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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Death and disgrace insurance might sound extreme - But it's on the rise

By Peter Collins

A well as earning huge amounts of money from their movies, sports or TV careers, celebrity and athletes also benefit from plenty of lucrative endorsement deals and marketing campaigns. Nike, Adidas, Coke, Pepsi… countless brands have promoted their products off the back of a famous face.

But the issue with this is that you’re staking your brand on that celebrity’s reputation, and it can, and does, go wrong. And, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it’s everywhere in seconds. So what are advertisers doing to cover themselves in case the worst happens?

The rise of death and disgrace insurance

With this rise in endorsement deals, combined with the potential for things to go very wrong very quickly, comes the rise in death and disgrace insurance. This covers campaigns that involve everyone from athletes to musicians, films stars and iconic models. It might sound over the top, but when you consider just how much money is poured into these sponsorship deals, it doesn’t sound so crazy.

Advertising campaigns can cost millions, meaning some insured values can run as high as $60 million. This can also cover the loss of predicated sales as a result of either the death or disgrace of the celebrity in question. Obviously this is fairy hard to calculate, but it’s pretty reassuring for advertisers non-the-less.

Why now?

Celebrities have been endorsing products for decades and this insurance has been around for years, so why is this trend only just appearing? Well, social media now plays a huge part in the concerns of advertisers and big companies. Reputation is everything and the potential for bad news to spread over the internet is now practically a guarantee.

Celebrities can no longer be marketed and monitored as tightly as before as through mediums like Twitter and Instagram, they have instant access the whole world. All it takes is one poorly timed tweet or post, a quick screen grab and it’s an instant scandal. Although disgrace is entirely subjective, and some brands will tolerate far more than others, it’s impossible to predict exactly how much damage a scandal can have, so insuring against the worst possible outcome actually makes a lot of sense. It’s not just brands either.

Celebrities now often link themselves to charity as a way of publicising a good cause. That’s all well and good, until something happens to tarnish their reputation – then there’s plenty of bad press and the charity is often dragged into it. Again, a reason for the rise in this kind of insurance.

Sports stars

Celebrities are actually able to, in some cases, take out death and disgrace cover for themselves as an individual. This is nowhere near as common as it is for large brands, but for footballers in particular it’s becoming more popular. The potential for injury, either on or off the pitch, could really damage their finances.

The risk is higher when compared with other celebrities such as actors, and many see it as future proofing against injury. Clearly there is a lot more to consider in cases of individual insurance, including drugs and lifestyle. Ironically enough, if a player has a squeaky clean image it can make it harder to get this kind of insurance as, if that reputation is tarnished, the payout will most likely be much larger.

With the continued popularity and the advances in smartphone cameras, meaning people can snap and share images in seconds, it seems like this kind of insurance will only become more common place for big brands with millions on the line.

Please note - the Kevin Bacon photo is used for illustrative purposes only.

About the author: Peter Collins is a director at LFC Risk and Insurance, an Essex company that provides business and individuals with bespoke insurance and risk management solutions.

Image license: tpsdave/Pixabay;  CC0 US-PD

Monday, July 27, 2015

Maintaining your credit score by legal means is important

By Andrew Reilly

Given the importance of your credit rating when it comes to your finances and things that you are able to achieve, it is important that you stay on top of your credit rating. If your credit score is not as high as it should be, it makes sense to take steps to improve it. This will pay dividends in the short and long term but it is important to be aware that not all steps you can take to improve your credit rating are as effective as others.

However, there are also some steps which should be avoided at all times, which is likely to be the case for a man from Bury St Edmunds who is on trial facing charges of “converting criminal property.” It seems as though the defence being made by Trevor Seeley, facing charges at the crown court in Ipswich, is that the alleged criminal transactions that went through his account were actual attempts at improving his credit rating. We could all do with improving our credit rating but there are ways to go about improving your credit score in the most effective and appropriate manner.

It is claimed that the activity took place between the 1st of January 2014 and March 2014 with the prosecution alleging that money was obtained from an online loan scam and then placed into Seeley’s bank account. From there, Seeley withdrew the money and passed it on to other people.

