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Risk Management Bulletin

How To Stay Safe When You Use Public Wi-Fi

By Risk Management Bulletin

Public Wi-Fi allows your team to stay connected on the go. You have to be careful, though, because public Wi-Fi is notoriously unsecure. Cybercriminals could also log into the free network you use and access data on your devices, such as your login information or confidential client files. Exercise caution and stay safe in several ways as you use your laptop, tablet or smartphone on public Wi-Fi networks.

Verify the Network Name

Before logging in, research the network. Only log into Wi-Fi that originates from a legitimate source as you avoid a man-in-the-middle attack. For example, cybercriminals may name their network “Free Wi-Fi” or mimic the establishment’s name as a way to attract users. Ask the barista, librarian or other staff member to verify the name of their public Wi-Fi network before you log in.

Turn off File Sharing

Your team relies on file sharing, but this feature is lucrative for cybercriminals, too. That’s why you want to turn off file sharing when you use public Wi-Fi. This step protects your files and data you don’t want criminals to access.

Use a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts data as it travels between your device and the server. Research free and paid VPN options, then add one to your devices for protection when you need it on the go.

Check for HTTPS

If you see a lock symbol and HTTPS in front of the website address in the status bar, you’re browsing a secure site. You can also use an HTTPS extension for extra protection.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

With two-factor authentication, you add an extra layer of protection to your online browsing. Even if cybercriminals gain access to your password, they probably cannot get into your account since they need to enter a unique authentication code also.

Update Software

Browser and software patches can improve security. Make it a habit to install these patches when you’re connected to a trusted network. Never update software when you’re connected to public Wi-Fi.

Forget the Network

After your public Wi-Fi session ends, log off all the websites you were signed into and tell your device to forget the network. This step prevents cybercriminals from connecting to your device automatically the next time you’re in the network area.

Limit your Activity

It’s tempting to think that cybercrime couldn’t happen to you or that you can afford to be careless because you have cybercrime and business liability insurance. However, always use caution. Save sensitive or confidential work for when you’re on a trusted network.

Your company may utilize public Wi-Fi often to stay connected and get work done. Encourage your employees to use caution and follow these steps as they stay safe.

The Dangers Of Fake Business Reviews

By Risk Management Bulletin

Before visiting a business, 90 percent of consumers read online reviews. Your company needs online reviews, but your business could suffer if you encourage or allow fake reviews to populate the internet. Understand the dangers of fake reviews as you build and protect your company.

What are Fake Reviews?

As a business owner, you may solicit or allow fake reviews as a way to bolster your online reputation and attract more customers.

Four common types of fake reviews include:

  • Ask family members and friends to share reviews of your company. While your family and friends may be loyal customers, their reviews could be skewed and not provide an accurate picture of your company.
  • Pay employees to write reviews. These reviews could appear to be objective but are dishonest.
  • Offer your product or service for free in exchange for a written review. While you may boost production volume and customers with this technique, it invites positive rather than honest reviews.
  • Encourage reviews on open rather than verified review sites. Numerous review sites allow anyone to leave a review even if they haven’t tried your services or products, a practice that encourages fake reviews.

Dangers of Fake Reviews

Your company faces several dangers because of fake reviews.

Fines – Expect repercussions from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your state if you violate consumer protection laws that include false advertising.

Damaged Reputation – Online review sites can report fake reviews to consumer alert groups and post this information on your profile. As a result, your company will gain a negative reputation that is nearly impossible to overturn.

Broken Trust – If consumers discover that you’ve encouraged or allowed fake reviews, they will stop trusting your company. You lose credibility and valuable business that affects your company now and into the future.

Lack of Growth – An influx of reviews can improve business temporarily, but your business will suffer if your products or services don’t match the fake reviews.

Public Danger – Fake reviews of physicians, attorneys, accountants or auto repair shops could potentially harm consumers. Other dangers caused by undisclosed allergic reactions or unsafe products can also harm consumers, highlighting the need for only honest reviews.

How to Prevent Fake Reviews

In your quest to attract business and build your brand, you may ask all your customers to leave honest reviews on verified sites. Continue to offer excellent service, too, that prompts customers to praise your company online.

