Avoid Being the Target of a Phishing Scam

At Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we always want to make sure that our clients are safe. Insurance, for example, is a great way to ensure financial security in case of an unexpected loss. If you have the right insurance policies, you can rest easy knowing that you are financially protected.

Another way that we provide safety tips to our clients is through these informative blog posts. We recently read about an upsurge in phishing scams, so we want to make sure that you are well versed on what these cyber attacks are and how you can avoid falling prey to them.

What is Phishing?

No, don’t look for your bait and tackle just yet – we’re talking about phishing, with a ‘ph,’ which is a term for the scam where hackers attempt to attain your personal electronic information via electronic means, often email, phone call, or text message. The information they target can vary but is typically either usernames and passwords or credit card information.

Why is it called ‘phishing,’ you ask? Well, it’s done by lulling the target into a false sense of security and attempting to lure them into giving out sensitive information!

This type of scam has been around for more than a decade. The first lawsuit related to phishing was in 2004 against a California teenager who used an imitation of the AOL website to trick people into entering their credit card numbers.

Unfortunately, hackers are evolving the avenues used for phishing more quickly than cybersecurity experts can defend against them. This means that you must be constantly vigilant about making sure that your information is secure.

What can you do to avoid being targeted?

In today’s world, one of your top priorities is to keep your personal information safe from prying eyes. Thankfully, there are a few basic steps that you can take in order to help ensure that you are protected from those that would take what isn’t theirs.

The first thing you should brush up on is password security. You probably have a lot of online accounts, ranging from the unimportant to the critical. Consider this: how many of these accounts have the same (or very similar) passwords? If a hacker were to somehow obtain the credentials to one of your accounts, would they then have access to many more?

In order to keep your online accounts secure, each one should have a unique password. Preferably something that doesn’t involve names of loved ones or the numbers of your birthday (and please, never use “password123” – it’s the first thing that hackers will try). The best thing that you can do is use a completely random string of letters, numbers, and special characters. To simplify this process, consider using a well-vetted password manager (there are several available) for your password creation and management. Also consider using two-factor authentication on websites that allow it, namely for your banking accounts.

Once you have secure passwords, you need to do your part in making sure that you don’t accidentally give them to hackers. This is easier said than done, as phishing scams are getting more difficult to detect. When you’re in your email, make sure that you only click on links or open attachments from trusted senders. If you ever receive an email that makes you uneasy, remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry – especially when it comes to your personal data. Verify that a website’s URL is correct when clicking a link. Some scammers get crafty and make URLs look authentic by making things seem legitimate, but you may discover that they’re using a special character or adding or omitting letters from your intended destination. Also, before entering your login information on a website, check to make sure that the URL starts with ‘https’ – the ‘s’ means that the website is secure and encrypted, and can be one step in verifying that entering your information is safe.

In addition to being careful in giving out your information, make sure that you and your loved ones are using spam filters and ad blockers when on the web. These can help block out known scams from even being seen on your browser or in your email client.

Remember, the best thing that you can do to keep your information safe is to be very careful about giving it out. If you’re ever in doubt about an email or communication that you get from our agency, just call our office at 617-298-0655 and ask if it is valid. We can help you determine whether we need information from you and get it safely and in a way that doesn’t compromise your online security.

We’re also always available if you need a quote for Boston insurance policies! Call 617-298-0655 for a free consultation on Massachusetts home insurance, auto insurance, business insurance, or any of your current or needed policies.

Does renter’s insurance pay if I have to relocate?

You had to purchase renter’s insurance to sign the lease. Now, you have to relocate for a period due to matters that are beyond your control. Will your renter’s assurance policy in Dorchester, MA cover the costs associated with such an uprooting? Read on to find out. Contact an agent at Vargas & Vargas Insurance to learn more about renter’s insurance.

What is renter’s insurance?

A renter’s indemnity plan is a financial security net for individuals who lease or rent property. Much like homeowner’s insurance, a renter’s indemnity plan protects your possessions in the event of the apartment flooding and destroying your goods. A plan may also guard against financial turmoil for minor alterations that you make to the interior structure in efforts to make the place feel like your own.

