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Fraudulent Cheques | March 2016

Some individuals and customers may have received what appears to be a cheque written by Pembridge or Pafco from “My Shop Inc.” or “Staple Research INC” (could now be under another name) citing payment for a mystery shopper program. Please note that these are not authorized company cheques nor are we affiliated with either company in any way. The cheques should NOT be deposited. To the best of our knowledge, this scam is focused in the GTA.

We take these types of scams very seriously and we have reported this fraudulent activity to the appropriate authorities. We recommend that any individual who receives this letter report it to the police.


5 Important Spring Forward Tips

It may not feel like it yet, but spring is just around the corner, and it always brings at least one timely annual task.  This year, at 2AM on Sunday, March 13, Daylight Saving Time will begin and clocks across Canada will need to be set ahead by one hour.

Beyond changing your clocks, it’s also a good time to perform other important seasonal home maintenance activities.  Connecting daylight saving with these tasks can help build a routine, ensuring they’re done on a bi-annual basis, and not overlooked.

Here’s your “spring forward” to-do list:

  • Check/change the batteries in your smoke/CO2 detectors. Using two memorable dates a year (like spring and fall daylight savings changes) can help ensure the batteries in these life-saving devices are fresh.  When you make the rounds, make sure the units are working properly and placed in optimal areas.
  • Schedule a furnace/cooling system check. Semi-annual maintenance can help ensure your heating and cooling systems are operating at peak performance when you need them and it may help avoid breakdowns.  Schedule a professional inspection now and then again when daylight saving ends in the fall.
  • Check your home’s foundation. Cracks in your home’s foundation can lead to water seeping into your home, which can cause major problems down the line during spring thaw or heavy rains. Take a stroll around your home and look for cracks.  Some cracks can be filled in with a sealant, while others may need further repairs.  If you’re not sure about what you see on your inspection, contact a professional to have a look and ensure problems are addressed immediately.
  • Change your filters. Dirty filters can use more energy and cause dust, so check the filters on your furnace, air conditioning, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, and humidifier.  You might also want to take the time to clean the vent from your clothes dryer to prevent lint buildup that can cause a fire.  Frequent lint trap cleaning is, of course, recommended.
  • De-clutter. Purging and organizing items in your home can help make it a safer, healthier, and more relaxing place to live. One great place to start is your basement.


Winter Driving | Be Smart Behind the Wheel

Leave Space: Rear end collisions are the most common type of collision on Canadian roads. It’s important to increase following distances in the winter. Leave at least eight to 10 seconds between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you so that you have time to react.  You never know when you may need to brake quickly, and this is even more important on wet, icy or snowy roads and at night when visibility is worse.

Use your mirrors:  The second most common collision occurs when changing lanes! Be diligent about checking your mirrors at regular intervals and use extra care when checking your blind spot when you change lanes.

Take it slow:  It may be tempting to speed up when road conditions seem clear, but you can reduce your chances of being involved in a collision by simply slowing down. If you have to come to a sudden stop, or if you hit unexpected patch of black ice, driving at a slower speed will make hitting another car in front of you less likely.

Stay focused:  Give the road your undivided attention whenever you’re driving. Keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your phone and other distractions stowed away.

Use some courtesy and common sense:  You can never go wrong by showing some courtesy behind the wheel. Obey the rules of the road; be respectful of other drivers and pedestrians; turn on your lights to remain visible; don’t pass snow plows; and keep in mind that bridges, ramps, and overpasses are likely to freeze first.

Making Ontario's Roads Safer Act | January 1, 2016

Have you heard about the new laws in Ontario for pedestrian crossovers and school crossings?

Starting January 1st, 2016, drivers, including cyclists, must stop and yield the entire roadway: 
•    at pedestrian crossovers; and, 
•    at school crossings where there is a crossing guard on duty displaying a school crossing stop sign.
These rules apply at pedestrian crossovers identified with specific signs, road markings and lights. The new rules do not apply to pedestrian crosswalks at intersections with stop signs or traffic signals, unless a school crossing guard is present.
The new laws, part of the “Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act” (Bill 31), also allows municipalities to install new types of pedestrian crossovers on low speed, low volume roads, in addition to any existing crossovers.
The penalties for breaking these rules are steep.  Drivers will be fined $150 to $500 and 3 demerit points for not yielding at pedestrian crossings, school crossings and crosswalks.  In addition and in support of these new rules, the fine for running a red light has been increased to $200 to $1,000.
Please visit the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s website for complete details of these changes.


