Change the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms:
Did you know that the risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms? Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors save lives, but you need to make sure that that they are working properly in order to protect you and your family. Change your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector batteries twice a year, and make sure you are testing your alarms monthly by pressing the ‘test’ button. Below are additional tips to make sure that your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working as they should.
- Smoke alarms should be in every sleeping room in the house, every hallway and every additional level of your home including the basement.
- All smoke alarms should be interconnected so when one goes off they all do.
- Smoke alarms that are mounted on the wall should be 4” from the ceiling. Smoke alarms that are mounted on the ceiling should be mounted 4” from the wall.
- Avoid putting your smoke alarms within 10 feet of cooking appliances to avoid false alarms.
- Replace the entire alarm every 10 years. Remove the alarm from the wall or ceiling and check the manufacturer’s date on the back of the alarm to see how old it is.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors:
- Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in every sleeping room and every level of the house including your basement.
- Carbon monoxide detectors should ideally be at knee level, but they can be installed at chest level if you have children.
- Carbon monoxide detectors should not be blocked by curtains or furniture.
- Replace the entire alarm every 5 years. Remove the alarm from the wall or ceiling and check the manufacturer’s date on the back of the alarm to see how old it is.
Best practices for strong passwords:
Cybersecurity is critical, both in your personal and professional life, and passwords are the first line of defense against imposters gaining access to your accounts. The 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found 80% of hacking-related breaches leveraged either stolen and/or weak passwords.
Follow the tips below to make sure that you are setting strong passwords to protect your accounts and information online.
- Use a password manager: Password managers are online services that safely store and manage your passwords. Your passwords will be encrypted, so it is a secure way to keep them all in one easy to find place.
- Change your password regularly: This will make it less likely that your accounts will be compromised.
- Make your passwords long: Advanced hackers can use computer programs that run through every combination of numbers and letters. The longer and more complex your password is, the harder it is to crack!
- Mix up symbols and numbers with letters: An example of this technique is using the number 1 in place of a lowercase letter l.
- Use nonsense sequences of letters and numbers: This will make it more difficult for someone to guess your logins and harder for advanced technology to crack your passwords.
- Don’t use the same password for everything: If you do, and an imposter gets your password for one account they can use it for all the other services and platforms you have.
- Don’t keep passwords in areas people can access: Storing logins in your desk or easy to access places in your computer puts you at risk. Instead use a password manager that encrypts your passwords for you.
- Don’t use common words or phrases: If the letter sequences you use are found in the dictionary, an intruder will be able to crack your passwords easier.
- Don’t use personal information: Logins that include birthdays, names of loved ones, or streets you grew up on will make it easy for someone to hack your accounts.
Don’t give your password to anyone: Not even coworkers or good friends.
Why email is not considered a secure method for supplying mortgage documents
If there is anything that most Americans have in abundance, it's email. Whether it's their personal inbox or their work-related account, emails practically never stop. In fact, the typical worker receives an average of 126 emails a single day, according to estimates from Radicati.
It's easy to understand why. Emails are simple, convenient, quick and can be sent from virtually anywhere, any time and by multiple means, be it personal computer, laptop or mobile device.
Since mortgage providers aim to simplify the mortgage application process, supplying the required documentation via email would seem to make sense. While undoubtedly convenient, delivering the necessary materials for a home loan electronically may be inadvisable.
The primary problem with this mortgage application method boils down to one thing: security. Think about what is included in your typical mortgage application. You name it, it's there, including your name and street address, Social Security number, bank accounts, available savings, where you work and the names and numbers of people who may be cosigning.
While internet security software has improved dramatically in recent years as tech experts learn the duplicitous strategies of cybercriminals, identity theft remains an ongoing and far-reaching problem. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, 1.6 billion private records have been exposed since 2005 in the U.S. alone and in 2019, breaches impacted 493 million people.
Email is regularly abused and exploited
Hackers seek to exploit any opportunity to steal data, be it through unsecured Wi-Fi networks, ransomware or denial-of-service attacks. But among the most common methods of all is by email.
Email-based hacks are frequently designed to look like they're from someone you know or a reputable organization. In reality, the perpetrators are merely pretending to be someone they're not and seek to fool email recipients into clicking on a link that is embedded with malicious code. Just by clicking on the link can be the key the cyberattacker needs to access all your sensitive data or potentially steal documents you're sending as part of the mortgage application process.