Is assurance required?

There is no state law that mandates every renter obtain an assurance policy if they rent or lease in Dorchester, MA. Some landlords, however, may require that you purchase renter’s insurance so that you do not sue them for recompense should your goods be stolen or damaged while you reside on their property. You should look into renter’s insurance even if buying a policy is completely optional. Why would you want to forgo financial coverage?

Does renter’s insurance pay if I have to relocate?

Your renter’s insurance possibility may not cover relocation expenses. Such is the reason why you should speak with an expert from Vargas & Vargas Insurance to discuss your options and explore the possibilities of coupling umbrella insurance with your renter’s indemnity plan. Contact our office today to begin a quote and start your life of financial security with the added safety net of a good assurance policy!

Morning Motivation – Week of December 24, 2018

As you know, I love to start the week with some words of wisdom:

How much of what you know you’re “supposed to do” are you actually doing? Where are your paths of resistance? What do you still think is “for the kids?”

People aren’t seeing most of what you offer. You’re sharing sometimes, but not enough. You’re creating marketing and messaging, but often it’s “same as” and getting lost in the weeds. And it gets worse…

Here are the facts:

  • No one has much of an attention span
  • The stream of life moves far too fast
  • Most people are NOT reading much
  • All business needs media attention
  • Your brand needs constant expression
  • Branding today is an all-encompassing packaging effect around the work you do FOR others

Branding is designed to aide with memory, with recognition, with a sense of tribalism built around an experience, of a service or product. The people who think it doesn’t matter are the ones who are forgotten or ignored.

So, what can you do to stand apart from the crowd? That’s another message for another week, so make sure to watch for my next message.

I hope that you had a great holiday!

Carlos

Recap: 2018 Blogs in Review

“The process for finding, creating, and consuming information has fundamentally changed with the advent of the web and the rise of blogging.” – Ryan Holiday

Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we have put a lot of effort into providing our clients with interesting and informative content all year round. In 2018 alone, we have posted dozens of blogs with varied content – you’re sure to find something of interest to you or your loved ones. Here are just a few examples of posts from the last year:

What was your favorite blog post from 2018? There are so many great ones from which to choose!

We also want to ask that you subscribe or stay tuned to our agency in 2019. We have a lot of exciting plans and we don’t want you to miss a thing! There will be plenty of blogs with tips about insurance, home ownership, automobiles, running a business, and much more.

And, as always, make sure that you call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency in 2019 if you have any insurance needs. We will always work hard to make sure that you get the coverage you need, so don’t fret – just call 617-298-0655.

Set Yourself Up for Success in the New Year

The start of a new year is a great time to evaluate your life. Looking at where you are and determining where you want to be in the future (both personally and professionally) is the first step in setting and achieving your goals!

Choosing a Goal

Do you have something in mind that you want to achieve this year? There are several common personal goals that people set, including eating healthier, exercising more, spending less (or saving more) money, learning a new skill, etc. In addition, some people like to set professional goals, like focusing more on networking, reading more business books, getting a certification, or getting a raise or promotion.

Which of these resonate with you? Don’t overstretch yourself by choosing too many goals, pick the one or two that you want to focus on this year, and save the rest for another time. If you need help choosing a goal for the year, talk to a close friend or mentor about what they think you can do to be a better person (only if you have thick enough skin to handle some criticism, though!)

Defining Success

Choosing a goal for the year is a great first step, but you need to make sure that your resolution is well-defined so that you have a clear finish line to work toward. Take a few minutes and make your resolutions into a SMART goal. Remember, the acronym “SMART” says that your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound. So, instead of “lose weight” try “lose __ pounds by December 31 by exercising twice a week and eating less calories.”

Making a Timeline

Once you have a well-defined goal, you should make a timeline of the steps needed to reach your goal. You have a whole year, so spread out the tasks and give yourself plenty of wiggle room. Monthly mini goals would be a good place to start so that you can measure your progress and make sure that you stay on track.

