Evolving Through Expertise: Central’s 2021 Annual Report

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Last year was a big one for Central. Our agents expressed a clear desire to go even deeper with us. Aligning with their wants and needs fueled our strategy, setting us up for a year of growth while remaining committed to our core values.

Our team rose to the occasion, leaning into a spirit of excellence at every opportunity. Throughout 2021, we leveraged the specialized expertise of our vertical teams to drive innovation in step with the evolving needs of our commercial agents and policyholders. Our claims department fulfilled our promise to serve, bringing heart, humanity and hospitality to every interaction. The outcome of our cross-team collaboration is something to be proud of.

From enhanced vertical expertise to exciting new product development and exceptional customer service scores, we’re excited to share the full story of 2021 in our Annual Report. View it here.

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Why Should I Avoid Distractactions When Driving?

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We all know we shouldn’t text and drive, so why is it so tempting to reach for the phone the moment you hear that little ding? Just a quick glance can’t hurt, right? Wrong. 

Data from a 2020 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study shows that 1.6 million crashes, more than 3,100 deaths, and 400,000 injuries were caused by some form of distractions when driving in the year 2019 alone. In addition, more than one in four of all accidents—including 87 percent of rear-end collisions—are the result of some form of distracted driving. 

What feels like a quick check of your phone, flip of the radio dial, or reset of the GPS can easily result in injury or tragedy. 

Distracted Driving Facts To Remember

After years of PSAs about the dangers of being distracted when driving, it’s clear we know better than to do it—so why can’t we quit? It all stems from brain biology. 

Research has shown that 92 percent of drivers recognize the dangers of texting and driving, and support making it illegal to text behind the wheel. Nonetheless, 60 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds believe they can text and drive safely. The biological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance tricks our brains into believing that we are not subject to the same risks and dangers as everyone else. Convinced we are the exception rather than the rule, we carry on with risky behaviors while recognizing the dangers posed when others do it behind the wheel. 

In order to recognize the error in this logic, it’s important to understand what happens to our brain when we use a mobile phone. According to a behavioral health study recorded in the National Library of Medicine, talking on the phone, “our brains direct about 37 percent of our energy away from parts of brain that deal with driving resulting in “inattention blindness.” In the most basic terms, this means that you may be looking around at your environment, but you are not fully processing everything you are seeing. 

As a result of this practice, the Psychology of Learning and Motivation explains that “it’s estimated that we can miss as much as 50 percent of what is going on around us when distracted.” It’s not hard to see why this can quickly become a serious hazard when we’re navigating around pedestrians, children, pets, construction zones and other drivers—many of whom are likely distracted themselves. 

How to Prevent Being a Distracted When Driving

1. Enroll your Teen in a Training Program

Have you heard of the teenSMART® Driver Safety Program? The program teaches drivers to anticipate dangerous situations, recognize how risk changes as they drive, increase situational awareness, and expect the unexpected while behind the wheel. Studies show that teens who complete the program reduce their chances of being in a crash by up to 30 percent. As an added incentive, Central offers premium discounts to teen drivers who complete the program.

Learn More: Teenage Driver? teenSMART is the Smart Choice for Safety and Savings

2. Talk to Your Employees

Groups dedicated to changing the nature of distracted driving have worked hard to develop training materials that can be used to bridge these types of conversations with employees. This video produced by the National Safety Council, for instance, gives advice on how to coach your employees on properly and safely preparing to hit the road for work-related travels.

3. Take a Distracted Driver Course

The National Safety Council offers an interactive Online Defensive Driving Course, which is designed to motivate drivers to change their risky driving behaviors, as well as their overall attitudes about distracted driving.

4. Evaluate Your Own Behavior. 

Learn more about driver distractions and the risk you take by allowing yourself to multitask on the road by taking the official DMV Distracted Driving Quiz. 

5. Pledge to Make a Change

Join the millions of Americans who are vowing to take back their focus on the roads in this official DMV-sponsored online pledge

Driver Distraction Impact on Insurance

The safety and wellbeing of our policyholders and communities is of utmost importance to everyone at Central. Not only does raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving support safer roadways, it also helps us keep premiums low for our auto policyholders by reducing accidents and claims. From saving lives to saving money, everybody benefits. Learn more about Central Auto coverage here.

dDistractions when driving

 Want to learn more about distracted driving? 

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Dwelling Coverage vs Market Value: What’s the Difference?

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With home values significantly rising across the country over the past few years, it’s important to understand the difference between dwelling coverage vs. market value when it comes to home insurance. When buying or selling a home, much of the conversation and considerations focus on market value, which is the amount a home can be bought or sold for in the current market. In contrast, insurance companies prioritize dwelling value, which is the estimated replacement cost of a structure. 

How Much Dwelling Coverage Do I Need?

An insurance company is never going to sell your home, but they will replace it should you suffer a catastrophe like a tornado or house fire. For this reason, it’s vital that your home is insured for the proper amount needed to rebuild rather than what the real estate market might dictate the home’s worth to be based on the current housing market. 

