Protect yourself from Identity Theft

Our client data is fiercely protected at all times, and – like most businesses – we are always on the look-out for ways to improve data security, even though we have never had a breach of any kind.  Hackers keep getting smarter, so any organization that stores their clients’ personal information must always try to stay one step ahead.

Identity theft is not really a warranty-related topic but it is front-of-mind because Encompass itself was recently victimized. But, this is not a story of a hi-tech hack, just old-fashioned low-tech theft.  The kind of identity theft that our clients could potentially suffer from too, if they aren’t vigilant.

Here is our story.

Encompass has a contract with Canada Post so that we can pay for our postage in bulk rather than using stamps.  An identifier of that contract appears on each out-going envelope we use.  No doubt, you see similar identifying marks on business envelopes every time you pick up your mail.  The official name for this mark is an “indecia.”

Somewhere along the way, a fraudulent mailer came across one of our pre-printed envelopes and made their own copy of our indecia. They then used the fake indecia to avoid paying for postage for their mailing, which was of the “send money to a Nigerian Prince” variety.   In other words, lowest of the low!

The only reason we discovered this had happened is that some of the fraudulent mail was undeliverable and ended up back with us (because they had hi-jacked our return address, in addition to the indecia).  We avoided financial loss from the fraudulent use of our indecia but we will never know if or how much our reputation may have suffered when recipients of this garbage mail googled the address and made the link to Encompass.

So, our message to our clients is this.  Please take precautions when you can and don’t make it easier for unscrupulous characters to get hold of your information.  Here are some helpful tips from a few of Canada’s largest banks.

Advice from Royal Bank of Canada

Advice from CIBC

Advice from TD Canada Trust

Protect your Pipes

We’ve had an extended fall season here in Ontario but it looks like winter temperatures are finally starting to creep in.  Check this article for some helpful hits about the risks of freezing pipes.  And note that, if you are taking winter vacation this year, most standard home owner’s insurance policies do not provide coverage for damages caused by a burst pipe – unless you have arranged for someone to check on things while you are gone. Ask your insurance broker for details.  Read the article

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Another Opportunity to Double your Donation to Habitat for Humanity

 

In conjunction with Habitat for Humanity’s other “Canada 150” initiatives, Whirlpool Home Appliances will be matching all donations, up to a total of $100,000.  The campaign continues until August 30, 2017.

Whirlpool has also been responsible for providing a stove and fridge to every new Habitat home for the past 10 years — something to keep in mind,  next time it’s time to replace your own appliances.  I think most of us would prefer to support a company who gives back to the community.

To read more about Habitat’s Canada 150 projects or to donate, click here.

Finalists for major home builder awards announced in Toronto

If you’re planning to be in the market for a new-construction home in Ontario, you might want to check out these builders who are being recognized for excellence.

Tarion Awards Announcement

Also, for any of you who may share our enthusiasm for the work done by Habitat for Humanity, they are currently running another donation-matching campaign.  For every $1 donated between now and May 15th, Ply Gem Building Products will match that with an equivalent building materials donation.

Did you know?  $1 donated to Habitat = $4 impact to society (according to their published stats).  Now that’s value for money!

We fix you up fast!

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We think our service network is top-notch but that doesn’t mean we sit back and rest on our laurels.  We continuously test and monitor to make sure our clients get the best possible experience when they contact Encompass.

We’ve currently got yet another heat wave going here in South-Western Ontario and – surprise! – my own air conditioner stopped working right at its peak.  While I can’t say this made me happy, it did give me an excellent opportunity to test our service delivery.

First, I called a reputable and well-established company in my area.  They told me they couldn’t do anything for me until August 2, which was nearly two weeks away.

I then called our toll-free line and was speaking with a repair person within the hour and now, not even 24 hours later, the work we needed is currently being done.

Test passed, with top marks.

Effects of a Possible Postal Service Interruption

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By now you’ve probably heard that we could all find ourselves faced with the inconvenience of a postal service disruption, starting as early as next week.

PAYING YOUR MEMBERSHIP FEE

One of the benefits of paying for our program through your mortgage lender is that you’ll be mainly unaffected by a postal service disruption.  There’s no need to worry that your protection could lapse or be cancelled unexpectedly.  Your membership fees will continue to be remitted to us on your behalf, without any interruption.

CLAIMS SERVICE – BUSINESS AS USUAL

If you have to make a home warranty claim, your experience will, most likely, also not be affected in any way.  You are encouraged to report your claim by phone at 866.552.5575, and you can also e-mail us at helpme@encompasshomeservice.com.

In most cases, payments are made directly to the technician who provided the repair service. You never have to wait for a cheque to come in the mail, except in unusual circumstances.

COMPLIMENTARY MEMBERSHIPS – WATCH FOR THE END OF YOUR FREE PERIOD

Many of our clients have an initial complimentary period of protection that is paid for by their mortgage lender.  A letter is mailed out close to the end of the complimentary period, to remind clients when their home warranty payments will start.  A postal service interruption could mean that you won’t get this letter in the normal timely fashion.

Simply contact your mortgage lender and they will promptly take care of any requests you may have in connection with the conversion of your complimentary membership to a paying one.  Any unwanted charges to your account will be refunded.

 

Private vs. Public New Home Warranties

iStock_000018058704SmallIn Ontario, warranties on newly-built homes are exclusively provided by Tarion Warranty Corporation.  Tarion is a non-profit, private corporation established about 40 years ago to administer the province’s New Home Warranties Plan Act. They are not an insurance company but they are run somewhat like one.  As at the end of 2014 they held investments worth nearly $500 million in their guarantee fund.

Well-known personal finance journalist, Ellen Roseman, recently published an article about an upcoming review of Ontario’s home warranty legislation which extends to looking at how Tarion operates. You can read the article here.  It suggests that private sector involvement, which would give consumers a choice of home warranty providers, is an option well worth considering.

But, in the western provinces where the private sector insurance companies are already involved, things are by no means perfect. Check out this article about a couple from BC who was certainly not pleased with their experience. Interestingly enough, BC also says a review of their existing new home warranty legislation is coming up in 2016.

Cautionary tales like this one highlight the need to rigorously check out any builder you are considering. Having a warranty to turn to is great – whether it be from a private insurer or a government-run program. But, not having the problem in the first place is even better.

 

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At this time of the year, many people take the time to pay extra attention to the needs of those who might be less fortunate than themselves.  If you’re still thinking about where you might allocate charitable givings this season, please take a few moments to check out Habitat for Humanity.  Not only do they help Canadian families to help themselves, but they currently have a matching campaign that could serve to double your donation – but only until December 31st, 2015.  Encompass supports Habitat for Humanity and we hope you will consider it too.

Link to Habitat Website

Alberta New Home Warranty Program needs new licensing component?

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Alberta’s new home warranty program was launched in 2014 and some are already saying it does not go far enough, and should contain a licensing component similar to some other provinces.  Check out this EdmontonJournalArticle to learn more.

Click on the link below for more information about the protection this program provides for Alberta’s new home buyers, and to learn who the players are:

Alberta’s New Home Warranty Program

Home warranty programs we offer