May 2014
Prevent Cell Phone and ID Theft
prevent cell phone theft

Prevent Cell Phone and ID Theft

Don’t let thieves steal your phone and the sensitive info it contains.

Got a cell or smart phone? You’d better watch out.

One of America’s fastest-growing crimes is cell phone theft.

Last year, cell phone robberies soared nearly 52 percent in St. Paul, and in Denver, “Apple picking” – the theft of iPhones – jumped 22 percent.

High resale value, access to valuable personal information and unauthorized expensive calls are big incentives for thieves, who may even resort to violence to take your phone.

While manufacturers pledged to equip smartphones with “kill switches” to remotely disable stolen phones, this won’t become standard until 2015. In the meantime, follow these steps to protect yourself, your property and your identity.

Take Precautions

  • Use your phone discreetly in public, and avoid displaying it in unsafe areas.
  • Never leave your device unattended in public places or in your car.
  • Record your device’s make, model, serial number and unique identification number (the Mobile Equipment Identifier or International Mobile Equipment Identifier Number), which police will need if it’s stolen.

Protect Data on Your Smartphone

  • Use your smartphone’s security lock code.
  • Install anti-theft apps that can help locate your smartphone, remotely lock it, remove sensitive data or sound a loud alarm.
  • Display an email address or alternative phone number on your lock screen, so you can be easily contacted if your smartphone is found. Do not display your address or other sensitive information.
  • Back up data and images regularly.

What to Do If Your Cell Phone Is Stolen

  • Not sure if your device was stolen or is just missing? Call it or use its GPS locator to find it, and remotely lock it to be on the safe side.
  • If you have installed an anti-theft app, use it to remotely lock the phone, remove sensitive data or trigger the alarm.
  • Report the missing phone to your service provider, and supply the identification number, which could be used to disable your device or block access to the information on it. Get written confirmation from your carrier that you’ve reported the device as missing and that it was disabled.
  • Alert the police that your phone was stolen, and provide the make, model and identification number. Your carrier may require proof it was stolen, and a police report would meet this requirement.

You may also want to consider Identity Theft Protection products and services from American Family Insurance.

Remember, be proactive, be safe and avoid the risks of cell phone theft!

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Get Your Boat or RV Ready for Summer
prepare your toys of summer

Get Your Boat or RV Ready for Summer

Conduct maintenance checks for a safe and enjoyable season.

When winter gives way to spring, the camping and boating season aren’t far behind. Before you hit the highway or the open water, make sure your gear is as ready as you are.

Camper or Motor Home

When you stored your camper or motor home last fall, you made sure systems were cleaned, fluids were drained and everything was prepped for winter. Take some time this spring to make sure winter storage or uninvited critters didn’t cause any damage.

  • Check for leaks around window seals, doors, roof vents and seams.
  • Check brake lights and turn signals on trailers and tow vehicles.
  • Test wheel bearings to make sure they are properly greased and have no play or wobble.
  • Check tires for proper tread and pressure. If tires are worn, cracked or show signs of bulging, replace them immediately.
  • Check all outside storage compartments – including the water heater – for debris or cobwebs.
  • Check all gas lines and valves for leaks or damage.
  • Inspect all water and sewage pipes, hoses and fittings for leaks or signs of wear. Drain antifreeze from holding tanks, and flush thoroughly.
  • Clean and test batteries.
  • Install fresh batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Test appliances after getting the gas and water systems running.
  • If your RV has a generator, test it for ease of starting, efficiency, exhaust ventilation and proper operation.


A lot can happen to your boat while it’s in storage. Give it a thorough inspection before hitting the water. Nothing is more frustrating than being stuck in the middle of a lake with a non-operational boat.