Several years ago, when it was considered a “buyer’s market,” many homeowners were confused about why they were required to insure their home at a value higher than what they were likely to receive if they sold. Due to the lack of demand and ample homes on the market, market values had been driven below cost to rebuild. In 2022, however, we find ourselves navigating a very different landscape. Rising inflation, pandemic impact, and the current “seller’s market” have driven both market and dwelling values up, leaving homeowners with an entirely different set of choices to make.

Read on to learn more about how COVID and inflation are impacting dwelling and market values, as well as ways Central can help you determine whether your home is insured for the proper amount.    

How Has Dwelling Coverage Been Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic?

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, major building material manufacturers were forced to slow or cease production as shutdowns spread across the globe. While U.S. supplies decreased, the nation saw an increase in the demand for building materials as people moved out of densely-populated cities, and into suburbs and rural areas to construct new homes or renovate existing structures. This imbalance between supply and demand drastically drove up the cost of building materials, with lumber pricing 135% higher than at the beginning of 2020. 

In addition to supply and demand struggles, post-pandemic worker shortages have impacted costs by continuing to hinder production capabilities throughout the industry. Even as material manufacturers and construction crews attempt to ramp back up, a lack of laborers and skilled workers continues to make it difficult to regain momentum and catch up with the persistent market demands. Ultimately, the challenges of these labor shortages and inflated material costs are being passed on to those building or renovating homes, driving up both market and dwelling values. 

What Does Dwelling Coverage Actually Include? 

Even in a stable market, you may find yourself wondering why you’re insuring your home for the same amount it might cost to rebuild. It’s important to remember that contracting costs include labor, materials, and contractor overhead. Insuring your home for less means you may not get all the upgrades you currently enjoy, such as granite countertops, maple or cherry cabinets, or hardwood floors. 

Learn More: How Does Your Homeowner Policy Respond To Total Losses?

Debris removal is another piece of the dwelling value puzzle that people often overlook. Most policies include coverage to remove the charred remains of your home after a fire, and the cost of debris removal is significant. Local ordinance may also require the undamaged portion of your home be removed if it sustains significant damage. Each town ordinance requires demolition when a certain percentage of damage is reached. In instances like this, your dwelling value not only covers the cost of rebuilding your home, but also the demolition of the undamaged portion, and any costs associated with hauling away debris so that your new home can be constructed.

The Central Difference

As you can see, there is more to insuring your home than one might think. We recommend reassessing your dwelling value with your agent every three to five years to ensure your home’s replacement cost remains in line with the market. 

By preparing for the worst-case scenario today, you can save yourself hassle and headaches should the unthinkable ever happen. And you can rest easy knowing Central will be right there with you at every step of the way.

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Contractor Fraud: What It Is and How to Avoid It

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From online scams to identify theft, fraudulent behavior has become something of an unwelcome norm in today’s society. In 2021 alone, the Federal Trade Commission discovered that consumers reported $5.8 billion in losses due to fraud—a 70 percent increase in fraud-related losses compared to 2020.

As a result of this unfortunate trend, many of us are taught to keep a watchful eye on our online information. We ignore potentially virus-inflicted emails, change our passwords every few months, check our credit card bills for inconsistencies, and adopt dozens of other tedious practices to try and keep ourselves secure. 

But what happens when the threat of fraud isn’t coming in the form of a suspicious email or link? What if, instead, it comes in the form of a contractor knocking on your front door and claiming to have noticed damage to your home that needs to be addressed immediately? How are you supposed to know who to trust and who might be trying to scam you?

In this article, we’ll address the intricacies of contractor fraud, explore how these individuals operate, uncover the steps you can take to prevent this type of behavior, and discover Central Insurance’s commitment to protecting its policyholders from this and all kinds of potential fraud.

What is Contractor Fraud?

Contractor fraud can take many shapes and forms, but there are a few very common types homeowners should be aware of.

The first occurs when a contractor is brought in to help handle a situation and either completely falsifies the amount of work done or simply overcharges for the work that is completed. 

“Any time you have physical damage in your home and you need someone to repair it, there’s a possibility you might have contractor fraud,” says Anthony Gaytan, an Anti-Fraud Operations Analyst within Central Insurance’s Special Investigative Unit.

Gaytan explains that this particular form of contractor fraud will often occur during an emergency situation in which a homeowner is so desperate to solve the problem, they can’t wait for an insurance adjuster to judge the amount of damage before getting a contractor on-site. As a result, contractors are able to set their own fees and trust that the homeowner doesn’t have time to check or dispute them.

Did You Know: Seasoned insurance carriers like Central have records of the average cost for any kind of home repair. This allows us to easily compare a quote from a contractor and see if the amount is reasonable, or if the insured is potentially being taken advantage of. Our fraud experts even track trends in the market that might affect rising costs (whether it’s inflation, supply chain management issues or the current cost of lumber) so when policyholders call and ask about the legitimacy of a quote, we can provide the most accurate information possible.

