Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

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When the chill starts creeping in through the windows and doors, it’s time to get ready for the big freeze. We’ve put together a quick and easy checklist, so you can prepare your home for the cold with confidence.    Inside the Home Indoor preparations focus on two major components: efficiency and warmth. You want to keep as much heat inside the home as you can to use energy more efficiently, which means taking care of leaks and insulation problems. You also want to have the fireplace, heater, wood stove and ventilation system ready to go. Here’s a list to help you get it all done. Fill in cracks around window frames and door frames with caulk. Bob Vila, well-known home improvement guru and host of This Old House, says that this is one of the cheapest and most significant ways you can cut heating costs in winter. Check insulation in attics, garages and basements. If you have a bug or animal problem, you may need to tear out and replace old or chewed up insulation. Make sure any exposed pipes in the attic, basement and garage are properly insulated. Get a check-up for your heating and ventilation system to make sure it’s running as cleanly and efficiently as possible. This can save you a lot of money on utilities. Have a chimney sweep inspect the flue and clean the chimney before starting a fire. There may be bird nests or animals blocking the opening, or a highly flammable buildup of creosote. Either of these can start a chimney fire. Check for cracks and openings in your wood stove. Get a professional to replace compromised glass or crooked vent covers. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Install a carbon monoxide detector, if you have not done so already. Change the batteries on your existing detectors. The winter months are prime time for carbon monoxide accidents. Have a licensed technician inspect your fire sprinkler system, and ensure it is ready for cold weather. Outside the Home To prepare the exterior of the home, you need to focus on protecting it from the elements, especially if you live in a snowy climate. It’s also a good time to start prepping your yard for next spring. Clean out the gutters, spouts and drains around your home. Usually there is a thick accumulation of leaves after fall, and this can cause trouble when you need your roof to shed snow and water quickly. Fill in any cracks in your foundation or driveway with caulk or a patch, to keep moisture out. Inspect the roof for cracks, loose tiles, or other signs of weakness. Get all repairs finished now, before the snow or...

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Introducing our New Director of Personal Lines

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Insurance Trust and Equinox are excited to announce the addition of a new employee to our team. Sharon Little has been hired for the position of Director of Personal Lines. Sharon brings more than 35 years of insurance experience to the position.  In previous employment, she held roles from claims to P&C agent, Life agent and management.  Sharon was born and raised in Greater Portland, attended Falmouth High School and Andover College.  Sharon enjoys spending time with her husband and two grown children as well as gardening, reading, being outdoors and traveling. “I am pleased to be working with the Equinox division of Insurance Trust and am thrilled to see how my background seems to have led me to my position here with the credit union family.  I look forward to working with credit union members, providing great insurance products and service to enhance their credit union experience.  I believe in local, friendly customer service and educating the public on why they are buying insurance so that paying the bill is a better experience.” As Director of Personal Lines, Sharon will be responsible for proving sales and service for Personal Lines Insurance and will maintain knowledge of our products, client data and reporting within our agency management system. Sharon will collaborate with our Marketing Director to assist with marketing efforts and will work alongside management to provide financial oversight for the Personal Lines...

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Auto leasing vs. buying: What’s best for you?

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If you are in the market for a new set of wheels, you’re probably wondering if you should lease or buy. Though 80 percent of Americans financed their cars at a dealership in 2016, leases hit an all-time high of 4.3 million that same year, according to the “Lease Market Report” from edmunds.com.   What’s right for you? There are pros and cons to leasing and buying a car, but deciding what works best for you depends on your needs and more importantly, your finances. First, consider your budget, calculating how much car you can afford, including a down payment and monthly costs. Next, factor in your primary use for the car, be it commuting, weekend cruising, or both. Finally, start the comparison process.   A closer look at leasing. More car for “less”? Here are four things to keep in mind about leasing: Cost: The average new car loan came in at more than $30,000, according to a 2017 auto market finance study from Experian. Leases typically have lower upfront costs, as well as lower monthly payments, making it more attractive to some buyers. On the flip side, when you lease, you have a permanent car payment and when the lease ends, will have nothing to show for it—no car to drive, trade in, or sell. Choice and maintenance: With leasing, you can drive a new or almost-new car without a long-term commitment. In addition, repairs will likely be rare or non-existent and maintenance will be mostly oil changes, tires, and brakes. Finally, if you want to keep up with the technology, leasing could be a good option since you can upgrade when the lease ends. Mileage: Even the most affordable leasing deals can severely limit how much you can drive. The typical mileage limit is 12,000 per year, though some lenders will let you go up to 100,000 miles, says Edmunds. However, if you pick a lower-mileage lease and go over your limit, you’ll pay a surcharge for additional miles, around 10 cents to 25 cents per mile. With nearly 25 percent of U.S. workers commuting more than 42 miles per day, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, extra mileage costs can quickly add up, making leasing far less of a bargain. Depreciation: While you’ll pay less sales tax with a purchase, leases are more expensive over time, partly because you’re always making a car payment. Another cost factor is depreciation. Once you drive a new car off the dealer lot, its status goes to “used” instantly, and so does its value. Translation: you pay for that decrease with each new lease. While new-car buyers also take the initial depreciation hit, driving the car for more years lessens the total cost. The...

