Cyber Crime at Christmas

Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales have been and gone. However there are still an abundance of online competitions and time is ticking to finish off Christmas shopping. We realise it’s a busy time of year, however it’s important to remember to remain vigilant online. Before shopping online, consider the following;

  • Does the website you are visiting seem genuine? If not, steer clear and find alternative sites to purchase from.
  • Does the website have a secure URL? It’s important to check the site is secure before sharing any personal information. If not, you could fall victim to online fraud. Make sure the URL has https: preceding the web address.
  • Does the website URL and page title match the company name? If not, check they are at least similar to it. It may be the case that fraudsters have created a fake website which appears to be similar to that of the real one you looking for. Check for bad spelling and grammar, if you find several or an abnormal amount of errors, it’s likely the site is unsafe.
  • Have you received emails offering deals which seem too good to be true? If so, it probably is too good to be true. To verify the offering, visit the company’s website where deals and other offers will be advertised.

For further information about Cyber Crime or if you think you have been a victim of cyber crime, visit the Victim Support website –  https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/cyber-crime

Check out our favourite recipe for Eggnog

Ingredients – Serves 8

  • 3 cups (700ml) whole milk
  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy or double cream
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, split and seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 (130g) cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (175ml) Bacardi Dark Rum, or bourbon

Method

In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, cinnamon, vanilla bean, vanilla seeds, and nutmeg. Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Once boiling, remove from the heat and allow to steep.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat egg yolks and sugar until combined and thick ribbons form when the whisk is lifted. Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to mix until the mixture is combined and smooth. Add bourbon or rum, and stir. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.

Before serving, beat the egg whites in a large bowl or stand mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold into eggnog until combined. Serve and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Weather Warning Effective 7th December: Storm Caroline

Storm Caroline has brought a spell of very windy weather, starting at circa 6am this morning and once Storm Caroline departs, snow showers and sub-zero temperatures are expected to hit over the weekend.

Please find below, detail relative to the warnings in place below for your information;

Most regions currently have a “yellow – be aware” warning in place which on the Met Office matrix is a low likelihood/medium impact warning, the regions covered by the yellow warning are; Central Tayside Fife, NI, SW Lothian and Borders, and Strathclyde with the chief forecaster stating;

“The strongest winds will reach the west early on Thursday, extending east through the morning. Winds will start to ease in the west later in the morning and then all parts by late afternoon/evening. Snow showers will turn increasingly frequent and heavy across large parts Scotland and Northern Ireland during the evening”

Unfortunately Grampian, Highlands & Eilean Siar, Orkney and Shetland are on a higher level warning (amber) which sits at the medium likelihood/medium impact on the matrix – this gives a higher risk of structural damage and disruption, the Met Office report that;

“Storm Caroline is expected to bring a spell of very windy weather to northern Scotland. Gusts of 70 to 80 mph are expected widely with gusts to 90 mph possible in exposed areas. Flying debris is likely and could lead to injuries or danger to life. Some damage to buildings is possible, such as tiles blowing off roofs. Longer journey times and cancellations are likely, as road, rail, air and ferry services may be affected. There is a good chance that power cuts may also occur. Large waves are expected and beach material may be thrown onto coastal roads, sea fronts and properties”

Please note that for local regions the weather warnings are expected to be in place until 6pm on Thursday evening, however more northern regions are expected to experience the stormy conditions right through to circa midnight on Friday 8th December with Orkney and Shetland expected to be worst hit.

Further weather warnings in respect of snow and ice are also in place for the weekend as follows;

Friday – 00.05 until Saturday 6pm

Regions affected are; Central, Tayside & Fife, East Midlands, Grampian, Highlands & Eilean Siar, North West England, Northern Ireland, Orkney & Shetland, SW Scotland, Lothian Borders, South West England Strathclyde, Wales, West Midlands, Yorkshire & Humber.

With the Met Office reporting;

During Friday, increasingly frequent snow showers already affecting parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England will extend across many other northern and western parts of the UK. 2-5 cm of snow is likely fairly widely, with 10-20 cm in places, mainly northern Scotland, Northern Ireland, north Wales and perhaps the northwest Midlands. Icy surfaces are also likely to be an additional hazard, especially overnight. The heaviest and most frequent snow showers will progressively become confined to northeast Scotland during Saturday. Possible travel delays on roads stranding some vehicles

If the weather is adversely affecting you please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us on 0131 553 2293. For further weather updates you can visit the Met Office Website.