There are some big steps to take to maintain your credit score

Seeley spoke in court about how he thought these actions may have been “dodgy” but he then said that after speaking to the loans company he was assured that this all above board and perfectly legal. Seeley also claimed that he had been a victim of fraud as he had money which had been borrowed from his brother which was eventually paid out to the loan provider.

As part of his evidence, Seeley claimed that he became involved with this activity when he applied for a £10,000 loan. This was denied because Seeley was informed that his credit rating was too low. He was then informed that money would be paid into his account, under instructions from a man referred to as David Morgan. Seeley only spoke with Morgan by phone and this was when Seeley was instructed to withdraw money and then transfer it over to Morgan by wire.

Seeley claimed that he questioned whether this was legal but money kept appearing in his account and the instructions kept on coming, with the route of passing money changing on occasions.

Credit scores are vital in obtaining finance these days

Seeley, a father of two, admitted that he and his wife had been £60,000 in debt at one point and that David Morgan informed him that carrying out these transactions would boost his credit score. There was one point where Barclays Bank placed a freeze on his account due to their concerns over the activity taking place on the account but this led Seeley to changing his bank. Again, if you were having concerns about the legality of these transactions and then your bank provides you with a big reason to stop, you would think that you would look to change your behaviour.

Michael Crimp represented the prosecution during the trial and he alleged that the money which was placed into Seeley’s bank account represented upfront fees for loans which hadn’t been made by people who operated an online site. In court, Mr Crimp said; “A number of people were conned into parting with their money and their money was paid into Trevor Seeley’s bank account. He then took it out and passed it on. He was a small but important cog in this scam.”

This case, however it pans out, is a timely reminder of how important your credit rating is and what impact it can have on your life. While it may seem as though you have no options at your disposal when you have a poor credit rating, this isn’t the case. With a guarantor loan, you are able to obtain finance, including sums up to £10,000, so you should be able to arrange the finance you need to be able to move on in confidence. While the above case is clearly an extreme example of what may occur when you have a poor credit rating, the importance of your credit rating should never be overlooked.

About the author: Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 9 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn't sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.

Image license: Trinity Credit Services, CC BY 2.0

Friday, July 24, 2015

Housing benefit fraud remains a serious crime

By Andrew Reilly

When it comes to the severity of crimes, different people will have different views and opinions on what constitutes a serious crime. 

While the majority of people see attacks and assaults as being the most serious form of crime, the courts have a tendency to provide harsher punishments to people who commit fraud or indulge in crime which involves the theft of large sums of money from the government or the banking industry. 

The fairness of this approach can be debated long into the night but there is no doubt that what some people deem to be a serious crime will be considered to be a minor crime by other people.

There will be plenty of people who feel that housing benefit fraud isn’t a major or serious crime. People who need to receive housing benefit to have a place to live are at the lower end of the economic scale, and there are plenty of social and moral arguments about people having the right to a home.

Housing benefit fraud is still fraud

However, there is still a need for these things to be carried out in a proper manner and housing benefit fraud is something that many local councils and authorities take seriously. Some people will suggest that housing benefit fraud isn’t that serious but equally, there will be people who point out that any money which is diverted from its true usage is money that is drained from a local authority. With councils and local authorities across the United Kingdom struggling to meet the needs of their local residents, any penny wasted or diverted from its true source is money that is not being used in the proper manner. This is the backdrop that sees many people calling on housing benefit fraud to be considered a very serious crime.

One woman who has finally bene caught after a long running period of housing benefit fraud is Angela Eskins. Wiltshire Council believed that Eskins received benefits for an 8 month period when she shouldn’t have and when she was finally brought to task about this fraud, she twice failed to appear in court. This is only going to exacerbate any problems by the time you find yourself in court.

