September, 2012
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Protect Your Identity: Up to 9 million Americans have their identity stolen each year


identity-theft.jpgProtecting your social security number is at the top of the list on for minimizing the risk or the damages from having your identify stolen. Here's how to protect your Social Security number.

  • Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check.
  • Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary, and ask to use other types of identifiers.
  • If your state uses your Social Security number as your driver's license number, ask to substitute another number. Do the same if your health insurance company uses your Social Security number as your policy number.

Your employer and financial institutions will need your Social Security number for wage and tax reporting purposes. Other businesses may ask you for your Social Security number to do a credit check if you are applying for a loan, renting an apartment, or signing up for utilities. Sometimes, however, they simply want your Social Security number for general record keeping. If someone asks for your Social Security number, ask:

  • Why do you need my Social Security number?
  • How will my Social Security number be used?
  • How do you protect my Social Security number from being stolen?
  • What will happen if I don't give you my Social Security number?

If you don't provide your Social Security number, some businesses may not provide you with the service or benefit you want. Getting satisfactory answers to these questions will help you decide whether you want to share your Social  Security number with the business. The decision to share is yours.

For additional tips, visit

IBHS Researchers Put Commercial Construction to the Test

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) conducted the first-ever, controlled high-speed wind test comparing and contrasting the performance of common practice and stronger, full-size commercial buildings in a laboratory.

Two 30 ft. by 20 ft., one-story masonry buildings, similar to those in strip mall shopping centers, were placed side-by-side on the 55 ft. turntable inside the 21,000 sq. ft. test chamber at the IBHS Research Center in South Carolina. One of the test buildings was constructed using techniques common across the U.S., while the other was built using stronger high-wind-resistant practices.

The materials used to build both structures were identical, but installation and assembly methods were different. For less than 5% of the total cost of construction, the stronger building was improved in critical areas by addition of wind-resistant construction features, including:

  • properly reinforced masonry walls;
  • correctly installed flashing and wind-resistant roof cover;
  • well-anchored roof-top equipment; and,
  • use of roll-up doors with wind locks.

The test included two high-wind demonstrations: part one was modeled on an actual severe thunderstorm that blew through central Texas; part two was modeled on a segment of 2008's Hurricane Ike. The test buildings were subjected to high-speed, multi-directional, gusty winds, which reached 136 mph. IBHS researchers observed the following performance failures on the common construction building:

  • roof flashing failed during a 73 mph wind gust (equivalent to a 52-mph one-minute sustained wind speed);
  • the overhead, roll-up door failed during a 115 mph wind gust; and
  • the side wall collapsed during a 110 mph wind gust (equivalent to a 79 mph one-minute sustained wind speed) after both buildings were pressurized by having a simulated tree branch (a 2"x4" piece of wood) fired through its front window; it is important to note that the walls survived a 136 mph wind gust (equivalent to a 97 mph one-minute sustained wind speed) before the buildings were pressurized – a stark reminder about the importance of effective window coverings or impact resistant windows in high-wind prone areas.

The stronger building did not experience any significant performance failures during this test.

"This test clearly demonstrates that for less than 5% of the total cost of construction – which is less than the sales tax was on the building materials themselves – we can build stronger, safer commercial buildings that can better withstand the kinds of high winds experienced during severe thunderstorms and hurricanes," said Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO.

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