“Fraudulent contractors purposely target vulnerable homeowners,” explains Jeff Lieberman, Director of Anti-Fraud & Recovery within Central Insurance’s Special Investigative Unit. Whether they are elderly, have just suffered a great loss, or are in immediate need of assistance, these individuals are far more likely to trust someone they shouldn’t, making them the ideal prey for a scammer.

“A lot of these shady contractors are storm chasers from out of state who go from place to place looking for the next storm so they can capitalize on and victimize our policyholders,” Gaytan adds. It is this strategic mindset that contributes to the danger of these contractors.

The second type of contractor fraud is when a contractor tries to trick a homeowner into paying to fix a problem that is exaggerated, simply does not exist, or is actually enhanced during a first inspection by the contractor themselves. 

Roofers are one type of contractor that might fall under this umbrella of fraud, considering they do most of their work on an area of the home we cannot easily assess on our own.

“We see a lot of cases where a roofer will come by and tell a homeowner that they just happened to be in the area, or that a neighbor just got a new roof and they noticed damage on theirs too. Then they go up onto the roof to ‘inspect the damage,’ and actually enhance or facilitate damages themselves,” Lieberman says.

In cases where the damage is self-inflicted by the contractor, the roofer often proceeds to fix the damage and charge the homeowner accordingly. In others cases, the roofer might simply make their introduction, “assess” the damage on the roof without adding to it, and insist on a downpayment to fix what does not exist. The contractor will often take the downpayment and never return.

Considering these very different but equally harmful approaches, Gaytan warns that “pretty much any unsolicited approach from a contractor is something to be very careful of.”

How to Avoid Contractor Fraud

While the idea of being taken advantage of when you are vulnerable may seem scary, there are steps you can take to ensure your safety against fraudulent contractors.

1. Know What to Look For

Though it may sound obvious, asking an unsolicited (or even solicited) contractor to view or even make a copy of their official contractor’s license is an easy way to determine whether they are legitimate. Any contractor in good standing should carry their license on them and be more than willing to share it with you upon request.

Another quick way to determine if a contractor is legitimate is to take notice of their vehicle’s license plate. If the contractor appears to be from out of state, there is a very good chance the individual is chasing scam opportunities in particularly vulnerable locations. You can also utilize the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s VINCheck Lookup tool to easily search the license plate of a suspicious contractor’s vehicle. 

Lieberman also recommends being on the lookout for contractors who bring up money or payment outside of an official quote before the work is complete. For example, if they ask for a deposit on the work, ask to be paid before the job is complete, or promise to pay the deductible on a project, it is likely they are fraudulent.

2. Document Everything

In emergency and non-emergency situations alike, it’s important to capture as much information as possible prior to engaging a contractor. Be sure to always take photos, videos and measurements of the damage at hand. The more data you have, the easier it will be to “prove and validate your own claim prior to a contractor coming out to your property,” Lieberman says. 

Taking Action: Even before an emergency, Lieberman advises taking the time to record or photograph your entire home top to bottom to ensure you are covered in case of unexpected loss. “Open every drawer you have, because if you were exposed to a fire, for example, you’ll have an awfully hard time recalling every single thing you had in every single drawer in your house.”

In general, “any documentation you have around any potential loss, the more protected you ultimately are,” Gaytan concludes. 

3. Engage Your Insurance Carrier

The very best way to prevent insurance fraud is by filing a claim with your insurance carrier at the first sign of damage to your home. Once that claim is filed, Lieberman explains that the insurance carrier will “send out a field claims representative or independent adjuster to scope the loss. Then, at that point, the field representative will assign the contractor to do the work.”

Going through your agency ensures that you are being matched with a reputable contractor in good standing who is unlikely to try and commit fraud. It also eliminates a lot of steps when it comes time to submit the claim for reimbursement because the agency is already familiar with the contractor’s pricing. 

In some cases, however, Lieberman notes that a homeowner’s only option is to be reactive. “When my attic flooded with water and the ceilings collapsed on the floor as a result of a hurricane, I didn’t have the time to call my insurance agent first,” he reflects. “That was a situation in which I had to just react, and I recognized that I was at the mercy of my contractor in that situation. Yes, I hoped I would be reimbursed by the insurance company and that they would take the scope of the work at face value, but I could also immediately see the potential for severe price gouging by the contractor. It was a dangerous spot to be in.”

The Central Difference

At Central, we believe contractor fraud is a preventable crime, and have adopted many practices internally to better protect our policyholders from these situations.

Our Special Investigative Unit “performs a significant amount of training with our adjusters in the detection of red flags with contractor claims,” Gaytan says. “The adjusters are taught what to look for so if they see something odd they can send it to us for immediate investigation.”

Did You Know? As a result of Central’s emphasis on training, this group was able to identify and investigate over 1,700 cases of questionable claims in 2021 alone.

Another aspect that sets Central’s fraud detection apart is its adoption of data and AI-driven strategies to help track patterns and fraudulent behaviors among contractors. “We [work] with law enforcement and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which places nationwide alerts on particular contractors to be on the lookout for,” Lieberman says. That data is then fed into Central’s personal analytics systems, keeping us one step ahead of fraudulent contractors.