Income and headcount increase at leading broker insurance broker Bruce Stevenson

Income at Bruce Stevenson, one of the largest independent insurance brokers in Scotland, rose during a highly successful year which also saw the firm increase its headcount.

The Edinburgh-based broker’s total income for the year to 30 August 2017 was £6.6m, against £6.4m in the previous twelve months.

Trading performance was boosted by a sharp rise in gross written premiums to £30m in the last year while the investment in staff recruitment meant gross profit came in at £1.4m against £1.5m in 2015/16.

Headcount has risen by 7% to 93 with the hire of senior managers James Geekie, in corporate business development, and Alexandra Richards in the Private Clients team. Additional staff were brought in to handle claims, which is a key service area supported by seven staff along with an expansion in IT and Marketing.

The firm is committed to long-term independence and several discussions are under way with a view to acquisitions. Most recently the firm acquired a book of business in the north of Scotland from H&H, an auctioneering business based in Carlisle.

Commenting on the results, Edward Bruce, chief executive of Bruce Stevenson, said:

“It’s been an extremely positive year for Bruce Stevenson Insurance Brokers, we’ve hit our targets but it’s been a period of consolidation. We’ve invested in the business a number of strategic management appointments and customer service/ support roles.

“We are now focused on further growth with a focus on our core areas of business and potential acquisitions.

Looking ahead, Bruce Stevenson has a brand re-launch and new website which will be unveiled in early 2018. The immediate target is to hit double-digit growth again in the current financial year with a focus on the Firm’s core values of great teamwork, exceptional customer service and assured consistency.

There will also be continued investment in staff training and professional development.

Encouragingly a recent staff survey received positive feedback from the 85% of employees who responded, which supports the Firm’s commitment to being the ‘Broker of Choice’ for both staff and clients.

Bruce Stevenson made a policy commitment in January to donate a minimum of 2% of net profit to FareShare, its nominated charity. This organisation collects good quality, in-date surplus food from retailers and producers and redistributes it to 476 frontline charities and community groups. The commitment to this charity is underlined by the work the insurance broker does within the food and drink sector.

Decorating at Christmas – Top Tips!

Christmas decorations are a staple during the festive period. We realise decorating a home from top to bottom can take a lot of time and effort. However it takes even less time for accidents to happen. Before you start the decoration process, ensure you have enough space for all of your decorations and consider where is best to place each piece.

  • Three Top Tips for Decorating
  1. Avoid decorations made of light tissue paper or cardboard. These decorations are more likely to catch fire.
  2. Don’t attach or put decorations near heat sources.
  3. Check all fuses on electrical goods are the right type. If unsure check the instructions or seek advice.
  • Tree Safety

Fire safety must be considered when keeping a live tree in your house. When selecting a tree ensure that the needles are green. If the needles break it means the tree has not been freshly cut. Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.

  • Decorating The Tree

Ensure that all lights on the tree have been unplugged before leaving for any period of time. To create a sense of occupancy in your property, set a timer for outside lighting and several internal lights. If you find you have an excess of lighting on or near the tree, avoid overloading electrical sockets.

Self-Catering & Holiday Let Insurance

One of Scotland’s biggest insurance brokers, Bruce Stevenson, has unveiled a bespoke insurance package for those holiday home owners who let out their properties amid concerns many may not have appropriate cover.

The number of people owning a second property, which is used for holiday home lets and self-catering guests has soared in recent years. Meanwhile the rise of Airbnb style platforms has seen many open their own home to paying guests.

However, it is feared they may be relying on typical household insurance that does not give them the extensive cover they need to deal with the wide range of special issues that can go hand in hand with running a self-catering and holiday let.

Common problems include accidental or malicious damage caused by guests, loss of earnings when a property is damaged or in need of repair, and accidents involving visitors.

Owners also need to be aware of whether their cover remains valid during periods when their property is unoccupied between lets.  Additionally, cover is required for loss of income should their accommodation become seriously damaged or in need in extensive repairs.

The new Self-Catering and Holiday Lets insurance comes under the banner of Bruce Stevenson’s highly successful “StaySafe” policy, launched two years ago to cater for Britain’s £2 billion bed and breakfast industry.

Key features include:

  • Accidental damage as standard
  • Theft and attempted theft cover
  • Malicious damage cover, including damage by guests
  • Liability cover for paying guests and employees
  • Loss of income cover of up to £500,000 for up to two years following damage to the property

The new policy, which is not valid for Airbnb listed properties, means self-catering and holiday lets owners will enjoy the same peace of mind as B&B businesses covered by the Broker’s StaySafe package, including liability cover for employees of up to £10 million, liability for paying guests up to £2 million and up to £40,000 for their effects.