Tips for Safe Driving in Fog

If there is a fog warning, delay your trip until it clears. If you need to drive in fog, follow these safe driving tips:

  • Slow down gradually and drive at a speed that suits the conditions.
  • Make sure the full lighting system of your vehicle is turned on.
  • Use your low-beam headlights. High beams reflect off the moisture droplets in the fog, making it harder to see.
  • If you have fog lights on your vehicle, use them, in addition to your low beams.
  • Be patient. Avoid passing, changing lanes and crossing traffic.
  • Use pavement markings to help guide you. Use the right edge of the road as a guide, rather than the centre line.
  • Increase your following distance. You will need extra distance to brake safely.
  • Look and listen for any hazards that may be ahead.
  • Reduce the distractions in your vehicle. For example, turn off your cell phone. Your full attention is required.
  • Watch for any electronically operated warning signs.
  • Keep looking as far ahead as possible.
  • Keep your windows and mirrors clean. Use your defroster and wipers to maximize your vision.
  • If the fog is too dense to continue, pull completely off the road and try to position your vehicle in a safe parking area. Turn on your emergency flashers, in addition to keeping your low-beam headlights on.


Preparing Your Home for Cold Weather

  • Boost your insulation: Help keep the heat inside and cold air out by making sure you properly insulate, caulk, and weather-strip areas of heat loss. Check walls, floors, doors, windows and the foundation for cracks or leaks.
  • Clean your chimney: A good chimney sweeping should be done every year or at least every two years, depending on usage and humidity levels, to remove soot, blockages and built-up creosote.
  • Check your water pipes:  Save energy and help prevent pipes from freezing and bursting by wrapping your water heater in a special water heater insulating blanket and insulating exposed water pipes. Always maintain the temperature inside your home to a minimum of 18 degrees Celsius. If you notice frost on your pipes, take immediate action to safely thaw them.
  • Tune-up your furnace: Have your furnace inspected and cleaned early in the season to ensure it’s running efficiently.
  • Don’t forget the outdoors: Keep gutters and downspouts free of debris to help melting snow and ice flow away from your home, and to help prevent ice dams from forming. Turn off the water to your garden hose spigots and drain the lines. 


Safety Tips for the Holidays

Avoid break-ins this holiday season by following a few safety tips:

At home:

  • Don’t feed exterior extension cords through open windows or garage doors.
  • Avoid making gifts visible by keeping blinds and curtains closed while you’re out.
  • Put away ladders and tools after installing decorations and lights. 
  • If you’re heading out, make it look like you’re home by using light timers.
  • Don’t advertise you have new electronics or other valuable items in your home. Cut up boxes from opened presents and hide them in your recycling bin or garage until garbage day. 
  • Keep your home bright and deter thieves by installing security lights and/or cameras at the front and back of your house.​


If you’re going away:

  • Avoid telling people (other than your family and trusted neighbours) that you’ll be away.  This includes messages on your personal voicemail and email, and posts on social media profiles.
  • Don’t let snow pile up outside your home. This signals to others that you’re not around. Arrange for a snow plow service.
  • Make sure you have someone pick up your mail and newspapers so they don’t pile up on your porch or in your mailbox. 


Christmas Tree Safety

Decorating the Christmas tree is a cherished family pastime. Choose, place and decorate your tree wisely and keep it well cared for to ensure an enjoyable festive season.

Use these tips to reduce risk:

  • Consider switching to an artificial tree as there is less risk of a fire.
  • Test live, cut trees for freshness by bending a few needles in half. If they snap in two, the tree is dry and poses a greater fire risk.
  • Put your tree in a sturdy, non-tip stand.
  • Keep cut trees well supplied with water as dehydrated trees can catch fire more easily.
  • Make sure the tree is at least one metre away from any flame or heat source.
  • Try to position it near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances.
  • Do not place the tree where it may block exits.
  • Never decorate a tree with candles.
  • Inspect electrical lights and extension cords for wear and tear, and replace any cords that are beginning to fray or have broken sockets.
  • Use only light sets that bear the mark of a recognized certification agency or regulatory body.
  • Do not overload the circuit by stringing too many cords together at a single outlet.
  • Unplug all lights – inside and out – before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are flammable and should not be left inside the home or garage, or placed against the house.