Overall, your company will benefit more from no reviews than from fake ones. Understand the dangers of fake reviews and how to combat them as you retain your credibility, build your reputation and protect your company.

Ways To Reduce ADA Lawsuit Risks In Your Small Business

By Risk Management Bulletin

Established in 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protects disabled Americans from discrimination. The term “disabled” applies to anyone with a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits or restricts a daily life activity, and ADA laws apply in the workplace and nearly any public space. Learn more about how your small business can comply with ADA laws, protect your employees and customers, and avoid expensive and time-consuming lawsuits.

Challenges of ADA Compliance for Small Businesses

While beneficial, ADA laws change frequently. Your small business may not have the time or resources to remain updated and complaint. However, if you don’t maintain ADA compliance at all times, you could face numerous fines and lawsuits. Additionally, you lose valuable employees and customers and damage your professional reputation.

Ways to Become ADA Compliant

Your small business can become ADA compliant when you take several steps.

Assess your specific risks.

Certain structures built before early 1993 may be exempt from strict guidelines that apply to structures built after early 1993, but you will need to perform an ADA assessment no matter when your building was constructed. Your property and business could face specific risks such as non-compliant entryways, incorrect bathroom signs or shelves that are hung too high. A certified ADA specialist will assess your property based on applicable current laws. You may also hire an architect with experience in equal-access requirements to perform the assessment and suggest necessary changes.

Correct non-compliant areas.

After you have identified your specific risks, correct them. Hire an architect, contractor or other professional to make the necessary changes and secure your ADA compliance. Remember that your small business may be eligible for numerous annual tax credits and deductions that offset a portion of your renovation costs.

Beware of drive-by lawsuits.

Certain enterprising individuals may drive by your property, note ADA violations then file a lawsuit. You could then be liable for legal fees and repairs. Unfortunately, you cannot prevent drive-by lawsuits, but you can purchase adequate insurance to cover some of your losses and give you peace of mind.

Purchase adequate business insurance.

A commercial general liability policy doesn’t prevent an ADA-related lawsuit, but it does provide invaluable financial resources if you are sued. Consider purchasing errors and omissions insurance, an employment practices liability policy and umbrella coverage, too, as you protect your small business. Your insurance agent can offer additional advice on the invaluable coverage you need.

Your small business can and must become ADA compliant or you will face expensive and time-consuming lawsuits. Use these tips to secure compliance and protect your employees, customers and company. For more information, contact the Department of Justice’s ADA Information Line at 800- 514-0301.

Spring Fleet Maintenance Tips That Improve Safety

By Risk Management Bulletin

This spring, add fleet maintenance to your list of chores. The right maintenance prepares your business vehicles to operate safely during the busy spring and summer months. Plus, these tips remove remnants of winter weather and prolong the life of your valuable fleet.

Inspect Brakes

Properly functioning brakes allow your vehicle to stop when necessary. Verify that the pads and rotors remain in good shape or replace them if necessary. Clean any winter salt and residue from the anti-lock braking system also.

Change Fluids

Fluids equip a vehicle’s motor to operate properly. Change the oil, flush the transmission fluid and refill the window washer fluid to protect your fleet.

Check the Belts and Hoses

Broken, cracked, softened, peeling or worn belts and hoses affect a vehicle’s performance. Now that spring is here, check all the belts and hoses under the hood and replace any that show signs of wear.

Adjust the Alignment and Suspension

Potholes and winter debris affect a vehicle’s alignment and suspension, causing it to pull to one side or vibrate. Reduce your accident risk and ensure your vehicles operate properly when you correct any alignment or suspension problems.

Rotate and Fill Tires

Because the tires enhance traction, handling and safety, rotate and fill them to the proper pressure. Verify that the tread on each tire is adequate, too.

Charge the Battery

After working hard all winter, the battery may be drained. Charge it or replace the battery if you notice that the electrical components of your vehicle operate slower than normal.

