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Tips for Avoiding Common Holiday Cyberscams

For many of us, the holiday season is a wonderful time of year. Unfortunately, it can be especially profitable for cybercriminals. Because of the prevalence of online shopping, we almost always see a significant increase in cyberscams during November and December. To help you avoid becoming a victim of holiday cybercrime, here are some of the top scams to watch out for—and tips for avoiding them.

Shady Shipping Notices
During the holiday season, it’s very likely that you will ship at least a couple of packages directly to your loved ones or have online purchases sent to your home. This makes the shipping notice scam a popular one for cyberscrooges. Here’s how it works: The scammer crafts an email, purportedly coming from UPS or FedEx, notifying you of a problem delivering your package. To resolve the issue, you need only click on a link in the email message or open an attached invoice. Of course, doing so will install malware or ransomware on your computer or device.

Don’t fall for it. Be particularly wary of emails claiming to come from any courier service. If you do receive a message like the one described above—whether you believe it to be legitimate or not—go to the website of the company you may have ordered from. You should be able to track your package from the retailer’s site. Use the tracking number for the courier service that the retailer provides. You can also go directly to UPS.com or FedEx.com and obtain the delivery status there. Whatever you do, don’t click on any links or download any attachments in the original message.

Eyebrow-Raising Refunds
This phishing scam is designed to steal your personal and financial information. Typically, an email claiming to be from an e-commerce company like Amazon, eBay, or Overstock will say that something has gone wrong with your recent order. You will be prompted to click on a link in the message to obtain your refund. Unfortunately, if you do, you will be taken to a dummy website set up to look like a legitimate sender. There, you will be asked to fill out a form with your financial information to let the sender know where it can issue your refund.

Don’t fall for it. Again, to check the status of any order you may have placed, go to the company’s website directly (e.g., Amazon.com, eBay.com). If the company doesn’t offer the ability to check an order’s status, verify the transaction by calling the firm at a phone number that you know is legitimate.

Giveaways Galore
The gift card scam is seen year-round but more often during the holidays. These bogus offers are most commonly delivered by cybercriminals through social media, usually through a friend’s hacked account or a fake company page set up to look as if it’s legitimate. Appearing to originate from an entity like Best Buy, Ikea, or Whole Foods, the offer claims that the company is giving away hundreds or thousands of dollars in gift cards. But if you follow the instructions provided to obtain your gift card, you will likely be led to a phishing form that asks for your personal information.

Don’t fall for it. Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is! If the post appears to come from a friend, call or text him or her to ask if it’s legitimate. In addition, be wary if the “official company page” looks a little off. Check how many followers the website has. The retailer’s authentic website may have hundreds of thousands or millions of followers. Further, a huge promotion such as the one described in the offer you received would also be listed on the retailer’s website, so check there directly or call the company’s customer service number.

Website Vendors That Don’t Deliver
Many popular and novelty items may be sold out and on backorder until after the holidays. Or they may be hard to find from mainstream merchants altogether. So it’s not uncommon for consumers to search online for a less well-known vendor that may have the items. But beware! Another favorite holiday scam is staged through sketchy websites claiming to have hard-to-find items in stock. These sites trick you into paying for the items with no intention of delivering them. Often, these entities are based overseas.

Don’t fall for it. Search the Better Business Bureau website for customer reviews and the accreditations of merchants that are unfamiliar to you. In addition, because not all businesses are listed with the BBB, you might want to hunt elsewhere on the web for reviews posted by other consumers. If you can’t find much information on the vendor, stay away!

Still nervous? Below are additional tips to protect yourself from holiday scams:

• If possible, use credit cards for online transactions. If you fall for one of these scams and unknowingly hand over your debit card information, it’s easy for the cybercriminal to drain your bank account quickly. Purchases made with credit cards typically offer more consumer protections.
• If you’re uncertain about the legitimacy of a website, check its safety rating on Scamadviser.com or URLVoid.com.
• If searching for an item on a lesser-known merchant’s website, check for spelling and grammatical errors. If found, these mistakes are a red flag that the site is most likely based overseas—indicating a possible scam.
• Avoid online shopping or conducting any financial transactions over an unsecure Wi-Fi network.

