.

The spread in the financial sector is even greater, with hack or malware in 55% of incidents and accidental disclosure, the next most frequent type, in just 18%.

Among health care incidents, however, hack and malware and accidental disclosure both came in at 29%, the report showed.

“These incidents are usually caused by an employee clicking on a link in a phishing email, often in the form of a ‘DocuSign’ request, Help Desk message, or Microsoft survey,” the report said.

Such incidents are on the rise because they are easy to carry out and the email accounts can be used for a variety of purposes, the report said.

Many can be easily avoided, however, by enforcing strong password policies and educating employees about the risks of recycling passwords for different applications; alerting employees who have access to accounts payable systems or wire transfer payments about these types of scams; and training all employees to beware of phishing attempts.

“The number of compromised email accounts is accelerating, but simple steps such as frequently changing passwords, having dual-factor authentication and removing auto-forwarding or auto-delete rules can help reduce vulnerabilities,” Katherine Keefe, global head of Philadelphia-based Beazley Breach Response Services, said in the report.

Source:  Beazley Breach Response Services

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud is warning seniors of an identity-theft scam targeting Medicare recipients.

Starting this month, Medicare will be mailing new cards with random characters – instead of Social Security numbers – to nearly 60 million seniors. The new cards are a security measure to prevent medical and financial ID theft by scammers who steal seniors’ Social Security numbers from the cards, according to the coalition.

But con artists have been cold-calling senior citizens about the new cards, trying to steal Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and credit card information, the coalition warned. Callers pretend they’re from Medicare and request seniors’ personal information. Among the pitches scammers are using are:

  • You must pay for your new Medicare card or else you’ll lose your benefits
  • Medicare is updating its files and needs your bank and credit card numbers
  • Medicare needs to confirm your Social Security number before you can receive your new card
  • Medicare needs your bank information in order to send you a refund on your old card

The coalition warned that scam emails and texts are using similar tactics.

“Scammers prey on confusion about the new Medicare cards,” the coalition said. According to an AARP survey, three out of four seniors know little or nothing about the cards, and six in 10 think they must pay a fee. Up to half might not question the legitimacy of a call from someone claiming to be a Medicare representative.

The coalition offered this advice:

  • If someone calls you with a pitch about the new cards, hang up. Medicare won’t phone you about the cards. They’re free, and Medicare recipients do not have to report or verify information in order to receive them
  • Sign up for an alert that Medicare has mailed the new card
  • Destroy your old Medicare card when the new one arrives

Please follow these tips to keep your Medicare information.

Source: Insurance Business America

April 17th is right around the corner and that is when we submit our tax filings to our state and federal government. Tax deductions can help you cut down your 2017 tax bill.

Here are 11 deductions that you might have overlooked courtesy of CNN Money:

Traditional IRA contributions - you have till April 17th to make a tax-deductible contribution to your traditional IRA for 2017.  You can contribute $5,500, or $6,500 if you're over 50.

Head of Household filing status - If your spouse has not been in the home for the last six months of 2017, you can qualify for head of household status.

Moving expenses - you can deduct any moving related expenses not reimbursed by your employer or if you are self-employed.

Mileage - If you drive for work you may deduct a portion of the miles you log, as long as you meet certain criteria and itemize your deductions. 

Gambling losses - If you enjoy wagering, you're allowed to deduct your losses but only up to the amount of your winnings for the year, and only if you itemize. 

Related: Tax law, bonuses and raises: 5 things you need to know

Personal property taxes - If you itemize your deductions and live in a state that imposes an annual personal property tax based on the value of your car, you may deduct that tax on your federal return.

Medical expenses - You can take this deduction if you itemize, and the new tax law made it a little easier to take, temporarily. The general rule is that you may deduct any unreimbursed medical and dental expenses that exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income. But that threshold is lowered to 7.5% of AGI for tax years 2017 and 2018 only. 

Reinvested dividends - If you sold a long-held stock or mutual fund in 2017, you'll owe tax on any capital gain, which is the difference between your purchase price (aka your "cost basis") and the price you sold the investment for. But if you've been reinvesting your dividends all along, that money gets added to your cost basis.  And that will reduce the overall tax you owe on your capital gains. 