Test the Air Conditioner

A properly functioning air conditioner keeps your employees comfortable into the summer. Turn it on and ensure it reaches full blast within a short time. Recharge or repair the air conditioner if it doesn’t get cold.

Stock Supplies

Whether your employees drive company cars to make deliveries or meet with clients, stock adequate supplies. The fleet vehicles should have a first aid kit, updated registration and insurance information, and any items essential for work.

Perform a Complete Detail

Salt melts snow and ice on winter roads, but it also causes rust on a vehicle’s undercarriage. Wash your fleet vehicles carefully to remove any salt and other winter residue. Remove dirt and debris from the inside of your vehicles, too, to improve safety and visibility.

Schedule the Annual Inspection

Double check when the annual inspections are due for each vehicle, and plan those inspections.

Reduce the risk of vehicle accidents when you maintain your business fleet this spring. For additional tips, talk to your commercial auto insurance agent.

Small Business Tax Season Risks To Avoid

By Risk Management Bulletin

Now that tax season has arrived, your business must address several common risks. Protect your company now and into the future when you take several steps.

Protect W-2s

The W-2 forms you supply to employees contain personal information a thief can use to steal an employee’s identity. Safeguard all the W-2s you provide by handing these forms directly to each employee or letting your team know when to expect the forms in the mail.

Additionally, counsel payroll personnel to protect W-2 details. Thieves may contact the payroll department and ask for a list of employees and their W-2 information. If someone in your company releases this information, you could be liable.

If you do discover that someone has tried to scam your business and fraudulently gain W-2 information, contact the IRS immediately.

Verify IRS Requests

Thieves may send you an email with an official-looking IRS seal. The email may promise a refund or require additional personal information and include an attachment you must open and complete. Typically, these emails and their attachments comprise a phishing scam that’s designed to deliver harmful software, malware or spam to your electronic devices.

In the stress of tax season, you or one of your employees may open these emails, but remember that the IRS will not communicate with you via an email. Feel free to contact the IRS and verify the legitimacy of any communication.

Discuss the Security of Your Accountant’s Records

Despite your best security efforts, your accountant may not employ protective measures. Discuss the steps your accountant takes to secure your information, including the data you share via email and the tax returns and information they submit electronically to the IRS on your behalf.

File Taxes on Time

Your business faces penalties and fines if you file your tax return late. File for an extension if you need additional time to compile your data and file your taxes.

Report all Income

Forget to report income, and you could face a 20 percent fine. Intentional underreporting of income could land you a fine of up to 75 percent of the total tax owed. Proper recordkeeping prevents this mistake and saves you money in the long run.

Take the Correct Deductions

Your business is eligible for numerous business deductions, including commercial insurance premiums, office supplies and travel. However, ensure the accuracy of your deductions. Auto, home office and entertainment deductions can trigger an audit, so double check that you only take legitimate deductions for ordinary and necessary business expenses.

This year, you can avoid several small business tax season risks. Follow these tips and talk to your accountant as you meet your tax obligations and protect your company.

The Worst Construction Mistakes Ever Made

By Risk Management Bulletin

Forgetting one hurricane tie before drywalling probably isn’t going to see a house going up in a tornado like in The Wizard of Oz. Some mistakes aren’t that big a deal. Others… well, here are some of the biggest mistakes ever made in construction, engineering and architecture:

The Aon Center

The Aon Center, completed in 1973, was known for its beautiful exterior made of Italian Carrara marble. A fetching addition to the Chicago skyline, it turns out that there’s a reason they don’t use Carrara marble on most buildings. It’s a very thin material. Just one year after the building was completed, pieces started to crack and fall off, one of them smashing through the roof of the nearby Prudential Center. Replacing the exterior with granite cost over $80 million. There’s something to be said for using the right materials the first time.

NASA and Lockheed Martin’s Mars Orbiter

Long story short: in 1999, Lockheed Martin used the English system of measurement on a project with NASA, while NASA used the metric system. The Mars orbiter was then unable to transfer its coordinates to the lab in California. Now there’s a $125 million chunk of useless metal floating around the galaxy. You might not be building a satellite any time soon, but it’s important to get on the same page with your crew and your client when it comes to how many inches are in a meter.

