11 Ways to Be Safer in 2016
Making a safety-related New Year's resolution will benefit you, your family — and even your wallet
Losing weight or mastering Italian are admirable New Year’s resolutions. So are simpler goals, ones that keep safety in mind. Carry through on any or all of these 11 New Year’s resolutions and your family, home and bank accounts will be more protected in the coming year.
1. File your taxes as early as possible. The Internal Revenue Service says this is one of the best ways to defend against tax-filing fraud. It's also an effective way to protect your identity. If you file before an identity thief does, he can't pretend to be you and put in phony claims for a refund.
2. Check smoke alarms monthly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to test your smoke alarms. Be sure to change the batteries twice a year. An easy way to remember is to do this when you change your clocks for in fall and spring.
3. Install a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can build up in the air if an appliance is leaking, poisoning people and animals who breathe it in. If you’re sleeping when you’re exposed to carbon monoxide, you could die from CO poisoning before you realize anything’s happening. If you don't already have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, put it first on your New Year to-do list.
4. Buy a fire extinguisher. It can save your home and your life. Keep it in good working order. Once a month, look at the gauge on top: Green is full, red is empty.
5. Make and practice a fire escape plan. Go through your house with your family and look for two exits out of each room. Pick a place to meet outside the house, a safe distance away, in the event of a fire. Have a home fire drill twice a year.
6. Check your tire pressure once a month. Tires naturally deflate over time, and cool weather will make the air pressure drop, too. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says under-inflated tires are a major cause of tire-related crashes.
7. Parents, sign up for recall notices for kid gear, such as strollers, cribs and car seats. Sending in the registration card that came with each product is one of the best ways to stay on top of recalls. You also can check the manufacturer’s website for recall notices, as well as the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
8. Check your bank and credit card statements for signs of fraud. Do this especially if you shop online. Notify the bank right away if you see any suspicious charges.
9. Get a copy of your credit report. You can request a free credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) once a year. Check each report for errors or signs of fraud. If you see any, notify the reporting agency. Here are more details about how to check your credit and report issues.
10. Make your passwords stronger. Don't use obvious ones like “password” or “123456.” Also stay away from personal information like your birthday, your kid’s birthday or your pet’s name. Instead, create passwords with at least eight characters, using a combination of lower and uppercase letters and at least one symbol. Consider using a password manager, too.
11. Update your antivirus software and other computer software. Having outdated software could leave security holes open for hackers to get into your computer and steal your sensitive information. Also, remember that public WiFi is not secure. If you use it, consider using VPN software to secure the link.
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