Holding Yourself Accountable

Accountability is an important trait to have if you’re going to achieve the goals that you set. It is so easy to make excuses, but you’re not going to! Instead, use some of these tricks from the Inc.com list of 8 Habits of Highly Accountable People:

  • Take responsibility for your tasks.
  • Don’t make excuses or blame others if things aren’t going according to plan.
  • Be on time with your mini-goals.
  • Control your own fate with proper planning.
  • Own your feelings and don’t let a bad day (or week or month) derail you.
  • Manage expectations and adjust goals and timelines as needed.
  • Collaborate with others and make the most of all your available resources.
  • Don’t expect praise – satisfaction should come with a job well done.

Which of these habits will you employ to help you with your 2019 New Year’s resolution? We especially like the tip to collaborate with others. Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we have lots of community referral partners that help us achieve our goals.

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In addition, having a friend or loved one that knows about your goal and that has been asked to periodically follow up on your process is a proven accountability technique that helps many people achieve their goals year-round. There are even accountability and goal tracking apps for iPhones and Android phones that will help to keep you honest about whether you are on track and can even add in a financial component to motivate you – automatically transferring money to a person or charity when you don’t meet your goals.

Celebrating Wins

The saying may state that “A job well done is its own reward,” but sometimes you need a little extra motivation to complete your goals or achieve your resolutions. Everyone has their own unique set of rewards that will motivate them, the trick is to decide ahead of time what you will do for yourself and at what point. If you know that you are close to hitting one of your small milestones, you may push yourself in order to earn your reward.

Ask yourself: What would motivate me to work harder toward achieving my goals? Maybe it’s buying something for yourself, some ‘me-time’ or time with the family, or a food treat. Find what motivates you and use it to your advantage.

So, are you ready to make 2019 your best year yet?

Can Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency help you reach your goals in 2019? Whether you need a referral to a local professional or you want help making sure that you are financially sound in the year to come, all you need to do is call our agency at 617-298-0655 for assistance with your insurance policies. We are always excited to be able to help our neighbors!

Morning Motivation – Week of December 17, 2018

Are you getting your week off to a good start, friend?

I have a question for you – Do you ever feel like you’re not good enough to do something?

In my message last week, I told you all about how I was encouraged by the state of the independent insurance industry as I was at an IOA conference that I attended recently. At that conference, I also spoke on using video in business.

I told the whole room full of people during my speech that their excuses as to why they weren’t making videos were dumb. I said, “You’re worried that you’re fat. I am fat, and I am definitely not the handsomest guy in the world. You may worry that you are too old, but I am old. The truth is, you are. You’re fat. You’re ugly. You’re old, face these facts and make videos anyway.”

It got laughs. SOME of the people that laughed probably thought, ‘Carlos just called me out on my BS and he’s right. I’ll make a video.’ Other people laughed in that nervous way that showed they were worried I was looking into them.

Here is the point: Sometimes you’re a loser. So what? I am… Still. After all these years. And then I’m a winner. And then I’m too fat. And then sometimes I get the bug to get fit again (feel like it just bitten me again on this last trip to hit the gym).

If I tell you how often to send an email out, great. If you ask me about the mechanics of podcasting, wonderful. But who cares what you’re doing as long as your audience perceives it as valuable?

Here is a hint: no one cares if you’re successful as much as they care that you’re helping them solve a problem in their lives. I mean, they want you to win, want you to be okay, etc. But if you’re connecting with people for your business, it’s not like they’re losing sleep over you.

In all cases, the stories I’ll remember most were the ones where someone was real with me. People who were willing to be vulnerable made me want to reach back and help.

But the ones who I asked how they were doing and they responded “great” and “busy” – not so much!

Thank you for reading!