Vdara Hotel & Car Dashboard

The Vdara Hotel & Spa is a classic example of a designer putting form before function. All those reflective surfaces on the windows surrounding the pool looked absolutely stunning, but at mid-day, they created a sort of magnifying-lens-on-an-ant effect, scorching people in the swimming pool and turning the whole area into a car dashboard on a Summer afternoon. One man even claims to have had some hair singed right off his head while going for a swim.

Piper Bravo Oil Rig

The smallest mistakes can have major complications. The Piper Bravo Oil Rig exploded, killing 167 people, simply because safety inspectors forgot to replace a single safety valve after a routine check of the rig. The repairs cost more than $3 billion in 1994 USD. This is something worth thinking about the next time a worker decides that he doesn’t need to wear his goggles if he’s only going to be using the table saw for a couple minutes.



By Risk Management Bulletin

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a list of companies that face inspection and enforcement – and your company might well be on it!

Here are five ways to evaluate your chances of getting a visit from OSHA:

    1. Check your own injury and accident rates. Use the OSHA Form 300 log and Form 300A Summary to review your accident statistics, injury and illness logs, and incident rates, particularly your Days Away, Restricted, and Transferred (DART) rate, and Days Away from Work Injury and Illness (DAFWII) rate.
    1. Look at OSHA trends in citations and violations for your industry. Go to the OSHA Web site at and browse through the regulations that cover your industry for the number of citations under a particular regulation
    1. Compare your incidence rate with those of your competitors. You can find the history of your competitors’ inspections on the OSHA site at The database also contains the list of citations by regulation number.
    1. Determine whether you’re making the news. OSHA inspectors respond to media stories about an organization, even if the coverage is positive. If a news agency wants information about you, carefully screen any comments or photographs you provide. Even a positive story can sting you inadvertently when it comes to workplace safety and health.
    1. Monitor what’s new with OSHA. Keep an eye on the agency’s Special Emphasis program ( for targeting certain high-hazard industries)

Why You Need a Workplace Assessment

By Risk Management Bulletin

Why You Need a Workplace Assessment

In last month’s newsletter, we looked at some of the risks associated with obesity in the workplace. This month, we’ll focus on how to conduct a workplace assessment to identify and mitigate a wide range of health issues so you can reduce your overall health-related risk exposure.

The Value of Workplace Assessments

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) promotes workplace assessments to help businesses understand the issues their company is facing with regard to lost productivity and workers’ comp issues, as well as potential discrimination claims that can arise when workers feel they’re being targeted or their health needs are not being met.

According to the CDC, “Employee health is determined by a complex set of interactions between the individual and their social, cultural, and physical environments and can be influenced in many ways.” That means that to be effective, your workplace assessment must involve much more than a cursory review of your company’s past healthcare expenditures.

Conducting Your Assessment

Most evaluations begin with a site visit and evaluation with a focus on identifying health risks like low lighting or habits that can promote problems like low back pain. The evaluation should also include interviews with managers and employees and a review of any health promotion programs or incentives that may be in place.

Employee questionnaires are another important component, providing a first-person perspective on health and safety issues, employee satisfaction and any other health-related concerns.

Reviews of both health claims and pharmaceutical costs from the past few years can provide important information about the prevalence of medical issues and whether your company is moving in the right direction with its health policies. You can also identify which employees have the greatest number of claims and highest costs to pinpoint occupations that may be most prone to injury. Similar data can be extracted from records of employee sick days and absences.
Once data are gathered and evaluated, a decision can be made regarding the value of your current health plan and whether or not it needs to be altered, as well as any steps you can take on site to reduce injury and illness.

One word of caution: When developing employee health questionnaires ore reviewing medical claims data and sick days, be sure your actions don’t run contrary to any privacy or HIPAA regulations to avoid potential claims of discrimination or other violations. The CDC offers a comprehensive guide to workplace health assessments for businesses with single or multiple locations to help guide you. You can find an overview of the guide here, as well as a list of supporting documents and guides to help you carry out your evaluation.


