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5 ways to protect yourself from fraud

Ads on television or a friendly voice on the phone, can make a product or proposition sound mighty tempting.

But the products often disappoint and those friendly voices can belong to evil scammers.

How can you tell if you are talking to a scammer?

One thing you can do is have some firm rules about how you deal with people online or on the phone.

1. Know who you are dealing with. Is it really your grandson on the phone asking for money? Ask a question about the family that he would know but a scammer wouldn’t. If you are ordering online, read product reviews. Search for a company’s name online. See what others say about them.

2. Wiring money is like sending cash. You can’t get your money back. Don’t agree to swap a check for a wire transfer. Checks take a while to clear. Wire transfers are instant.

3. Be skeptical of claims of instant results. Beauty and health product are notorious for these claims.

4. Never reveal your social security number and birthdate over the telephone, in email or on the phone. Those two pieces of information can give a scammer all he needs to ruin your life.

5. Don’t play a foreign lottery. There is a reason this is illegal. If you must send any money, for any reason, then you haven’t won anything. You will lose your money. There will be nothing you can do about it.
Be an informed consumer; avoid scams and fraud! Visit to find out more.

Safety group to review how it rates cars on safety

U.S. regulators are revising the process of assigning safety ratings to new vehicles. It proposes to require more crash-avoidance technologies to achieve a perfect score. And they will update requirements for crash-test dummies that assess performance.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing revision of current ratings from a single score of 1 to 5 into a multifaceted scorecard that includes the score on crash-avoidance systems and a mark for pedestrian safety.

The move signals a strategic shift for the auto-safety industry from simply measuring what happens to vehicles during collisions to how well vehicles can avoid accidents in the first place.

New ratings will gauge a vehicle’s use of nine advanced technologies, such as forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning. It could encourage manufacturers to turn often-optional but highly profitable safety systems into standard technology. It would also increase the average price of a new car.

New test dummies have improved sensors to better predict injuries.

NHSTA will include a new frontal-oblique crash test to address what they describe as a type of angled crash “that continues to result in death and serious injuries despite seat belt use, air bags and crashworthy structures.”

“The 5-Star ratings have set the bar on safety since it began in 1978, and today we are raising that bar,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.

Average gas mileage is better than ever

In spite of consumers’ affection for SUVs and pickups, the average fuel economy for new vehicles is still improving, according to the Environmental Protection agency.

Vehicles in the 2015 model year were expected to average 24.7 miles per gallon, and improvement of 24.3 mpg in 2014. Average fuel economy is at a record high, the EPA says.

The auto industry is taking advantage of incentives and trying to get ahead of stiffening fuel-economy requirements aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, says Christopher Grundler, Director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality.

Reductions in CO2 emissions, which are tied to how much fuel an engine burns, have outperformed the standard for the third consecutive year.

Some automakers are getting way ahead. Ford’s F150 pickup, the nation’s best-selling vehicle, meets the 2019 standard in 15 of its 32 different versions.

SUVs turned 2015 into the best sales year ever

In 2015, automakers sold 17.47 million vehicles, according to Autodata. It bested what Kelly Blue Book reported as the previous record of 17.35 million in 2000.

Low gas prices, cheap credit, low unemployment, high consumer confidence and good weather brought a rush of buyers into showrooms in December.

Consumers continued their flight from less-lucrative cars into crossovers, sport-utility vehicles and pickups amid low gasoline prices.

At 13.9 percent of market share, the small SUV segment is now the largest category of vehicles in the United States. It is followed by small cars and midsize cars at 13.7 percent each, according to Kelly Blue Book.

Quoted in USA Today, analyst Michelle Krebs said, “There’s no end in sight to those trends.”

In December, General Motors had a 5.7 percent increase in sales, Ford Motor saw an 8.3 percent boost, and Fiat Chrysler sales rose 12.6 percent, according to Autodata.

Tesla Motors doubled sales during the month and sold 23,650 of its luxury electric cars in the U.S. for the year.

Among Asian makers, Toyota saw a 10.3 percent increase for the month, but it posted only a 5.3 percent increase for the year.

Honda was at 9.9 percent, and Nissan at 8.7 percent.

Income tax changes to plan for in 2016

By learning about tax changes early in 2016, you’ll have more time to plan for them. Here are nine changes, according to the IRS and USAToday.

1. Income taxes for 2015 are due on April 18 because Friday, April 15 is the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, D.C.

2. Penalties for not having qualified Affordable Care Act health insurance in 2016 are $695 per adult, 2.5 percent of income for children or a family maximum of $2,085.

3. Tax brackets rise by 0.4 percent, adjusted for inflation.

4. Standard deductions for heads of households rise, including single, married filing jointly, and married filing separately. The deduction rises by $50 to $9,300 in 2016.

5. Personal exemptions rise by $50 to $4,050 for this year.

6. Contribution limits for health savings accounts rise by $100 per family to $6,750, and an additional $1,000 for those 55 or older. Individual contribution limits remain the same at $3,350.

7. Earned Income Credit is rising. The maximum allowable Earned Income Credit for families with three or more children rises to $6,269, up by $27 in 2016. With two children, the maximum rises by $24. And one child families get $14 more than in 2015.

8. The exemption from alternative minimum tax rises for single taxpayers by $300 in 2016 to $53,900. Joint filers see a $500 boost to $83,800 this year.