Carlos

Recap: Before Buying Business Insurance

“Finance is not merely about making money. It’s about achieving our deepgoals and protecting the fruits of our labor. It’s about stewardship and,therefore, about achieving the good society.” – Robert J. Shiller

Protecting your business is something that you must take seriously. That’s why you need a great business insurance policy. If you’re getting ready to start a new business and purchase your first policy or get a quote for a new policy, read our full blog post about how you should consider some of the following factors:

  • There is a minimum amount of insurance you must carry based on Massachusetts laws.
  • Your business has unique risks that need to be accounted for.
  • You should make sure that you get a great deal on your policy without sacrificing great coverage.
  • When in doubt, get a little extra coverage – the peace of mind is well worth the cost.
  • Once you have a policy, review it with your agent and update as needed – at least once a year.
  • If you need help with your business insurance, ask a Massachusetts insurance expert from our agency.

Want a helping hand in building and choosing your next business insurance policy? Call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655. One of our agents will get to know your needs and will find the perfect commercial insurance coverage for you. The process doesn’t have to keep you up at night – just get some help from your neighbors here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance!

Vargas and Vargas Insurance Blog – 2018 in Review

2018 has been a great year here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. We are proud to say that we help the residents of Boston protect their homes, cars, businesses and beyond, and we look forward to continuing our journey to complete customer protection in 2019. If you’ve been visiting our blog this year, you may be familiar with some of the content we have posted. For those of you that don’t subscribe, however, here is a quick recap of what you may have missed this year. Click on the title of the article to visit the full post!

January – Avoiding and Treating Frozen Pipes

When the outside temperatures drop, so too can the temperature in your home’s water system. Prevent frozen pipes by ensuring that pipes are properly insulated and letting faucets drip on especially cold nights. If your pipes freeze, call a plumbing professional for help.

February – What Is Liability Coverage, and Why Do You Need It?

Many of your insurance policies likely have ‘liability protection’ built in. What does this mean? As our post states, “Liability insurance is the critical coverage that offers financial protection if you are sued or held legally liable for damages to another person, such as property damage, injury or negligence.” This makes it an indispensable coverage for you and your loved ones!

March – 10 Essential (and Easy to Forget) Home Maintenance Tasks

Maintaining a home can be a chore, but there are certain things that need to be done in order to ensure the operation and safety of your things. Check out the link to the full blog post for tips on how to keep your fridge in tip top shape, the importance of testing your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, extending the life of your clothes dryer, and much more.

April – Common Insurance Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

In this springtime blog post, we covered the top three mistakes made with three of our most popular products: home insurance, car insurance, and business insurance. At Vargas and Vargas Insurance, we always aim to make sure that our customers get superior customer service, and that all these mistakes are avoided when choosing a policy.

May – Build Better Habits at Work

Do you ever wish that you could be a little more productive at work? In this post we shared tips for how employees can make the most out if their days at the office, and how business owners can encourage employees to be at their best.

June – The Ultimate Guide to Road Tripping

Summer is a favorite time of year for Boston families to take road trips, so we published several tips including destinations that would be perfect for a long or short trip, a ‘to-do’ list for before you hit the road, and some ideas to avoid having all your passengers asking, “Are we there yet?”

July – Flood Insurance Frequently Asked Questions

What is flood insurance? Do you need a flood insurance policy? All our most frequently asked questions about flood insurance are in one place! Get answers to “What is federal disaster assistance?” as well as “What is a flood zone?” and much more in this informative post.

August – The Best Apps for Homeowners

Nowadays, there is a smartphone app for everything. We found eight great apps that every homeowner should check out. How many do you have, and are there any on our list that you might find you can’t live without? Includes recommendations for Android phones and iPhones.

September – The Benefits of Having a Virtual Assistant

As a business owner, do you ever wish that you could take certain tasks off your plate? Having a virtual assistant can do just that. Hire someone that can balance your weaknesses and free up your time so that you can focus on more important factors in your business.

October – Savings Account: Critical for Your Financial Success

Do you have enough saved up for a rainy day? It’s estimated that 7 in 10 Americans would struggle financially after losing income for just one month. This blog espouses the importance of compounding interest, as well as gives several tips on how to boost the amount of money that you save.

November – Cancelling Auto Coverage Can Affect Future Rates

If you’re thinking about cancelling your auto insurance policy, make sure that you talk to your Massachusetts auto insurance agent first so that you can discuss potential repercussions, including increased rates on policies in the future.

