06.23.2011 / How to Protect Your Identity from Natural Disasters.

A natural disaster can strike anyone, anywhere at anytime. Whether it is a hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake or a wild fire, there is not a corner of the United States that is immune from some type of natural disaster.

"There are many steps you can take now to prevent identify theft from happening to you when disaster strikes"

Victims of natural disasters are usually left dealing with massive devastation – loss of their home or entire town, loss of loved ones and even the loss of their own identities.  After a natural disaster, the contents of homes and offices can be spread out for miles, in plain view for anyone to pick up and walk away with.  Natural disasters are a prime time for looters and thieves to cash in on a tragedy by stealing the identities of its victims.  However, there are many steps you can take now to prevent identify theft from happening to you when disaster strikes:

Shred Unneeded Documents
Prevent identity theft now by going through all of your paperwork and shredding old and unneeded paperwork.  A good rule of thumb is to shred tax returns, and bank and credit card statements that are more than seven years old.  Reducing the amount of paperwork you have on hand allows you to more easily store all of your information in one place and reduces the amount of paperwork that could potentially be strewn about during a natural disaster.

Purchase a Quality Safe
Use the safe to store important documents such as birth certificates, adoption paperwork marriage licenses, death certificates, social security cards, passports, insurance paperwork, bank and credit card statements, tax returns, investment paperwork, photocopies of driver’s licenses and personal photographs.  Place all of this information in a waterproof bag and stick it inside the safe.  That way you only have to grab the plastic bag as you evacuate your home.  Or, better yet, take the whole safe with you.

Back Up and Encrypt Electronic Files
If you store personal and financial information on your computer be sure to encrypt all of your files to prevent hackers from accessing your personal information.  This will also protect your files in the event your computer ends up in the wrong hands during the aftermath of a natural disaster.  Back up your encrypted files on a flash drive or external hard drive that could easily be stored in your safe or taken with you during an evacuation.

Familiarize Yourself with the Various Identity Theft Scams
Get to know how identity thieves work.  Never give out personal information to someone who calls claiming to be a bank, creditor or government agency.  Only give this information to people you have initiated contact with or that you have taken measures to verify they are legitimate.

It is easy to believe that a natural disaster and identity theft could never happen to you.  Unfortunately, both are real possibilities no matter who you are or where you live.  Taking the steps now to protect yourself will help pave the road to a smooth recovery.

Have you experienced identity theft as a result of a natural disaster? We want to hear your story! 


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