May 2018 Landscape Your Way to Lower Premiums on Your PropertyProperly maintained landscaping can add beauty and value to a property. Poorly developed or neglected landscaping does the opposite. Did you know landscaping has the same effects on insurance premiums? Applying specific landscaping techniques can help keep your premiums low. Here’s how:Keep trees trim. Overgrown oaks and extended evergreens can cause property damage, which results in claims. Branches that creep too close to your property can destroy roofs, harm siding, or break windows. Dead limbs are at risk of falling and causing further property damage or personal injury. To keep them safe and attractive, trim trees every one to two years.Get a good grade. Healthy drainage is essential. To protect your property from expensive water damage, ensure the land is graded properly. If you add or remove landscaping, keep this important factor in mind. Consult with professionals who have experience in land grading to avoid disastrous results.Thwart thieves. Reduce your risk of burglary with thief-deterrent landscaping. Prickly bushes in front of your windows can make your home less inviting to burglars. Keeping large bushes and trees neatly trimmed also eliminates potential hiding places for would-be thieves.Mind the vines. Climbing vines can add aesthetic appeal to a property’s exterior; however, they can also cause serious damage. As ivy grows up the wall, it can harm the paint, destroy siding, or separate bricks. If it gets tall enough to reach the roofline, the vine can damage gutters and roof tiles. If you are considering planting vines, keep these risks in mind. Beat Online Scammers at Their Own GameThe Internet of Things (IoT) has made life quicker and easier than ever before. With the touch of a button, we can now bank, shop, and even look for love, all from the comfort of our couch.The problem: with so much ease and accessibility, we have become vulnerable to online scammers looking to gain access to our personal information.According to a 2017 report from Herjavec Group, a cybersecurity solutions company, cyber crime is on the rise and could cost “the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015.”Similarly, a report by Wombat Security states that the number of scam emails sent in 2017 was up 155% over 2016. These “phishing” scams are sent to your email or social media, and mirror legit businesses or financial institutions.Don’t despair. You don’t have to disconnect and go off the grid. There are ways to outsmart the scammers and keep yourself and your bank account safe.Do your homework. If you receive notifications requesting that you need to update an account or provide any personal information, utilize the google search formula“(company name) scam.” Don’t hesitate to call the phone number and google the address for these companies, too.Be wary of downloading attachments. This is another trick used to infect your hard drive with malware and steal information.Always protect your device with antivirus and malware software.Trust your gut! If some promise or promotion sounds too good to be true, chances are, it is.Creamy Cauliflower SoupThis soup can be served hot or chilled – perfect for warm or cool spring days.Serves 42 tablespoons olive oil2 cups chopped leeks (white part only)2 cloves garlic, minced1 head cauliflower, chopped6 cups chicken broth1/4 cup sour cream2 tablespoons chopped chives DirectionsHeat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté leeks with a pinch of salt until softened, then add garlic and cook an additional minute. Add cauliflower and broth, then turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.Remove from heat and cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Return to saucepan, warm over low heat, and season with salt and pepper to taste.In a small bowl, combine sour cream and chives. Place a dollop of this mixture on each serving. A scoop of cooked quinoa or pearled barley is a nice addition too! Christine Doherty, IIBA PresidentOur newest employee, Christine Doherty (middle in yellow) was recently installed as the president of the local chapter of Independent Insurance Brokers and Agents of California.