What’s more, Central holds a unique partnership with the Geospatial Insurance Consortium, a program designed to provide up-to-date aerial imagery and geospatial information on policyholders’ property. This type of software allows Central to collect and develop a timeline of imagery depicting the history of a policyholder’s roof, for example. This way, if a contractor were to try and trick an insured into agreeing to repairing unseen roof damage, that policyholder would be able to call and check with Central to ensure the damage exists and matches the description of the quote.

Learn More About Protecting Yourself

Understanding contractor fraud and how to identify a potentially fraudulent individual is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from this kind of dangerous behavior. 

Looking to better arm yourself with information on contractor fraud? Use this Contractor Search Checklist to guide you through your next contractor experience and, if you’re a Central policyholder, get in touch with your agent for more information on Central’s built-in homeowner protection practices.

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Considerations for re-opening the office

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2022-05-04

Back to Work: Considerations for re-opening the officeWhen COVID-19 shut the entire world down two years ago, many wondered how businesses would pivot and persist. As closures and restrictions continued far beyond anyone’s initial projections, it became obvious that “business as usual” was going to be anything but. And, while the transition to a remote model for schools and businesses throughout the world was an unprecedented shift with no real map for structure or outcomes, many made the adjustment with relative ease and found the remote model was not without benefit. Now, as the corporate world attempts a return to what was, it faces a number of concerns and considerations, not the least of which being a pool of employees that might rather remain remote.

The following steps might provide some direction to answer questions, ease the transition, and intercept problems before they arise.

  1. Develop a plan and clearly communicate its delivery to all employees. The plan should include current safety precautions and those that might be put in place in response to exposure or outbreak; remote work and variable scheduling options, if any will remain; general procedures for illness/sick days; changes to benefits packages, probationary periods, leave, and compensation policies; and directives for keeping current with all relevant office communications.
  2. Make the transition as painless as possible. Not everyone will want to return to the office. Are there options for employees that would rather continue remote work, are unwilling/unable to return, or are in high risk categories? Regardless, slowly phasing back to an in-person work environment can prove mutually beneficial for both the employer and employee, while alleviating any growing pains or protocol missteps that might arise. A slow transition might mean gradually increasing days of the week on site, bringing back portions of staff at a time, providing creature comforts, or other creative approaches to keep the workforce happy and healthy.
  3. Be flexible. Compromise may be the best policy to retain valuable employees and maximize productivity. Hybrid return-to-work plans will require some adjustment to standard in-office policies to accurately reflect and direct new practices, but that time will arguably be well spent. Work with staff to develop comprehensive strategies and revisit them regularly to ensure that they adequately and effectively address needs and concerns as they arise.
  4. Ensure that your plan is compliant. Review current local and national workplace safety standards and protocols, as well as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) record-keeping and reporting obligations, to legally protect your business, employees, and customers. Consider your business’ relationship with any relevant unions and address any necessary bargaining obligations. Try to develop nimble policies that are easily adaptable to shifting needs and situations.
  5. Notify your state unemployment agency of the return to work. Informing the agency of your employees’ recall to work is both required by the state and can save on unemployment taxes for those who choose not to return.
  6. Develop a business continuity plan. Consider business impacts and lessons learned during the pandemic and revise continuity plans to address and prepare for future disruptions.
  7. Build morale. The last several years have held more than their share of tragedy, fear, isolation, and illness. And, while the end is in sight, it’s not over. Cultivating strong connections and trust within your team and with management can help mitigate the inevitable struggles and adjustments to life back in the office.

For any insurance questions, call or contact Post Insurance and Financial today.

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Contractor Fraud: What It Is and How to Avoid It

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From online scams to identify theft, fraudulent behavior has become something of an unwelcome norm in today’s society. In 2021 alone, the Federal Trade Commission discovered that consumers reported $5.8 billion in losses due to fraud—a 70 percent increase in fraud-related losses compared to 2020.

As a result of this unfortunate trend, many of us are taught to keep a watchful eye on our online information. We ignore potentially virus-inflicted emails, change our passwords every few months, check our credit card bills for inconsistencies, and adopt dozens of other tedious practices to try and keep ourselves secure. 

But what happens when the threat of fraud isn’t coming in the form of a suspicious email or link? What if, instead, it comes in the form of a contractor knocking on your front door and claiming to have noticed damage to your home that needs to be addressed immediately? How are you supposed to know who to trust and who might be trying to scam you?

In this article, we’ll address the intricacies of contractor fraud, explore how these individuals operate, uncover the steps you can take to prevent this type of behavior, and discover Central Insurance’s commitment to protecting its policyholders from this and all kinds of potential fraud.

What is Contractor Fraud?

Contractor fraud can take many shapes and forms, but there are a few very common types homeowners should be aware of.

The first occurs when a contractor is brought in to help handle a situation and either completely falsifies the amount of work done or simply overcharges for the work that is completed. 

“Any time you have physical damage in your home and you need someone to repair it, there’s a possibility you might have contractor fraud,” says Anthony Gaytan, an Anti-Fraud Operations Analyst within Central Insurance’s Special Investigative Unit.