Halloween Safety Tips

  • Don’t use sharp knives to carve pumpkins, use the knives provided in pumpkin carving kits
  • Use flashlights or battery operated candles to light up your jack-o-lanterns
  • If indoors, keep jack-o-lanterns at least one metre away from flammable materials such as curtains.
  • If outdoors, keep jack-o-lanterns at least one metre away from flammable materials and out of the path of trick-or-treaters.
  • Clear your front entrance of any items over which trick-or-treaters might trip.
  • Meet the trick-or-treaters on the walkway so they don’t have to climb steps to your front door
  • Make sure that pets are properly secured (for example, in a closed room with food and water), so that they do not suddenly rush out when you open your front door to trick-or-treaters.
  • Ensure children are properly lite


Tips to Prepare for High Winds, Heavy Rains and Floods

  • Contact your municipal offices to inquire about disaster relief programs in your community
  • Keep the area around your home clear of garbage and recycling bins, patio furniture, yard debris and other objects that heavy winds could pick up and blow around
  • Clear eaves troughs and downspouts of leaves and debris and ensure downspouts drain properly - ideally six feet away from your home
  • Get a licensed professional to: install an anti-backflow valve; install a sump pump with a reliable power backup; inspect your current equipment; clear drains of roots or obstructions; and ensure drain systems are working properly
  • If it looks like water intrusion may occur, shut off the electricity and outside gas valve immediately. Move important personal documents and expensive items out of the basement to a higher floor to keep them safe from water damage
  • Never go near or touch fallen power lines. Call your local energy utility company to alert them to damage.


Did you know that traffic laws changed in Ontario effective September 1, 2015?

The “Making Ontario Roads Safer Act” or Bill 31 was approved unanimously in June and will come into effect September 1st which imposes new rules for drivers and heavier fines as in most provinces.

According to Toronto.ctvnews.ca the new rules and fines are as follows:

Distracted driving: If you’re caught looking at your phone, texting or talking on your phone while driving, you will face much bigger fines and more demerit points, the province is warning. The current fine for distracted driving is approximately $200. As of Tuesday, those found guilty of distracted driving will face fines up to $1,000 and more demerit points. Drivers with G1 or G2 licenses could have their permits suspended on the spot.

Pedestrian crossovers: Drivers will have to wait until pedestrians have completely crossed the road at pedestrian crossovers and school crossings before proceeding. About half of all fatal traffic accidents involving pedestrians occur at intersections, the Ministry of Transportation said. The new law is an attempt to make roads safer for pedestrians. This change will take effect in January.

Passing cyclists: Drivers will have to give cyclists at least one metre of room wherever possible. The fine for breaking this rule has not yet been set. Motorists who open the door of their vehicle into the path of a cyclist without checking will face fines between $300 and $1,000 and three demerit points.

The “move over” law: As for Sept. 1, drivers will be require to slow down and move into the next lane whenever they see a stopped emergency vehicle with its red and blue lights flashing. This will apply to stopped tow trucks that have amber lights flashing. The fine for breaking these rules will be $490 and three demerit points.

Alcohol and drugs: Those caught driving under the influence of drugs will now face the same penalties as drunk drivers, the ministry said. These include between a three and 90-day license suspension and a week-long vehicle impoundment. More than 45 per cent of drivers killed in Ontario were found that have drugs or alcohol in their systems.

These tougher fines and penalties should help reduce injury or death on the roads and create safer driving habits. 


Pembridge and Pafco Partner with CANATICS to Fight Auto Insurance Fraud

Insurance fraud affects all Canadians. Organized fraud schemes can put people at risk while driving up the cost of insurance for all consumers. In Ontario alone, fraud costs consumers as much as $1.6 billion every year.

Recently, the Ontario government’s Auto Insurance Anti-Fraud Task Force supported the establishment of the Canadian National Insurance Crime Services (CANATICS) - to identify potential cases of organized and premeditated fraud.