Ignorance or not informing councils of changes is still a crime

Eskins pleaded guilty in failing to inform the local council that her partner had moved into her home with her and that he was in employment. This change of circumstances would have meant that Eskins was no longer entitled to benefits, but she continued to make claims as normal, receiving an additional 8 months of benefits that she was not entitled to. The overpayment amounted to just over £1,000 but given that Eskins had a previous conviction, dating back to 2009, for failing to inform the council that she was in employment, a dim view was taken of her defense.

This was added to the fact that Eskins failed to appear in Court in October of 2013 when she was summoned and a warrant, with bail conditions, was issued for her by the court in November of that year. When she again failed to appear at court, a further warrant was issued, this time without bail. The outstanding warrants were taken into consideration against Eskins and she was arrested in early June this year, appearing in court on the 15th of June, where she pleaded guilty.

A spokesperson for Wiltshire Council said; “She now has a criminal record and has a court fine of £250, court costs of £325 and has to repay £1,085.71 of overpaid housing benefit. It is always the responsibility of the person claiming benefit to tell the council of any changes in circumstances which may affect their entitlement. If there is any doubt, then the Revenues and Benefits Team will be happy to discuss any issues. The council is very keen to stamp out fraud and will take action against those found to be cheating the system.”

When someone is facing fraud charges alone, there is a need to obtain professional representation but when there are other factors that are likely to impact on the overall judgment, there is a need to find a defence team that is persuasive and who can defend you on all charges. This is where working with an experienced defence team is vital and can make a massive difference to the outcome of a case.

About the author: Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 9 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn't sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.

Image license: Geralt/Pixabay; CCO, US-PD

Friday, July 17, 2015

Creating and sustaining a fair workplace

An ideal workplace consists of employees who feel like their voices are heard, their concerns are met, their opinions matter, and that they are treated fairly and equally. In turn, such a workplace remains productive, successful, and has good morale. 

While the idea of a fair workplace seems easy enough to conceive, it can be difficult to establish and sustain due to differences among employees and employers. An unfair workplace is more than just differing opinions; according to the employment lawyers at Cohen & Jaffe, racial/sex/gender discrimination, age discrimination, and wrongful termination are just a few serious issues that can contribute to an unfair working environment. As a business owner, you have the power to make your workplace fair and as a result will have employees that not only feel respected, but will respect you and your business.

Know the rights of your employees

A workplace doesn’t automatically become “fair” just because you, as the business owner, deems it as fair. In order to establish a fair workplace, you must know your employees’ rights first. Your employeeshave workplace rights that include working in a safe environment, free discrimination regarding such personal information such as age, gender, and disability. Additionally, depending on the size of your company, your employees have the right to family and medical leave. Recognizing all of your employees as equals, is a crucial step in creating a fair workplace.

To demand respect, you must give respect

Young children are often reminded that they should treat others the way they would like to be treated; this concept is no different for adults in a workplace setting. If you expect your employees to respect you, simply because you are the boss and have nothing to offer in return, you will be an unpopular and disrespected boss. Rather than having expectations that you have no intention of following yourself, create expectations that you can follow as well. Whether you are adamant about a dress code, require a certain amount of confidentiality within the workplace, or expect that employees be honest and abide by standard operating procedures, you are creating a culture of a fair workplace.

Resolve issues immediately

Even workplaces that start out as a fair working environment may be vulnerable to conflict and unjust. The best way to prevent such conflict from occurring and continuing is by addressing issues immediately. For instance, if you have an employee who likes to tell a “dirty” joke from time to time, but your company has no tolerance for sexual harassment, the employee is violating company policy. If the employee is not held accountable for such violation (and proper action is not taken), the workplace is no longer a fair place of employment.

While it may be difficult to address ethical conflicts within the workplace, ignoring the problem will only make it worse. To be a fair workplace, you must treat every employee equally, even when it comes to conflict. Just because your filthy mouthed employee “didn’t mean anything” behind the jokes, it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen again and it doesn’t automatically bring fairness back into the workplace.

Fair workplaces require a plan, consistency, and a mutual understanding between all employees, including you as the employer. Overtime, you will see success and happiness in your business.

Image: Konstantin Chagin; Royalty Free; Shutter Stock