Gaytan explains that this particular form of contractor fraud will often occur during an emergency situation in which a homeowner is so desperate to solve the problem, they can’t wait for an insurance adjuster to judge the amount of damage before getting a contractor on-site. As a result, contractors are able to set their own fees and trust that the homeowner doesn’t have time to check or dispute them.

Did You Know: Seasoned insurance carriers like Central have records of the average cost for any kind of home repair. This allows us to easily compare a quote from a contractor and see if the amount is reasonable, or if the insured is potentially being taken advantage of. Our fraud experts even track trends in the market that might affect rising costs (whether it’s inflation, supply chain management issues or the current cost of lumber) so when policyholders call and ask about the legitimacy of a quote, we can provide the most accurate information possible.

“Fraudulent contractors purposely target vulnerable homeowners,” explains Jeff Lieberman, Director of Anti-Fraud & Recovery within Central Insurance’s Special Investigative Unit. Whether they are elderly, have just suffered a great loss, or are in immediate need of assistance, these individuals are far more likely to trust someone they shouldn’t, making them the ideal prey for a scammer.

“A lot of these shady contractors are storm chasers from out of state who go from place to place looking for the next storm so they can capitalize on and victimize our policyholders,” Gaytan adds. It is this strategic mindset that contributes to the danger of these contractors.

Watch This: Contractor Fraud PSA from The National Insurance Crime Bureau 

The second type of contractor fraud is when a contractor tries to trick a homeowner into paying to fix a problem that is exaggerated, simply does not exist, or is actually enhanced during a first inspection by the contractor themselves. 

Roofers are one type of contractor that might fall under this umbrella of fraud, considering they do most of their work on an area of the home we cannot easily assess on our own.

“We see a lot of cases where a roofer will come by and tell a homeowner that they just happened to be in the area, or that a neighbor just got a new roof and they noticed damage on theirs too. Then they go up onto the roof to ‘inspect the damage,’ and actually enhance or facilitate damages themselves,” Lieberman says. 

In cases where the damage is self-inflicted by the contractor, the roofer often proceeds to fix the damage and charge the homeowner accordingly. In others cases, the roofer might simply make their introduction, “assess” the damage on the roof without adding to it, and insist on a downpayment to fix what does not exist. The contractor will often take the downpayment and never return.

Considering these very different but equally harmful approaches, Gaytan warns that “pretty much any unsolicited approach from a contractor is something to be very careful of.”

How to Avoid Contractor Fraud

While the idea of being taken advantage of when you are vulnerable may seem scary, there are steps you can take to ensure your safety against fraudulent contractors.

1. Know What to Look For

Though it may sound obvious, asking an unsolicited (or even solicited) contractor to view or even make a copy of their official contractor’s license is an easy way to determine whether they are legitimate. Any contractor in good standing should carry their license on them and be more than willing to share it with you upon request.

Another quick way to determine if a contractor is legitimate is to take notice of their vehicle’s license plate. If the contractor appears to be from out of state, there is a very good chance the individual is chasing scam opportunities in particularly vulnerable locations. 

Try This: The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers a VINCheck Lookup tool that allows you to search the license plate of a suspicious contractor’s vehicle. 

Lieberman also recommends being on the lookout for contractors who bring up money or payment outside of an official quote before the work is complete. For example, if they ask for a deposit on the work, ask to be paid before the job is complete, or promise to pay the deductible on a project, it is likely they are fraudulent.

2. Document Everything

In emergency and non-emergency situations alike, it’s important to capture as much information as possible prior to engaging a contractor. Be sure to always take photos, videos and measurements of the damage at hand. The more data you have, the easier it will be to “prove and validate your own claim prior to a contractor coming out to your property,” Lieberman says. 

Taking Action: Even before an emergency, Lieberman advises taking the time to record or photograph your entire home top to bottom to ensure you are covered in case of unexpected loss. “Open every drawer you have, because if you were exposed to a fire, for example, you’ll have an awfully hard time recalling every single thing you had in every single drawer in your house.”

In general, “any documentation you have around any potential loss, the more protected you ultimately are,” Gaytan concludes. 

3. Engage Your Insurance Carrier

The very best way to prevent insurance fraud is by filing a claim with your insurance carrier at the first sign of damage to your home. Once that claim is filed, Lieberman explains that the insurance carrier will “send out a field claims representative or independent adjuster to scope the loss. Then, at that point, the field representative will assign the contractor to do the work.”

Going through your agency ensures that you are being matched with a reputable contractor in good standing who is unlikely to try and commit fraud. It also eliminates a lot of steps when it comes time to submit the claim for reimbursement because the agency is already familiar with the contractor’s pricing. 

In some cases, however, Lieberman notes that a homeowner’s only option is to be reactive. “When my attic flooded with water and the ceilings collapsed on the floor as a result of a hurricane, I didn’t have the time to call my insurance agent first,” he reflects. “That was a situation in which I had to just react, and I recognized that I was at the mercy of my contractor in that situation. Yes, I hoped I would be reimbursed by the insurance company and that they would take the scope of the work at face value, but I could also immediately see the potential for severe price gouging by the contractor. It was a dangerous spot to be in.”