December – Steps to Take Before Buying Business Insurance

Business insurance doesn’t have to be complicated. With the help of an experienced insurance agent, you can get the coverage that your business needs for a reasonable price. In this post, we highlight a few things that you should think about before purchasing a commercial insurance policy, including your business’s level of risk and the Massachusetts state requirements for coverage.

What did you think of our posts in 2018? We have lots more great content planned for next year, so make sure that you subscribe to the blog! Happy New Year from your friends at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency and remember – one call to 617-298-0655 and we will help you get the best possible insurance policies!

Morning Motivation – Week of December 10, 2018

Did you know that collaboration is one of my favorite activities?

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I talked about how I was in Michigan speaking at an IAO (independent agency owners) convention. While I was there, I met some amazing young insurance agency owners that give me a great feeling that my industry is not on its deathbed, but that with these rock star owners we may even grow market share!

I got to hang out with these 3 amazing IAO’s – Jason Verlinde from Michigan, Nicholas Ayers from California, and Brandon Smith from Montana. These guys are REAL, they made me love the insurance business even more seeing them in outside their comfort zone, they are so genuinely happy and show it. I spent most of return day doing some one-on-ones with these agents. I came away with some ideas for our business and now that I am waiting for the plane to head back to Boston, I thought that I would put my thoughts to paper.

I started thinking about how many lies I read online about how the independent insurance agency system is broken and that companies like Amazon and Lemonade are coming for us… but I have been hearing these lies for years.

It all started with GEICO, then Google tried selling insurance, but they forget that many consumers still rely on independent insurance agents to shop around for them for the right coverage at the right price. GEICO is still around (although Google got out of the insurance game). GEICO loses almost as much business each year as they write due to their lack of service, or by trying to put aftermarket parts on brand new automobile.

It’s amazing how many times I shook a hand or hugged someone and the person did not ask questions about any insurance-related topics, like:

  • How to make their system better
  • How I have survived 39 years as an IAO and still LOVE every day
  • How they can improve retention, how to connect with today’s consumers and increase sales
  • How the generosity leads to reciprocity system works
  • What is the best way to be part of their communities

You see, part of what I spoke about at the convention was not being a “secret cell.” Instead, I talked about the importance of getting out of the office, rolling up your sleeves and giving back to your local community. As business owners, it is so easy to give our money to worthy causes, but that is only half of it, we always skip the most important part, which is showing up and helping out. That is where the magic happens – when people meet you and start to know you. Then, when they have a need for insurance you are top of mind because of the interactions you have had in the past.

I’m not saying you need to be out there 24/7, but how can we give thousands of dollars to local worthwhile charities and not show up at any of the events? When you’re surrounded by the people that you are helping with your donation, it’s an automatic connection, right? Those connections are a critical part of running a successful independent insurance agency!

Next week, I will continue to talk about my experiences at the IOA convention, so stay tuned for more information that I hope will help you in your business.

Carlos

Recap: Surviving Winter for Bostonians

“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” – Aristotle

There are only a few weeks left in the year, and as snowfall becomes a more regular occurrence here in Massachusetts, we want to make sure that our clients stay warm, healthy, and happy throughout the cold winter months. Here is a quick recap of our full blog post with ideas on how to make this winter the best one yet:

  • Be Warm – Keep the freezing temperatures outside of your home by making sure that your windows and doors aren’t drafty. Set your thermostat to 68 degrees for optimal heating and energy consumption, according to ready.gov.
  • Be Healthy – Colds and flus run rampant in the winter, so get a flu shot and wash your hands often. Exercise at your local gym or try a winter sport to stay in shape.
  • Be Happy – Don’t let the cold get you down – there are plenty of wintertime activities in the Boston area! Or, if you would rather stay inside, now is the perfect time to binge watch a new show, read a book, have a family game night, or try a new recipe that you’ve been craving!

When was the last time you reviewed your insurance policies with a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent? Call 617-298-0655 and we can chat about your home, renters, or condo insurance policy to make sure that it is providing full coverage for you and your loved ones.