The StaySafe package was drawn up specifically for the hospitality industry in partnership with RSA Insurance Group. It is available to businesses across the UK.

According to the Association of Scotland’s self-caterers recent Economic Impact study there is a total of 16,162 self-catering or short term rental properties in Scotland. Meanwhile Scottish Government commissioned research has shown that the total of Airbnb listings in Scotland increased by 184% between January 2016 to January 2017.

Edward Bruce, chief executive at Bruce Stevenson, said:

“Earning money from a second property is seen by more and more people as a revenue generator for the owner. But it does come with risks, and it is imperative that there’s a comprehensive policy in place to protect the owner from potential losses or the impact of damage to their property.”

“There are a range of challenges that come with letting a second home to visitors, particularly when they are self-catering and you’re not there every day to keep an eye on things. A typical household policy will almost certainly not provide all the cover a holiday let landlord needs.

“That’s why it is so important to have bespoke insurance policies which have been drawn up by people who understand the potential problems and can help safeguard against their impact. We’ve been serving our customers for more than 30 years and are proud of our personal, flexible service, competitive premiums and free quotations.”

Bruce Stevenson’s StaySafe cover includes a 24-hour claims helpline while the highly experienced claims department has extensive knowledge of a wide range of situations.

For more information please contact Fiona Reid on 01896 804912 or [email protected]

Remember, remember the Fifth of November

It’s that time of year again and whilst we don’t want to dampen the spirit, we have some great tips to help you stay safe.

Sparkle safely!

Sparklers can be perceived as harmless fireworks. However they actually burn at very high temperatures and therefore can cause serious damage and injuries. When handling sparklers remember to,

  • Always light one sparkler at a time. Lighting several at a time will increase the risk of creating a flare up.
  • Wear gloves when handling sparklers. This will reduce the risk of burning your hands.
  • When sparklers are lit, hold them at arm’s length and ensure you remain a safe distance from others.
  • Don’t light sparklers near any other fireworks you may have. This increases the risk of fire.
  • When the sparkler is finished, put it in a bucket of cold water. Sparklers retain their temperature even after they have been extinguished. Emerging them in cold water will reduce the temperature quickly.

Check out our favourite recipe for Bonfire Banoffee Pie!

Ingredients:

  • 300g Ginger nut biscuits or digestives
  • 100g Butter
  • 5 Bananas (Peel, Slice Lengthways, then in half)
  • 1 X 397g tin Carnation Caramel
  • 3 x 200g Bags of Marshmallows

Method:

  1. Line the base of a 21cm loose bottomed tart tin (3.5cm deep) with nonstock baking paper. Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until they reach a fine crumb with the melted butter and spoon into the tin. Use the back of a spoon to press the biscuits into the base and up to the side. Chill in the fridge for 30minutes.
  2. Lay the bananas on the base in an even layer. Spoon the caramel into a bowl, stir well until smooth, then pour evenly over the bananas, to the top of the biscuit case. Chill for a further 30minuntes.
  3. Preheat the grill to high. Arrange the marshmallows on top, starting with an even layer all over, then pile up to 2 or 3 high in the centre. Grill for 15 secs or until gooey and brown on top. Decorate cake with sparklers if you like.

Ghoulishly good tips to help prepare you and your home for Halloween!

Halloween Travel Tips

If you travel on the roads this Halloween we advise you use extra caution to protect yourself, fellow passengers and others around you.

  • When traveling through neighbourhoods and poorly lit areas, use the utmost caution and drive slowly. Children’s movements can be unpredictable. Additionally their costume may make them less visible to you.
  • Avoid distraction whilst driving by putting your all devices away, this will reduce all temptation to take glances.
  • If you are wearing a costume that restricts your movement or view, take it off for the duration of your journey.

A scarily safe pumpkin

Using a candle to illuminate your well carved pumpkin can be dangerous, Halloween costumes and paper decorations can easily catch fire. Therefore consider using a battery powered candle or alternatively a toy jack-o’-lantern. Both will provide you with a seriously spooky yet safe glow.

Trick or Treat?

Whilst nearly all trick or treaters are harmless children eager to gather as many sweets as they can, it’s important you remain vigilant when answering your door. Halloween costumes can be deceiving, therefore if you have an particularly uneasy feeling about the person behind the mask, don’t open the door!

Sitting this Halloween out?

No problem, but don’t turn the lights out!! Yes a well lit house may well attract little monsters, however it will likely dissuade potential thieves!