Six Small Business Scams To Avoid

By Risk Management Bulletin

Federal Trade Commission and IRS agents encounter dozens of small business scams each year. Know the risks and steps you can take to protect your company in 2018.

1. Tech Support Calls

The caller claims to represent the Global Privacy Enforcement Network or Microsoft and says that your email was hacked or that your computer contracted a serious virus and can be fixed for a fee. Computer companies will not reach out to you via a phone call, but scammers will use this scam to access your credit card or other personal information.

2. Phishing and Malware Emails

An email appears to originate from a legitimate business and asks you to verify personal information or it states that you need a critical security upgrade. Known as phishing emails, these scams can deliver harmful malware to your computer and compromise your business. Only open emails from trusted sources as you protect yourself. Mark suspicious emails as spam or delete them.

3. Directory Listings

A consultant says she can list your business in an online directory for a fee or that you owe a fee to resolve a problem with your existing Manta, Google or other online directory listing. You can claim, manage and edit your online directory listings yourself online. This directory listing scam is a ploy to gain your credit card information. Decline the help and hang up the phone as you protect your business.

4. Fake Invoices

You receive an invoice stating that you owe money for office supplies, advertising or another expense. If you did not order these items or already paid the invoice, you may disregard the fake invoice. Be sure to keep excellent records so you and your staff can dispute any fake invoices.

5. Loan Robocalls

To help you fund your business, a caller will offer you a loan with excellent interest rates or offer to lower the interest rate on an existing loan. These scams gather your personal information, so decline the offer and only pursue legitimate small business loans.

6. IRS Fraud

Someone calls your office and says that your small business faces legal action because you owe thousands of dollars in overdue taxes. The IRS will always mail communications about overdue payment. The scam caller simply wants your social security or credit card number to steal your money or identity.

These six scams are only a few of dozens that could affect your small business. Understand potential scams and train your employees to recognize and avoid them. Purchase business insurance, too, to protect your business from liability if you do happen to become a victim.


By Risk Management Bulletin

We usually think of HR helping to avoid employment practice risks. We want to make sure not to be trapped in wage and hour claims, discrimination and harassment litigation, and wrongful termination lawsuits. Then there’s leave management, including ADA and FMLA. Although these are the major issues in HR risk management, HR is also instrumental in helping with other aspects of managing risk, such as:

Workers Compensation
 — Insurance companies don’t pay claims, they finance them. When you suffer a Comp claim, your experience modifier (“mod”) increases to repay the claim during a three-year period at a high interest rate. This can be the most expensive money that your company borrows. That’s one reason we recommend that employers do everything possible to get employees returned to work. Has your HR person helped develop a comprehensive return-to-work program?

Cyber Liability — To what extent are poor employee practices leaving your information systems vulnerable? To what degree is HR working with IT and security to make sure that new employees receive proper orientation and terminated employees are managed effectively from a security standpoint? For example, what precautions have you taken to have mobile devices returned, passwords retrieved, trade secrets protected, etc.? To what degree does HR make sure that telecommuting employees don’t expose the company to cyber risks?

Social Media — One element of cyber liability, risk from social media, is expanding every day. Has HR made it clear who owns the company Twitter account? Have they set social media guidelines? Do they know how to respond to any perceived risks, such as negative employee postings? Privacy exposures — Whether it’s medical records (HIPAA), Social Security information, financial information, etc., employees can both generate exposures and be subject to them.

Disaster Planning — One disaster can wipe out your company overnight. Whether it’s a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, flood, or a brutal snowstorm, the news is replete with the devastating impact of such events. To what degree has HR helped generate a plan to protect the company in the aftermath of a disaster?

Employee Benefits — With a growing number of ERISA claims and a rapidly changing benefits landscape, HR is thick in the mix. Who is responsible for staying on top of the emerging benefit trends?

Perhaps the greatest risk that HR can help with is growing the business: Providing strategic advice about what your company needs for growth and how to move in this direction. At smaller companies, it’s difficult for the HR executive to wear all these hats. In this situation, many businesses have partnered with their insurance agency or other professional providers of risk management services.