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Maine Continues to Rank Among Most Affordable States for Personal Auto and Homeowners Insurance

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February 8, 2018 – Maine Government News | Maine.gov Professional & Financial Regulation – Insurance    “Thanks to a competitive market, Maine consumers are paying less for auto and home insurance than consumers in nearly every other state,” Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa stated. For the fifth consecutive year, Maine ranked 3rd nationally for lowest average auto insurance premiums, and for the third year in a row the state ranked 10th nationally for lowest average homeowners premiums, according to recently released reports by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Maine continues to have the lowest average homeowners premiums in New England. The NAIC’s Auto Insurance Database Report provides the average costs associated with personal automobile insurance and includes state-by-state auto insurance data and analysis for insurance regulators, consumers and lawmakers. The types of auto insurance coverage included in the report are bodily injury and property damage liability, uninsured and underinsured motorist, medical payment, collision, and comprehensive. The NAIC’s Homeowners Insurance Report provides data on market distribution and average cost by policy form and amount of insurance. Data is collected from insurance statistical agents or reported directly to the NAIC and includes national and state-specific premium and exposure information for homeowners policies, as well as non-commercial dwelling fire insurance policies. “Maine has coverage requirements that exceed those in most other states, yet Maine continues to have consistently low average auto premiums,” Superintendent Cioppa said. According to the Insurance Research Council, Maine also now has the lowest percentage of uninsured motorists, at 4.5% (followed by New York at 6.1% and Massachusetts at 6.2%). More information is available from the NAIC (www.naic.org). Maine consumers and business owners with questions about auto, home, business or other lines of insurance are encouraged to visit the Bureau of Insurance website at maine.gov/insurance or call 800-300-5000, or email Insurance.PFR@maine.gov. The Bureau of Insurance is part of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, which encourages sound business practices through oversight of insurers, financial institutions, creditors, investment providers, and numerous occupations....

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The Equifax Data Breach: What to Do

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September 8, 2017 | by Seena Gressin Published by the Federal Trade Commission  Attorney, Division of Consumer & Business Education, FTC If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies. Here are the facts, according to Equifax. The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. And they grabbed personal information of people in the UK and Canada too.   There are steps to take to help protect your information from being misused Visit Equifax’s website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. (This link takes you away from our site. Equifaxsecurity2017.com is not controlled by the FTC.) Find out if your information was exposed. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection anytime you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach. Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until January 31, 2018 to enroll. You also can access frequently asked questions at the site.   Here are some other steps to take to help protect yourself after a data breach: Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do. Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize. If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you. File your taxes early — as soon...

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Attorney General Janet Mills and Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap offer resources on damaged vehicles

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09/20/2017 02:37 PM EDT Mills and Dunlap inform consumers how to check vehicle history to avoid flood damage AUGUSTA – In light of the anticipated high volume of flood-damaged automobiles in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap recommend that consumers inform themselves about their rights before purchasing a used vehicle. After past hurricane events, authorities reported truckloads of flooded vehicles being taken out of the impact zone where they were dried out, cleaned and readied for sale to unsuspecting consumers in states that do not brand flood vehicles. It is estimated that due to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, as many as 1 million flood-damaged automobiles could be passed on to unsuspecting buyers in the coming weeks and months. “We encourage prospective purchasers to be aware of their rights and the resources available to them from Maine and the federal government,” said Attorney General Mills. “The Office of the Attorney General and the Secretary of State’s Office both fight to protect consumers from unscrupulous business practices and offer resources for consumers to access before buying a vehicle.” The Maine Office of the Attorney General has consumer information available at http://www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/motor_vehicles/index.shtml specific to purchasing new and used vehicles in Maine. Consumers can also call the Attorney General’s Lemon Law Arbitration Program at 626-8848, or utilize the Attorney General’s Consumer Mediation Service by calling 1-800-436-2131 or...

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