  • Give your engine a professional tune-up to maximize fuel efficiency and performance.
  • Inspect the fuel system for leaks or damage. Replace any damaged or broken components, and verify all hoses, fittings and clamps are properly secured.
  • Check all fabric (tops, sails, seats, etc.) for signs of mold, mildew or tears.
  • Check the water pump and thermostats to prevent overheating, and make sure water flows properly through the motor. If you drained the cooling system last fall, don’t forget to refill it.
  • For outboard motors, check your oil reservoir. Also check the power trim and gear oil. Change the engine oil and filter if you didn’t last fall.
  • Replace fuel filters.
  • Check battery strength. Electronics such as a stereo, GPS, radio and radar can drain a battery.
  • Check electrical connections by removing the terminals, and use a wire brush to clean them, along with all cable ends. Electrical systems should be regularly inspected by a qualified technician.
  • Check hoses, cables and belts to make sure there is no deterioration or damage. Cracks or swells on the outer jacket of control cables may be a sign of damage or excess wear. Repair or replace worn items immediately.
  • Inspect propellers for signs of damage.
  • Make sure your life jackets are in good condition and that there are enough for all passengers.
  • Be sure all fire extinguishers are the correct type for your boat, are fully charged and are stowed properly.

No matter what kind of camper, motor home or boat you have, always consult your owner’s manual for complete instructions on preparing it for the season. If you’re unsure how to do any of the steps or don’t have the necessary tools, have the work done by qualified mechanic.

Once you’re ready for the highways or waterways, go out and have a great summer!

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7 Eco-Friendly Yard Tips
organic gardening

7 Eco-Friendly Yard Tips

Get ready in an environmentally friendly way.

If you’ve got a yard to take care of, you know it takes time, a few tools and a little sweat equity. The payoff, though, is a great looking outdoor area that complements your home and increases its value.

Before using a lot of chemicals and loud, noisy equipment, try some “green” alternatives to a healthy and great-looking lawn.

  1. Consider replacing grass with native plants. They’re easy to grow and maintain and generally require less fertilizer and water.
  2. Fertilize growing plants with compost, aged manure or all-purpose organic fertilizer.
  3. Bug problems? Put up bird and bat houses. A single chickadee can consume up to 1,000 bugs a day. Just one little brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitos per hour!
  4. Plant a rain garden as part of your landscaping to catch runoff from your roof, sidewalk and driveway. Rain gardens slow the rush of water from these surfaces and hold the water before it can wash yard waste and pollutants into storm drains.
  5. Start a compost pile. It’ll reduce what ends up in a landfill, while providing nutritious “food” for your garden.
  6. Connect a rain barrel to your downspout to capture free water for lawns and gardens.
  7. Use solar-powered accent and landscape lights. Solar lights are inexpensive and don’t use any electricity.

With minimal effort and investment, your yard can be “green” in more ways than one!

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Safer Grilling in Just 7 Easy Steps

Safer Grilling in Just 7 Easy Steps

7 Gilling Safety Tips

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Don’t Become a Wildfire Victim
protect your property from wildfires

Don’t Become a Wildfire Victim

Be proactive and stay safe with these tips.

Think you’re immune to wildfires? Think again.

Wildfires take their toll in most of the 50 states, especially in the West. Even if you don’t live in a forest area, you could be at risk: wildfire embers can travel over one mile, potentially threatening nearby land.

This summer could be particularly hazardous, as the increased risk of wildfires has been predicted in different parts of the West and near the Great Lakes.

Be proactive. Take these precautions to help protect your family, home and belongings.

  • Clean your roof and gutters regularly.
  • Once a year, clean your chimney and ensure the damper works properly.
  • Equip chimneys, stovepipes and vents for fuel-burning heaters with spark arrestors. Ask your local fire department for exact specifications.
  • Keep the amount of vegetation surrounding your house to a minimum by creating a 30- to 100-foot “safety zone.” This may involve:
    • Removing vines from the sides of your house.
    • Moving shrubs, woodpiles and other flammable items away from your home.
    • Removing tree branches over the roof.
    • Pruning branches and shrubs within 15 feet of chimneys and stovepipes.
    • Removing dead vegetation.
    • Replacing highly flammable vegetation, such as pine, evergreen, eucalyptus, juniper and fir trees.
  • Install smoke alarms on each level of your home, and test them monthly.
  • Keep important documents in a waterproof container, and create a smaller, portable version to take along if you must evacuate your home at a moment’s notice.
  • For insurance purposes, keep an up-to-date inventory of your property with DreamVault, a free Web-based tool from American Family Insurance.

Have questions about proper insurance coverage? Talk to your American Family Insurance agent.

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