Private mortgage insurance premiums - If you itemize deductions, you're allowed to deduct the PMI payments you made last year on loans taken out after 2006. You only have to pay PMI if you put down less than 20% on the home you bought. You can't take the deduction if your AGI is over $110,000. This break had expired but was given a one-year extension under a recent spending deal passed by Congress. 

Home equity interest - If you've taken out a home equity loan or line of credit, you may still deduct the interest you pay on it for 2017.  But per guidance from the IRS, from 2018 through 2025, you will only be able to deduct the interest if you use the money for home improvemen

Since 1992, April has been designated as Stress Awareness Month.  According to the American Institute of Stress, about 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related disorders, ranging from stomach trouble to heart disease.  Job related stress costs American businesses about $150 billion a year.

AmeriHealth has put together an entire Stress Awareness Employer Toolkit that you can use to coordinate employee sessions on how to handle stress.  Among the items are quiz, fact sheets, flyers, and resources.

To obtain a toolkit, click here.

Do you use Orbitz to book your travel?  If so, you might be one of over 880,000 payment card number and related information exposed to a data breach.  These were two breaches which occurred:

  • January 1, 2016 and June 22, 2016
  • January 1, 2016 and December 22, 2016

If you booked travel via Orbitz, you might be a victim of identity theft and aren't aware that you data has been compromised due to the late release of this information by Orbitz.

Call the agency today to find out about identity theft coverage which can help offset the expenses of identity restoration.

Be prepared to lose an hour on Sunday when you should advance your clocks by one hour.  The debate is on to eliminate this long-held practice and individual states are discussing the pros and cons of maintaining DST.  Daylight Savings Time is also a good time to change batteries in your smoke detectors and weather radios.  

Every day over 2,000 Americans suffer from an eye injury.  This means that almost one million Americans have experienced some vision loss due to eye injury which results in more than $300 million in lost work time, medical expenses and workman's compensation according to YourSightMatters.com. 

The most common eye problem is computer vision syndrome. 

Too much screen time and not enough breaks can cause headaches, inattentiveness, neck pain, back strain, and dry eye. Studies show that staring at a screen for extended periods of time lengthens the interval between blinks, preventing eyes from staying lubricated and moistened (Source: Eye Med). 

How to prevent computer vision syndrome and keep your eyes feeling comfortable, follow these tips:

  1. Reposition your screen. Adjust your screen to be at a right angle away from any direct light source. Invest in an anti-glare screen for your monitor to make computer work gentler on your eyes.
  2. Remember the 20-20-20 rule. This rule reminds you that every 20 minutes, you should look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
  3. Don’t forget to blink. While it may sound ridiculous, write yourself a note and place it on your monitor. Write “Blink Often” or any other message that will remind you to regularly close your eyes to keep them from getting dried out.
  4. Use artificial tears. Over-the-counter eye drops can be extremely helpful in preventing dry eye and keeping your eyes comfortable.
  5. Drink water. Adequate hydration can make a big difference, especially during the winter months when heaters and furnaces can make the air particularly dry.
  6. Schedule regular comprehensive eye exams. Nothing can replace the importance of having an eye exam by a licensed ophthalmologist at regular intervals. If you have any concerns about your vision or experience any changes with your eyesight, do not delay in making an appointment.

To help you with your eye exam expenses, think about purchasing a Vision Insurance Policy.  Give us a call to find out more.

Source:  Eye Med, YourSightMatters.com

Malicious cyber activity cost the U.S. economy between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016, the White House Council of Economic Advisers estimated in a report on Friday.

The report quoted the U.S. intelligence community as saying the main foreign culprits responsible for much cyber activity against U.S. targets are Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

But it also said malicious cyber activity is not limited to foreign actors. Corporate competitors, activists seeking to advance a political agenda and organized crime are also responsible, it said.

The report said effective public- and private-sector efforts to combat the illicit activity would contribute to gross domestic product growth.

2018 is starting off with daily cyber attacks.  Is your business prepared? 

Source:  Reuters

Have you considered a career in insurance?  It's more than a job, it's more than "selling" -- it's about working with a client to provide them with the very best insurance coverage to meet their needs and mitigate their risks. It's a rewarding career. 

If you are interested in helping others to protect themselves from catastrophic loss, then we want to share our client experiences with you to see if the insurance industry is a good fit for you.

It's all about caring.

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