‘Tis the Season
With all the merriment and shopping during the holidays, the risk of inadvertently exposing your credit card or bank account details is very real. It’s important to take a step back and pay attention to the emails you’re receiving and the websites you’re using. By following the suggestions discussed here, you can help protect yourself against cyberscams so you can fully enjoy the holiday season.

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Accepting Internship Applications for Summer 2020

Allen Insurance and Financial is accepting applications for its 2020 summer internship program, which offers a 12-week immersion into the company’s three insurance divisions (personal, business and health) and its financial planning/investment management group.

Applications from college juniors and seniors will receive priority review; all applicants will be considered. This is a paid position, based in Camden.

To receive a copy of the job description and start the application process, please email Jill Lang at email hidden; JavaScript is required Deadline for applications will be set in early 2020. Interns should expect to start work in late May or early June 2020 and work through mid- to late August.

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A Best Place to Work in Maine in 2019

Allen Insurance and Financial was recently named as one of the 2019 Best Places to Work in Maine. The awards program was created in 2006 and is a project of the Society for Human Resource Management – Maine State Council  and Best Companies Group. Partners endorsing the program include: Mainebiz, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and Maine HR Convention.

Allen Insurance and Financial has been a Best Place to Work in Maine every year since 2012.

This statewide survey and awards program was designed to identify, recognize and honor the best places of employment in Maine, benefiting the state’s economy, its workforce and businesses. The 2019 Best Places to Work in Maine list is made up of 100 companies in three size categories: small (15-49 U.S. employees), medium (50-249 U.S. employees) and large (250+ U.S. employees).

To be considered for participation, companies had to fulfill the following eligibility requirements:

– Have at least 15 employees working in Maine;
– Be a for-profit or not-for-profit business or government entity;
– Be a publicly or privately held business;
– Have a facility in the state of Maine; and
– Must be in business a minimum of 1 year.

Companies from across the state entered the two-part process to determine the Best Places to Work in Maine. The first part consisted of evaluating each nominated company’s workplace policies, practices, and demographics. This part of the process was worth approximately 25% of the total evaluation. The second part consisted of an employee survey to measure the employee experience. This part of the process was worth approximately 75% of the total evaluation. The combined scores determined the top companies and the final rankings. Best Companies Group managed the overall registration and survey process in Maine and also analyzed the data and used their expertise to determine the final rankings.

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Maine Workers Compensation Board Defines ‘Independent Contractor’

There are some new rules in Maine around Workers Compensation Insurance and Independent Contractors. The Maine Workers Compensation Board has issued a newsletter with some important information.

Independent contractors are workers who perform services for remuneration under a verbal or written contract, but who are not under the essential control or superintendence of another person, both under the person’s contract of service and in fact. The worker must also meet specific criteria.

In order for a person to be an independent contractor they must meet the test in §102(13-A) of the Workers’ Compensation Act.  An independent contractor is not required to have workers’ compensation insurance; however an independent contractor is required to have workers’ compensation insurance for any employees hired by the independent contractor.

Newsletter from Maine Workers Compensation Board – June 2019

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Meet Our Summer Interns

Jack Gallagher and Daulton Wickenden

From left: Jack Gallagher and Daulton Wickenden

Allen Insurance and Financial is hosting two summer interns in 2019. Both are graduates of Camden Hills Regional High School and attend colleges in Maine.

Jack Gallagher of Camden is a graduate of Thomas College in Waterville and will be working in both the insurance and financial divisions at Allen Insurance and Financial before returning to Thomas this fall to study for his MBA.

Daulton Wickenden of Rockport, who will be a fall 2019 graduate of Husson University, is focused more exclusively in the company’s personal insurance division.