The Central Difference

At Central, we believe contractor fraud is a preventable crime, and have adopted many practices internally to better protect our policyholders from these situations.

Our Special Investigative Unit “performs a significant amount of training with our adjusters in the detection of red flags with contractor claims,” Gaytan says. “The adjusters are taught what to look for so if they see something odd they can send it to us for immediate investigation.”

Did You Know? As a result of Central’s emphasis on training, this group was able to identify and investigate over 1,700 cases of questionable claims in 2021 alone.

Another aspect that sets Central’s fraud detection apart is its adoption of data and AI-driven strategies to help track patterns and fraudulent behaviors among contractors. “We [work] with law enforcement and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which places nationwide alerts on particular contractors to be on the lookout for,” Lieberman says. That data is then fed into Central’s personal analytics systems, keeping us one step ahead of fraudulent contractors.

What’s more, Central holds a unique partnership with the Geospatial Insurance Consortium, a program designed to provide up-to-date aerial imagery and geospatial information on policyholders’ property. This type of software allows Central to collect and develop a timeline of imagery depicting the history of a policyholder’s roof, for example. This way, if a contractor were to try and trick an insured into agreeing to repairing unseen roof damage, that policyholder would be able to call and check with Central to ensure the damage exists and matches the description of the quote.

Learn More About Protecting Yourself

Understanding contractor fraud and how to identify a potentially fraudulent individual is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from this kind of dangerous behavior. 

Looking to better arm yourself with information on contractor fraud? Use this Contractor Search Checklist to guide you through your next contractor experience and, if you’re a Central policyholder, get in touch with your agent for more information on Central’s built-in homeowner protection practices.

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Dwelling Coverage vs. Market Value: What’s the Difference?

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With home values significantly rising across the country over the past few years, it’s important to understand the difference between dwelling value and market value when it comes to home insurance. When buying or selling a home, much of the conversation and considerations focus on market value, which is the amount a home can be bought or sold for in the current market. In contrast, insurance companies prioritize dwelling value, which is the estimated replacement cost of a structure. 

How Much Dwelling Coverage Do I Need?

An insurance company is never going to sell your home, but they will replace it should you suffer a catastrophe like a tornado or house fire. For this reason, it’s vital that your home is insured for the proper amount needed to rebuild rather than what the real estate market might dictate the home’s worth to be based on the current housing market. 

Several years ago, when it was considered a “buyer’s market,” many homeowners were confused about why they were required to insure their home at a value higher than what they were likely to receive if they sold. Due to the lack of demand and ample homes on the market, market values had been driven below cost to rebuild. In 2022, however, we find ourselves navigating a very different landscape. Rising inflation, pandemic impact, and the current “seller’s market” have driven both market and dwelling values up, leaving homeowners with an entirely different set of choices to make.

Read on to learn more about how COVID and inflation are impacting dwelling and market values, as well as ways Central can help you determine whether your home is insured for the proper amount.    

How has dwelling coverage been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, major building material manufacturers were forced to slow or cease production as shutdowns spread across the globe. While U.S. supplies decreased, the nation saw an increase in the demand for building materials as people moved out of densely-populated cities, and into suburbs and rural areas to construct new homes or renovate existing structures. This imbalance between supply and demand drastically drove up the cost of building materials, with lumber pricing 135% higher than at the beginning of 2020. 

In addition to supply and demand struggles, post-pandemic worker shortages have impacted costs by continuing to hinder production capabilities throughout the industry. Even as material manufacturers and construction crews attempt to ramp back up, a lack of laborers and skilled workers continues to make it difficult to regain momentum and catch up with the persistent market demands. Ultimately, the challenges of these labor shortages and inflated material costs are being passed on to those building or renovating homes, driving up both market and dwelling values. 

What Does Dwelling Coverage Actually Include? 

Even in a stable market, you may find yourself wondering why you’re insuring your home for the same amount it might cost to rebuild. It’s important to remember that contracting costs include labor, materials, and contractor overhead. Insuring your home for less means you may not get all the upgrades you currently enjoy, such as granite countertops, maple or cherry cabinets, or hardwood floors. 

Learn More: How Does Your Homeowner Policy Respond To Total Losses?

Debris removal is another piece of the dwelling value puzzle that people often overlook. Most policies include coverage to remove the charred remains of your home after a fire, and the cost of debris removal is significant. Local ordinance may also require the undamaged portion of your home be removed if it sustains significant damage. Each town ordinance requires demolition when a certain percentage of damage is reached. In instances like this, your dwelling value not only covers the cost of rebuilding your home, but also the demolition of the undamaged portion, and any costs associated with hauling away debris so that your new home can be constructed.

The Central Difference

As you can see, there is more to insuring your home than one might think. We recommend reassessing your dwelling value with your agent every three to five years to ensure your home’s replacement cost remains in line with the market. 