Check out our favourite recipe for toffee apples below!

Ingredients:

  • 8 Apples
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 6 drops of red food colouring (optional)

Method:

  1. Remove the wax coating on your apples and place them in a bowl.
  2. Cover the apples in boiling water. After 30 seconds remove the apples and remove the stalks and place the apples on a wooden skewer.
  3. To make the toffee, pour the sugar into a saucepan. Add 100ml water and set over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then add the golden syrup and vinegar. Use a spoon to pour a little toffee into a bowl of cold water. When it’s ready it will harden instantly. If the toffee is still soft, continue to heat.
  4. Carefully and quickly pick up each apple using the stick and dip it into the toffee. Rotate each apple in the hot toffee until fully covered, drain for a few seconds then place onto baking paper with the sticks facing up and vertical.
  5. Leave to cool, then enjoy!

Highly Commended Winner 2017 of Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight

We are delighted to have been given a highly commended award for our efforts at promoting Scottish Food & Drink during the recent Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight 2017.  The initiative encouraged businesses of all shapes and sizes to change just one thing to promote Scottish produce.  As members of Scotland’s Food & Drink we championed local producers and suppliers via our social media channels.

Speaking at the official prize giving at the NorthLink Ferries terminal in Aberdeen, Fiona Richmond, Head of Regional Food at Scotland Food & Drink, said:

“Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight takes place every year and it’s a fantastic way of celebrating our growers, producers, chefs and restaurateurs’, as well as our vast and delicious Scottish larder.”

Weather Update: Amber Warning 16th October

The weather warning has now been upgraded to Amber for today from 12pm to 11pm covering the following regions; SW Scotland Lothian & Borders and Strathclyde. The chief forecaster’s statement confirms the following;

Ex-Ophelia will move northwards across the west of Ireland today bringing some very strong winds to Northern Ireland along with parts of north and west Wales and the extreme southwest of Scotland. Gusts of 55-65 mph are expected widely with 80 mph gusts likely in places. A smaller area of very gusty winds is then likely to run across Northern Ireland from the west with 65-75 mph gusts possible for a short period of time in any one location. Winds are expected to peak across Northern Ireland and north and west Wales this afternoon including this evening’s busy travel period and to peak across southwest Scotland this evening.

For information, the definition of an amber warning is;

• Amber: There is an increased likelihood of bad weather affecting you, which could potentially disrupt your plans and possibly cause travel delays, road and rail closures, interruption to power and the potential risk to life and property. Amber means you need to be prepared to change your plans and protect you, your family and community from the impacts of the severe weather based on the forecast from the Met Office

The likelihood of a surge event is therefore increased in comparison to a yellow warning. If the weather is adversely affecting you, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us. 

Tel: 0131 553 229331 55

 

Weather Update: Effective from 16th October

The Met Office have issued two weather warnings in respect of wind, with the first covering the Highlands & Eilean Siar, SW Scotland, Lothian & Borders and Strathclyde in addition to Irish and English regions.  This is effective from Monday 16th October from 12pm to 11.55pm with the Chief Forecaster confirming;

Very strong winds are forecast to affect western parts of the UK during Monday. Southerly winds are most likely to gust between 55 and 65 mph across much of the warning area with the potential for gusts of 80 mph in coastal areas, particularly in Northern Ireland. These strong winds are forecast in association with the northward track of ex-Ophelia across or near to the west of the British Isles. Heavy rain is also possible in association with this system with north-western UK most prone at this stage.

The second weather warning does not affect Highlands & Eilean Siar however moves into Central Tayside & Fife in addition to the regions already mentioned above, the impact is expected to be less severe although the weather warning is active from Tuesday 17th October at 00.05 and 6pm. The Chief Forecaster advises the following;

Very strong winds are forecast to affect northern parts of the UK during Tuesday. South-westerly winds are most likely to gust between 50 and 60 mph across much of the warning area with the potential for gusts of 70 mph across the Central Belt of Scotland and parts of Northeast England. The strongest winds could potentially coincide with the morning rush hour. Heavy rain is also possible in association with this system with western Scotland most prone at this stage

The wind speeds predicted give an increased risk of structural damage to properties with potential flooding arising from heavy rain.  The grading of the warning is yellow which is the lowest level, we therefore do not expect a surge event to be triggered however we will of course monitor the effects in respect of claims from clients in addition to service from insurers/adjusters.

If the weather is adversely affecting you please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us. For further weather updates you can visit the Met Office Website.