Pembridge and Pafco along with other insurance companies have partnered with CANATICS to discover new ways to fight fraud as part of our ongoing commitment to protect Canadian consumers.

Learn more about insurance fraud, what it looks like, and how you can help prevent it.

You can also find out how CANATICS works  and other details about this new initiative.


Help protect your home from flooding with these tips

The excessive snowfalls this winter in Atlantic Canada has been nothing less than extreme. And while dealing with the barrage of snow can be exhausting, it’s important to make sure the onslaught doesn’t create additional issues in the present and near future when the snow finally starts to melt.  Varying temperatures can result in possible moisture intrusion, water damage, sewer backup and other related events around your home.

Protect your largest asset by making sure you manage the snow on your property, while preparing for the coming thaw with the following tips:

  • Snow can be heavy. To prevent roof collapse, if it is safe to do so, try to remove some of the snow. Better yet, hire a professional.
  • Snow removal can also help prevent ice dams from forming.  
  • Clear gutters and eaves troughs of ice, leaves and any debris to keep melt water flowing away from your home.  
  • Remove snow from basement stairwells, window wells and around foundation walls and clear a path for water to reach storm drains and catch basins.
  • Look for cracks in your foundation or basement walls and seal them.


Vehicle Theft Prevention Tips

  • Put vehicles in garages whenever possible (many thefts from driveways).
  • Don’t leave vehicles warming up in the driveway in winter (many thefts also in this manner).
  • Don’t leave extra keys in vehicles. Vehicle door locks are easily defeated and leaving an extra key in the vehicle ensures it is easy to steal.   
  • Toyota vehicles have been especially targeted in the last year with $1.4M worth stolen.


Increase to Québec Auto Insurance Premium Sales Tax

Effective January 1, 2015, the Québec government will be increasing the tax applied to all auto insurance premium payments that are made in 2015 from 5% to 9%, regardless of when the policy was purchased. New policies purchased in 2015 will have the new tax rate applied and outstanding balances on existing polices due in 2015 will be taxed at the new rate when payments are collected. 

The announcement was made as part of the Québec government’s economic announcements in November 2014. On average, this additional 4% tax on premiums will increase the tax payment for passenger vehicles by $2 to $4 per month.

This change applies to all automobile and recreational vehicles insured in the province.  Changes will be reflected on the first payment customers make in 2015, regardless of their billing plan. Customers will be taxed on amounts due in 2015, but not on amounts already paid in 2014.

For customers who have paid in full in 2014 and make no changes to their policy until renewal, the new tax will be applied at renewal. For customers who have tax-exempt status, we will be required to collect the tax and then remit it back, consistent with the current process.

Rest assured, the quality coverage Pafco customers currently enjoy will remain the same. This is our commitment to provide the best protection for you and your family.

If you still have questions regarding your premium, please do not hesitate to contact your broker. If you have any specific questions regarding this recent tax increase, we encourage you to visit the Québec government website or contact your local government representative for more information.


Tips to Protect Your Home in the Cold Weather

The following tips will help you protect your home and property during cold weather:

  • Keep the house heated to a minimum of 18 degrees Celsius. The temperature inside the walls where pipes are located can be substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 18 degrees will not keep the inside walls from freezing.
  • Identify the location for the main water shutoff in your home. Find out how it works in case you have to use it.
  • Open hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within the pipes will prevent freezing.
  • If you are going to be away, drain the pipes. This can be done by first shutting off the main water line and then draining all lines by opening the taps and closing them once the water runs out. Also flush toilets to remove water from tanks. Be sure to have someone check on your home while your away to ensure heat is being maintained as well.
  • Make sure all hoses are disconnected from outside spigots.
  • If you discover that pipes are frozen, don't wait for them to burst. Take measures to safely thaw them immediately (such as wrapping pipes in towels soaked in water heated on the stove, or using hot air from a hair dryer, while being careful to stay away from standing water to avoid the risk of shock), or call a plumber for assistance.
  • If your pipes burst, first turn off the water and then mop up spills to prevent the water from doing more damage than it already has.
  • Make temporary repairs and take other steps to protect your property from further damage, such as remove any carpet or furniture that can be further damaged from seepage.


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