“These internships will provide a complete immersion into the nature of our work at Allen Insurance and Financial,” said company president Mike Pierce. “Jack and Daulton will have the opportunity to put their academic experience to work to complete a variety of business assignments. We look forward to working with them this summer.”

 

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Anthem Recognizes Anna Moorman for 2018 Sales

Anna Moorman

Anna Moorman

Anna Moorman of Allen Insurance and Financial has received the Silver Award for Medicare Sales for her work with Anthem in 2018. Moorman placed eighth out of 181 brokers for top sales and seventh for Medicare Supplement Sales in the State of Maine.

Moorman has been with Allen Insurance and Financial for more than six years and is one of two agents at the company who specialize in the complex market of Medicare insurance. She works with a number of insurance carriers to give customers a range of choices to suit their needs.

The Anthem award was announced in Portland on May 1. This is the fourth consecutive year that Moorman has received an award from Anthem for Medicare sales.

“Our goal is to provide dedicated, one-on-one attention to our Medicare customers, assessing each person’s needs and finding options that will align with their budget and healthcare goals,” said Michael Pierce, company president. “I know Anna enjoys helping clients navigate the Medicare maze and as this award indicates her clients appreciate the way she simplifies the process.”

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Welcoming Nikki Castellano

Nikki Castellano

Nikki Castellano

Nikki Castellano has joined Allen Insurance and Financial as an assistant in the company’s benefits division.

A native of Pleasant Valley, N.Y. and graduate of Newbury College in Boston, Castellano’s work supports the Allen Insurance benefits division staff at their Chestnut Street location in Camden.

Castellano lives in Camden with her husband and their two sons. Outside of work, she is active in her community, currently serving as the marketing and fundraising coordinator for Megunticook Rowing, a Camden organization in which her sons are active. An interior designer in Boston, London and San Francisco for 12 years, Castellano is also a crafter/artist with a focus on use of recycled items.

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Jane Harford Earns State Insurance License

Jane Harford

Jane Harford

We are pleased to announce that Jane Harford has obtained a license to sell property and casualty insurance in the state of Maine.

Jane is a member of the support staff at the agency’s Camden office. A resident of Belfast, she joined the company in 2018.

The state-issued study guide for insurance licensing is 400+ pages. The state exams are comprised of 150 questions drawn from a pool of 2,400 questions on a complete range of subject areas, including business and personal insurance, workers’ compensation, maritime insurance and Maine insurance law.

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As Financial Advisors, We are Not Afraid to Use the F-Word: “Fiduciary”

Several years ago there was a lot in the news about a fiduciary rule that was going to change how advisors worked; the imposition of a fiduciary standard of behavior meant that advisors would have to make decisions and recommendations for their clients in their clients’ best interests, and not their own.

Sarah Ruef-Lindquist, JD, CTFA
Sarah Ruef-Lindquist, JD, CTFA

Otherwise, advisors could charge commissions and earn fees on investments and other financial products that were perhaps questionably in their client’s best interests, but were definitely in the advisor’s best interests.

‘Fiduciary’ means essentially making decisions based on the best interests of someone beside yourself. While this isn’t a foreign concept to most people, it is not necessarily human nature. After all, survival instincts naturally tend toward self-preservation, not altruism. However, as advisors, we are in the unique position of helping others with decisions that require not only objectivity to understand available options, but professionalism and expertise to advise and recommend the best course of action for a particular individual’s circumstances.

Even though the fiduciary rule was not ultimately enacted as part of the regulatory scheme for financial advisors, some of us have always made it our practice to only make recommendations in our clients’ best interests. It is easier to do that when your income is not based on commissions from sales. Fee only planners are compensated solely by the client with neither the advisor nor any related party receiving compensation that is contingent on the purchase or sale of a financial product. Fees are usually paid through the investment management of one or more portfolios based on a percentage of their value, or in some cases for consulting work done on an hourly basis.

A question to ask yourself if you have a financial advisor would be are they acting in a fiduciary capacity for you?