By preparing for the worst-case scenario today, you can save yourself hassle and headaches should the unthinkable ever happen. And you can rest easy knowing Central will be right there with you at every step of the way.

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What parents need to know and how to help

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The Teenage Summer Job Search: What parents need to know and how to helpTeenage employment not only helps instill a sense of financial responsibility, but may also help with developing interpersonal skills, gaining valuable professional experience, and building character. As the school year approaches its end in Florida, it might be time to discuss a summer job with your teen and review options and opportunities for success. Following are some considerations to give you and your child a leg up in the hunt.

Legal Details:

Federal teen labor laws, specifically the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), set limits on the type and amount of work that teenagers can legally perform, and state labor laws generally follow these guidelines. Workers must be at least 14 years old for most non-agricultural work – click here for agricultural guidelines – and can be employed in most positions, with the exception of 17 jobs that are primarily in more dangerous fields like mining, construction, and hazardous materials handling. Kids under 14 can legally deliver newspapers, babysit, act, and work for a family business.

Additionally, 14- and 15-year-olds can work no more than three hours a day on school days, and no more than 18 hours a week while school is in session; they can work up to 40 hours a week when school is out. Working hours need to be between 7am and 7pm, except for June through August, when hours are extended to 9pm. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds can work unlimited hours at any job that’s not on the hazardous jobs list, any time of year.

While states are permitted to set their own minor pay standards, employers will most often pay at least federal minimum wage and are required to pay the higher wage when state and federal payment laws differ.

Though there are no federal laws requiring minors to obtain special permits to begin work, some states do require certain certifications, the specifics of which can generally be found at your state’s department of labor.

How to Help:

First and foremost, listen. Make sure your teenager is ready to work – physically, emotionally, and socially – and help them set reasonable expectations for the employment they may obtain. Finding a job may prove challenging, so be the encouragement they will arguably need along the way.

Provide guidance around interviewing. While many applications may now be completed online and resumes emailed, in person interviews are still the norm. Help your child plan for appropriate etiquette and clothing, as well as ways that they might describe their employable attributes if they lack any formal work history. Depending on the position and field, a basic review of the company’s website may also be advisable. Finally, advise persistence throughout the application process.

Talk about finances. It may be helpful to develop a basic budget with your teen and to discuss the benefits of saving, even if it’s merely for shorter term needs like a new bicycle or car. They may also need to consider tax liability, especially if they are mowing lawns or engaged in other gig work; the Internal Revenue Service’s online withholding estimator tool may be helpful when planning ahead. Having the discussion about money before it’s in their hands, sets the stage for smart choices when it is.

If money isn’t a necessity or motivator, remember that volunteering and internships also provide important life and work experience, and may prove particularly invaluable for teens with significant educational aspirations.

Regardless of your child’s employment choices, always support a healthy work/life balance and instill the importance of that now for lifelong happiness. Teenagers need more sleep than their younger and older counterparts and are developing necessary social skills during these years. Fun and free time should be of equal concern to entering the big wide working world. These may be the last few prolonged periods of freedom your teen has, particularly with your family, so make them count.

For any insurance questions, call or contact Post Insurance and Financial today.

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Why Should I Avoid Distractactions When Driving?

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We all know we shouldn’t text and drive, so why is it so tempting to reach for the phone the moment you hear that little ding? Just a quick glance can’t hurt, right? Wrong. 

Data from a 2020 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study shows that 1.6 million crashes, more than 3,100 deaths, and 400,000 injuries were caused by some form of distracted driving in the year 2019 alone. In addition, more than one in four of all accidents—including 87 percent of rear-end collisions—are the result of some form of distracted driving. 

What feels like a quick check of your phone, flip of the radio dial, or reset of the GPS can easily result in injury or tragedy. 

Distracted Driving Facts To Remember

After years of PSAs about the dangers of distracted driving, it’s clear we know better than to do it—so why can’t we quit? It all stems from brain biology. 

Research has shown that 92 percent of drivers recognize the dangers of texting and driving, and support making it illegal to text behind the wheel. Nonetheless, 60 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds believe they can text and drive safely. The biological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance tricks our brains into believing that we are not subject to the same risks and dangers as everyone else. Convinced we are the exception rather than the rule, we carry on with risky behaviors while recognizing the dangers posed when others do it behind the wheel. 

In order to recognize the error in this logic, it’s important to understand what happens to our brain when we use a mobile phone. According to a behavioral health study recorded in the National Library of Medicine, talking on the phone, “our brains direct about 37 percent of our energy away from parts of brain that deal with driving resulting in “inattention blindness.” In the most basic terms, this means that you may be looking around at your environment, but you are not fully processing everything you are seeing. 

As a result of this practice, the Psychology of Learning and Motivation explains that “it’s estimated that we can miss as much as 50 percent of what is going on around us when distracted.” It’s not hard to see why this can quickly become a serious hazard when we’re navigating around pedestrians, children, pets, construction zones and other drivers—many of whom are likely distracted themselves. 

