CONSUMER ADVICE: Travelers, buckle up for ID changes

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New TSA rules mean some travelers will need to change the form of ID they are using before they hop on a plane. I have always shown my driver’s license, but beginning Oct. 1, 2020, you’ll need a passport or a Global Entry card (https://bit.ly/2vUH8qR), an enhanced driver’s license or a Real ID (https://bit.ly/2N1ZO0e).

While it’s true that the deadline is still more than two years away, you need to be aware of what documentation is required.

MY ADVICE: Take care of this now — you’ll avoid the rush later. I realized that my U.S. passport needed to be renewed while checking the credentials that will be needed. Otherwise, I would have been caught short.

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HOME INSURANCE — PROTECT YOURSELF: This advice will save some poor unfortunate a lot of money and trouble (I hope it’s not you!).

If you have an “occurrence,” that’s the word often used in home insurance policies, like a fire that burns your home to the ground, you can, depending on the type of coverage you select, have the structure itself and some, many, or all of the replaceable contents protected.

First, remember that not all home insurance policies are equal. There are basically eight different broad types of homeowners insurance, HO1 through HO8 (see https://bit.ly/2HGzESr). In addition to the different types of homeowners insurance, there are basically three different types of replacement coverage for personal property that is lost. (The following definitions are standard throughout the insurance industry and so are quoted without attribution.)

1. Actual Cash Value — This insurance pays the policy owner the depreciated value of the property. The “initial cost to buy or market value of item less depreciation for the number of years you had it.” That is, whatever it costs, minus the depreciation. In other words, the chair might have cost you $500 when you bought it, but now it’s just a piece of used furniture, worth maybe $40.

2. Replacement Cost Coverage — Called “RCV,” the replacement cost is the amount of money it would take to replace your damaged or destroyed home with the same or a similar home in today’s market.

3. Guaranteed or Extended Replacement Cost — This option offers the most protection out of the three, and is the costliest of the three options. It is essentially an expanded version of replacement cost described above. The guaranteed replacement cost option pays for the cost to rebuild your home exactly as it was before an occurrence, even if the cost exceeds the estimated value of the home. The primary purpose of the option is to protect the policyholder against sudden increases in materials or construction costs, which can occur when many claims in an area are made. This is a good option to consider if your budget allows for it.

Even if you’re not a “homeowner” with a mortgage, and you rent your abode instead, you really do need homeowners insurance, in this case called renters insurance. It covers the contents of your abode. The landlord has insurance but it almost never covers your stuff. The good news is that “renters insurance” is not terribly expensive. Call your insurance agent and check into it. Come to think of it, every renter, homeowner, or driver should put a recurring notice on the calendar for an “annual insurance checkup.” Otherwise, once you have a problem — IT’S TOO LATE!

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REPLACING A LOST CAR REGISTRATION: Don’t be fooled — DMV.org and DMV.com are NOT the Idaho Transportation Department, Department of Motor Vehicles. These are two examples of privately owned websites that charge consumers a premium to get information or services which, when purchased directly from the state of Idaho, do not tack on a “surcharge.” An alert consumer brought this confusing situation to my attention. In some cases the “convenience fee” is as much as $25!

In this example, the consumer paid the fee and was sent a link to the Idaho Transportation Department. The private website sent him an email. When he opened it, he clicked on the link and was immediately whisked to the real Idaho Transportation Department website. He was NOT a happy camper! He called me so I could warn readers of this column. (Consider yourself warned!)

By the way, here’s the warning on the REAL Idaho Transportation Department website:

ATTENTION: Please be aware that if you complete a transaction on this site and pay with a credit/debit card or e-check, the DMV’s third-party on-line service provider will charge a convenience fee in addition to the regular DMV fees. (These additional fees are not initiated or collected by the Idaho Transportation Department/Division of Motor Vehicles, but are authorized by the Legislature in Chapter 2 of Title 49 of Idaho Code for on-line service providers.) DMV on-line services are provided by Access Idaho, a third party, working under a contract awarded and administered by the State of Idaho. To avoid paying the additional on-line service provider fee, you may choose to complete your DMV transaction in person at one of our county offices or by mail.”

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BACK TO INSURANCE: Here is a key to protecting yourself. If you have a smartphone or a video camera, go through your home, closets and drawers and videotape EVERYTHING! As you go, talk about what the viewer is seeing. Take any jewelry and lay it out on a table and videotape it. Take a quick walk through each closet. Make sure you pay attention to DVDs, books and furniture, especially antiques. While videotaping don’t forget the garage, shelves and tools. Also be sure to get a quick video of all computers and other office equipment.

A friend of mine did all of the above and purchased the Extended Replacement Cost insurance. Through no fault of his own, his house burned to the ground. His insurance company replaced everything that could be replaced, rebuilt his home and paid almost all costs to house, feed, and clothe him and his wife until the new home was ready for occupancy.

LESSON: Make sure you’re insured and know the type of coverage you have. You’ll be thankful you did if you have an “occurrence,” and you’ll sleep better in the meantime.

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REMEMBER BILL BROOKS: “He’s On Your Side”

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I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on. Call me at 208-699-0506, or email me at brookshomes@gmail.com (#GoGetEmBillBrooks) You can follow me at www.billbrooksconsumer advocate.com. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. Bill Brooks is a consumer advocate and the broker and owner of Bill Brooks Real Estate in Coeur d’Alene.

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