July 2013
Fight Car Theft

Protect Your Car from Theft This Summer

Summer's a hot time for auto theft. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), July and August are the top months for vehicle thefts.

And it turns out that thieves aren't interested only in luxury vehicles, either. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that the 1994 Honda Accord is the kind of vehicle most likely to be stolen, while the NHTSA cites the Dodge Charger as the top favorite among car thieves.

How do you protect yourself from car theft? The NICB suggests a "layered approach."

Common sense — This is the most simple, inexpensive and effective way to thwart thieves. Remove your keys, lock your doors and park in well-lighted areas.

Warning devices — These are visible or audible devices that alert thieves your vehicle is protected, including audible alarms, steering column collars and steering wheel locks. Etching windows with vehicle identification numbers (VIN) is another measure worth considering.

Immobilizing devices — These electronic measures prevent thieves from bypassing your ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some, such as smart keys and ignition disablers, are standard on new cars. Others include fuse cut-offs, or starter and fuel disablers.

Tracking devices — These systems emit a signal to police or a monitoring station when the vehicle is stolen.

Steps to avoid purchasing stolen property

Before purchasing a used vehicle, buyers can enter the vehicle's VIN in the NICB and the NICB's VINCheck Website. This free public service can help buyers quickly and easily determine whether the vehicle may have been stolen.

Here are additional tips to avoid purchasing a stolen vehicle:

  • Is the vehicle "too good" to pass up? Consider the possibility that it could be stolen.
  • Check the seller's name and address against title and registration information.
  • Verify who financed the car and who insures it.
  • Examine the VIN plate. Scratches, dents or loose rivets can indicate tampering. Double check that the VIN matches the number listed on the seller's title.

For more tips, check out the resources provided by the NICB and the NHTSA.

Great 'Recipes' for Grilling Safety

Great 'Recipes' for Grilling Safety

There's nothing like the smell of outdoor grills during the summertime. But the summer grilling season can be risky, too. Case in point: July is the peak month for grill fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Prior to getting your grill on, consider these grilling safety tips.


  • Use your grill outdoors only (not in your garage, even if it's raining cats and dogs!).
  • Keep your grill at least 15 feet away from your home, deck railings and flammable items, and make sure it's not under eaves or branches.
  • Place your grill on a flat, non-flammable surface.
  • Clean the grill grate with a sponge and dishwashing soap, and remove rust with a wire brush. Remove grease from the grill.
  • For propane grills, put a light soap and water solution on the gas tank hose and look for bubbles, which would indicate a leak. If there is a leak, have the grill serviced by a professional.


  • Don't use gasoline, alcohol or kerosene to light your grill.
  • Never add lighter fluid or other flammable liquid once the coals have been lit.
  • Never leave the grill unattended.
  • Always keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill.
  • If you smell gas while grilling, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department.


  • Close the grill lid and vents tightly.
  • Don't move the grill or remove the coals for at least 48 hours.

For additional information, read our "Grilling Safety Tips" in the American Family Insurance Learning Center.

These Boating Safety Tips Could Save Your Life

Ten Boating Safety Tips That Could Save Your Life

There's nothing like boating on a nice sunny summer day. It's the very essence of what summertime is about – relaxing, being outdoors and enjoying your free time.

Don't let an accident take the wind out of your sails, though. Be water-wise and follow these boating safety steps.

1. Wear a life jacket — More than 80 percent of victims in fatal boating accidents drown because they failed to wear a life jacket. Be sure to wear one – and avoid becoming another statistic.

2. Check the weather — Weather is among the top 10 contributing factors in boating accidents. Before departure, check local weather conditions. Bring a radio, and get off the water if bad weather is approaching.

3. Leave alcohol at home — Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Do not drink or use drugs when boating – you're endangering yourself and others.

4. Use common sense — Operator inattention, improper lookout, inexperience, excessive speed and machinery failure are top contributing factors in boating accidents. Steer clear of large boats, be aware of buoys, and operate your boat at safe speeds, especially in crowded areas.

5. Keep an emergency kit on board — Keep maps, flares, a first-aid kit and other emergency supplies in a floating pouch.

6. Have a first mate — Make sure at least one other person on board is able to operate the boat, in the event that the primary navigator becomes incapacitated.

7. Share your float plan — Always let someone ashore know where you're going and how long you'll be gone. Provide that person with names and phone numbers of all passengers, boat type, registration information and trip itinerary.

8. Know how to swim — Knowing how to swim is essential to boating safety. The American Red Cross and the YMCA are among organizations offering swim lessons.

9. Complete a boating course — Depending on what state you're in, you might be required to complete a boating safety course. Regardless of your state's requirements, it's important to be educated, aware and prepared for every boating circumstance that might arise.

10. Get a safety check — The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons offer free boat examinations to verify the presence and condition of safety equipment required by state and federal regulations. To find the location nearest you, visit the Vessel Safety Check Examiners Database.

You also can keep your boat, motor, trailer and additional equipment protected through proper insurance coverage. Learn more about American Family's Boatowners Insurance.

Avoid Contractor Fraud After Storms

Avoid Contractor Fraud After Storms

Three thousand five hundred and counting ...

That's how many severe storms we've already had this year, and thousands more are likely to come, taking their toll in communities like yours.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) wants you to be aware of repair and building scams that follow in the wake of severe weather. Cleanup and repair businesses often go from door to door in neighborhoods hit by storms, offering their services. While the vast majority are reputable, some dishonest contractors manage to cheat homeowners out of hundreds and even thousands of dollars in the following ways:

  • Obtaining advance payment for repairs, and then never showing up to complete the job.
  • Starting a job and not completing it after receiving payment up front.
  • Cutting corners with inferior materials and poor workmanship in order to make a bigger profit.

Given that the majority of these scams are unsolicited, the NICB offers the following advice: "If you didn't request it, reject it." Instead, you should call your insurance company first if you believe you have storm-related damage.

Here are a few other tips the NICB recommends before you hire a contractor for repairs:

  • Get more than one estimate.
  • Get everything in writing.
  • Demand references and check them out.
  • Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate before the work is completed and you've confirmed it's code-compliant.

This Learning Center article offers further details on these and other tips to avoid getting duped by unscrupulous contractors.

If you're an American Family Insurance customer, and if you suspect you've been the victim of contractor fraud, please contact our Special Investigations Unit at (608) 242-4100, ext. 31061.

Remember, please contact your American Family agent first in the event of storm-related damage.