How to Prevent Being a Distracted Driver

Enroll your Teen in a Training Program

Have you heard of the teenSMART® Driver Safety Program? The program teaches drivers to anticipate dangerous situations, recognize how risk changes as they drive, increase situational awareness, and expect the unexpected while behind the wheel. Studies show that teens who complete the program reduce their chances of being in a crash by up to 30 percent. As an added incentive, Central offers premium discounts to teen drivers who complete the program.

Learn More: Teenage Driver? teenSMART is the Smart Choice for Safety and Savings

Talk to Your Employees

Groups dedicated to changing the nature of distracted driving have worked hard to develop training materials that can be used to bridge these types of conversations with employees. This video produced by the National Safety Council, for instance, gives advice on how to coach your employees on properly and safely preparing to hit the road for work-related travels.

Take a Distracted Driver Course

The National Safety Council offers an interactive Online Defensive Driving Course, which is designed to motivate drivers to change their risky driving behaviors, as well as their overall attitudes about distracted driving.

Evaluate Your Own Behavior. 

Learn more about driver distractions and the risk you take by allowing yourself to multitask on the road by taking the official DMV Distracted Driving Quiz. 

Pledge to Make a Change

Join the millions of Americans who are vowing to take back their focus on the roads in this official DMV-sponsored online pledge

Driver Distraction Impact on Insurance

The safety and wellbeing of our policyholders and communities is of utmost importance to everyone at Central. Not only does raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving support safer roadways, it also helps us keep premiums low for our auto policyholders by reducing accidents and claims. From saving lives to saving money, everybody benefits. Learn more about Central Auto coverage here.


 Want to learn more about distracted driving? 

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Distracted Driving: Why We Do It & How To Stop

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We all know we shouldn’t text and drive, so why is it so tempting to reach for the phone the moment you hear that little ding? Just a quick glance can’t hurt, right? Wrong. 

Data from a 2020 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study shows that 1.6 million crashes, more than 3,100 deaths, and 400,000 injuries were caused by some form of distracted driving in the year 2019 alone. In addition, more than one in four of all accidents—including 87 percent of rear-end collisions—are the result of some form of distracted driving. 

What feels like a quick check of your phone, flip of the radio dial, or reset of the GPS can easily result in injury or tragedy. 

Distracted Driving Facts To Remember

After years of PSAs about the dangers of distracted driving, it’s clear we know better than to do it—so why can’t we quit? It all stems from brain biology. 

Research has shown that 92 percent of drivers recognize the dangers of texting and driving, and support making it illegal to text behind the wheel. Nonetheless, 60 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds believe they can text and drive safely. The biological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance tricks our brains into believing that we are not subject to the same risks and dangers as everyone else. Convinced we are the exception rather than the rule, we carry on with risky behaviors while recognizing the dangers posed when others do it behind the wheel. 

In order to recognize the error in this logic, it’s important to understand what happens to our brain when we use a mobile phone. According to a behavioral health study recorded in the National Library of Medicine, talking on the phone, “our brains direct about 37 percent of our energy away from parts of brain that deal with driving resulting in “inattention blindness.” In the most basic terms, this means that you may be looking around at your environment, but you are not fully processing everything you are seeing. 

As a result of this practice, the Psychology of Learning and Motivation explains that “it’s estimated that we can miss as much as 50 percent of what is going on around us when distracted.” It’s not hard to see why this can quickly become a serious hazard when we’re navigating around pedestrians, children, pets, construction zones and other drivers—many of whom are likely distracted themselves. 

How to Prevent Being a Distracted Driver

Enroll your Teen in a Training Program

Have you heard of the teenSMART® Driver Safety Program? The program teaches drivers to anticipate dangerous situations, recognize how risk changes as they drive, increase situational awareness, and expect the unexpected while behind the wheel. Studies show that teens who complete the program reduce their chances of being in a crash by up to 30 percent. As an added incentive, Central offers premium discounts to teen drivers who complete the program.

Learn More: Teenage Driver? teenSMART is the Smart Choice for Safety and Savings

Talk to Your Employees

Groups dedicated to changing the nature of distracted driving have worked hard to develop training materials that can be used to bridge these types of conversations with employees. This video produced by the National Safety Council, for instance, gives advice on how to coach your employees on properly and safely preparing to hit the road for work-related travels.

Take a Distracted Driver Course

The National Safety Council offers an interactive Online Defensive Driving Course, which is designed to motivate drivers to change their risky driving behaviors, as well as their overall attitudes about distracted driving.

Evaluate Your Own Behavior. 

Learn more about driver distractions and the risk you take by allowing yourself to multitask on the road by taking the official DMV Distracted Driving Quiz. 

Pledge to Make a Change

Join the millions of Americans who are vowing to take back their focus on the roads in this official DMV-sponsored online pledge

Driver Distraction Impact on Insurance

The safety and wellbeing of our policyholders and communities is of utmost importance to everyone at Central. Not only does raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving support safer roadways, it also helps us keep premiums low for our auto policyholders by reducing accidents and claims. From saving lives to saving money, everybody benefits. Learn more about Central Auto coverage here.


 Want to learn more about distracted driving? 

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