9. The estate tax exemption rises to $5.45 million, up $20,000 for the estates of those who pass away in 2016.

Contributions to 401(k) plans, IRAs, and flexible spending arrangements are all staying the same as they were for 2015.

Importance of Business Insurance for Small Businesses

By Nate Rodnay
Article Source:

In any business, risks cannot be ruled out. In case of a small business, even a small risk can make a huge impact on the growth and sustainability of the business. This is more so with respect to finances as small businesses, by their very nature, are devoid of strong financial support.

If you are a small business owner, you need to seriously consider taking business insurance to protect your businesses from unfortunate events that cause financial crisis.

Besides providing financial support during unfortunate events, insurance helps in increasing the credibility of your business among your employees (crucial part of your business) – they feel secured knowing that they are covered under insurance policy.

While choosing an insurance policy, assess and identify the risks that are likely to affect your business significantly. Common risks for any business include, damage to business property, life hazards to employees, and public law suits. None of these is a small liability that you can afford to overlook.

Basic types of business insurance policies:
There are different types of insurance policies covering different types of risks; you can either choose one policy or combine a few of them to make a consolidated policy that covers every risk your business might face. Here are some basic insurance policies that you can choose from:

Business liability: Your business is always at risk of facing law suits from third parties. There can be instances that make your business the subject of a lawsuit – a customer trips on a torn carpet in your office, a customer falls sick using your product, an electrical short-circuit that causes fire and damages your landlord’s building etc. These liabilities usually result in huge compensation claims. In such cases, having business liability insurance protects you against all these risks. Business liability insurance generally covers medical expenses and legal fees.

Property insurance: You don’t want to mess up with your business property. Do you? So, make sure that your business property is covered properly. Property insurance for your small business covers the fixtures, furniture, the inventory, and other physical assets of business. Property insurance protects the property against the damage, theft or loss.

Auto insurance: You need commercial auto insurance if you use a vehicle solely for your business. You should get a commercial insurance policy if your vehicle has commercial tags on it. Auto insurance covers risks of damage to the vehicle caused by an accident or vandalism. It also protects you from the third-party liability claims if your vehicle is involved in any accident.

Workers’ compensation: As an employer, it is your responsibility to take care of your employees at workplace. If any employee falls sick, gets injured or dies while working, as a business owner, you will be held accountable. You need to take care of his medical expenses. Here, workers’ compensation insurance helps you by covering the risk of injury to workers and the consequent medical expenses, etc.

Not buying insurance would put your business at greater risk. It is also not financially sensible to ignore the importance of insurance. Working out the right type and the correct amount of insurance coverage is quite difficult going by the variety of risks to your business.

Hence, approach a good insurance broker to get the right insurance coverage for your business.

InsureUS specializes in business insurance solutions. We offer a broad range of products to contractors and general business customers including public liability insurance. Call us today at 281-640-8888.

Car Insurance-Why Have Full Coverage?

When it comes to car insurance plans there are many to choose from. Though some states do not require car insurance it is wise to have it. Many times unexpected things occur and being insured helps. Car owners have many options when it comes to choosing plans.

Among the choices of car insurance, one aspect a car owner must consider is whether to be insured for liability alone or to have full coverage car insurance. In Cypress, TX , through InsureUS, you can choose from a variety of plans. Liability is a one choice of insurance car owners have a choice of. However, liability only covers certain situations that are often very specific. On the other hand, having full coverage on the car means that the car is insured for a variety of circumstances. Why is this particular type of coverage a good option to consider? It is a good option because this type of car insurance will most likely cover is the car is in an accident whether it be the driver of the cars’ fault or another driver. It is also far more likely to cover any incidents that may happen to the car. This type of incident would be something along the lines of a tree limb falling on it or some other type of damage that is purely accidental and may have occurred even when the car is stationary.

Having full coverage offers peace of mind to car owners. This way, no matter what may happen the car is insured and the owner will most likely not face large out of pocket costs. Car insurance plans vary and there are many to choose from that fit a variety of budgets for car owners as well. The best way to choose is to look at what each plan includes and then choose the one that best suits all needs.

Giving Back: Helping Your Cypress, TX Community

Living in Cypress, TX can be a beautiful thing, and one of the ways you can really get involved in your community is through service to others. Fortunately, there are plenty of good ways you can get involved, so you can focus on your strengths and on the needs that the community truly has. By doing things like donating or volunteering, you can bring hope back to people who really need it, and learn more about the place you live and the people who share it with you.

The more you learn about the Cypress area, the more you see that there are people who are very successful and some that need more help, just like everywhere else. You have the opportunity to make a difference, and to show the people around you that there are ways they can make changes in their community that have a big impact on other people. That’s what small businesses and family businesses also often do. They have a more personal touch, and make people feel comfortable with the goods and services they get from them.

Another way you can get involved in your community and give back is to support those local businesses to help them grow and thrive. Make sure you’re insured by someone in your community, like InsureUS, for example, so you can get good insurance coverage and personal service. You’ll help out a local insurance agent, and also get the coverage you need at a price you feel good about. Because you’ve helped a local business be successful, you can count that as a contribution to your community. It will also give that company a chance to give back, too, so there’s an additional benefit to making sure you keep your time, talents, and money in your local area as much as possible.

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