Another problem with emailing mortgage documents is the HTTP connection or Hypertext Transfer Protocol. This is the portal used to visit websites by entering the appropriate address. When there is an "S" written after the HTTP (HTTPS), it means that the connection is encrypted. Should there be an attachment with the email, there is no risk of it being intercepted.
However, the same may not be true for the recipient. In other words, their HTTP connection may not be properly secured. That's because there is no knowing what type of network they're using. For example, if it's public Wi-Fi and it's unsecured, the attachment could be stolen or compromised.
The risks associated with sending mortgage applications are better understood now, but that wasn't always the case. For instance, in 2014, 70% of mortgage lenders allowed loan applicants to submit their financial information through email, according to a study conducted by HALOCK Security Labs.
The comprehensive nature of mortgage applications is yet another reason why emailing them is inadvisable. Here is a list of what information is typically included or asked for in a mortgage application:
Copy of driver's license
Social Security number(s)
Paystubs from last two payment periods
Current and prospective home addresses
Bank account information
Federal tax returns
If even one piece of information was stolen, it could be potentially devastating, ruining years of hard work. But for all of these details to fall into the wrong hands can be crippling.
What should you do instead?
While submitting documents in person is a safe option, it isn’t always the most convenient, especially during these unprecedented times. Reach out to your lender to see what security measures they have in place so you know that your sensitive material won't fall into the wrong hands. For example, many lenders require those who are submitting documents electronically to set up an account with their own username and password. Sometimes, this method requires multifactor authentication, which adds an extra layer of security.
Residential Mortgage Services has a secure mobile application, RMS Ready, that allows you to upload documents easily and securely from the comfort of your couch! Security should be your utmost concern, and at RMS, it's ours as well. Contact us today and learn how we prioritize your protection and convenience simultaneously.
Prepare your home for the colder months:
As the weather becomes crisper, it is time to start preparing your home for the winter months. Taking time to winterize your home can increase the longevity of your appliances, keep your house running efficiently, and can even save you money.
Check your window and door frames for drafts, loose frames, or cracked panes. Caulk and use weather stripping as needed. Click here for a checklist from the Department of Energy to make sure your home is sealed top to bottom.
Install storm panes as needed.
Check the insulation and wrap pipes in unheated locations.
Reverse your ceiling fans so they turn clockwise. This will draw rising air down.
Change your furnace filters to ensure efficiency.
Make sure your furniture is not directly in front of vents so the warm air can circulate.
Clean and prep your furnace, wood stove, fireplace and back up generator.
Prepare an “emergency” kit in case of power outages from storms with some key items: food, water, battery operated radio, flashlights and batteries.
Clean clothes dryer vent pipe.
Clean showerheads, bathroom drains and vents.
Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change their batteries.
Clean, repair and store your grill, patio furniture and pool accessories.
Prepare lawn mowers, leaf blowers, weed whackers and other yard maintenance equipment for storage; don’t forget to drain fuel from all gas-operated equipment.
Close outdoor water valves and drain garden hoses.
Bring your plants inside before the temperature goes below 45 degrees.
Clean out your gutters.
Spend some time winterizing your home this Autumn so you can stay toasty warm during the winter months!
End of Summer Checklist
Warm Summer months are coming to a close, and while you want to make the most of them with barbecues and days spent by the pool, there are some important home maintenance tasks you should tackle to make sure your home is functioning as it should. Read on for an end of summer checklist to keep your home in tip-top shape.
- Change your air filters.
- Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
- Clean your dishwasher by placing a cup of vinegar in the dishwasher and running it to cut down on grease.
- Clean your garbage disposal.
- Clean the inside of your oven.
- Schedule a service call to have your furnace checked
- Inspect your roof for soft spots and damaged shingles.
- Inspect your siding for any holes (may indicate an insect problem) and mold (may indicate water damage).
- Clean your gutters.
- Check your HVAC system for any smells or sounds that could indicate leaks.
- Repair any cracks in your driveway.
- Trim back any foliage that is around your home units, decks, and windows.
- Spray your garbage cans and recycling bins with a bleach cleaner and rinse them off with a hose.
- Sweep your deck, thoroughly clean the boards, and apply a new coat of sealant.
- Prep your lawn for the Fall months
Take advantage of the warm weather and longer days while you can and work on some simple home projects that will keep your house maintained and efficient!