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Prevent Identity Theft After Disasters

June 18, 2008

A natural disaster like floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wild fires, etc. are difficult enough when your home is destroyed or damaged. You try to salvage as many of your possessions from the rubble as you can. One of your possessions you need to remember to salvage is your identity. You’re probably not even thinking about that while worrying where you’re going to be sleeping tonight.

Your home is a storage place for pieces of your identity like:

  • Checkbook
  • Extra Credit Cards
  • Passports
  • Banking statements
  • Medical information

You’re already experiencing emotional trauma from the loss and possibly physical trauma from injuries. The last thing you need to discover is that one top of everything else, someone stole your identity.

Here are some quick tips on things you can do to prevent identity theft after a disaster:

  • Lost Checkbook – call your bank and put a ‘stop payment’ on missing checks. Or even change your bank account number.
  • Missing Credit Cards – call the 800 number for your credit card company to let them know your card is lost. Normally, you’d find it on the back of your card, but you can also find it online at their website. Directory assistance can get it for you, too.
  • Lost Passport – contact the United States Department of State at 1-800-877-8339.
  • Lost Social Security Card – call the Social Security Administration at 1-877-876-2455 and request a copy of your Social Security Statement.
  • Beware of Scammers – you may be approached by people offering ‘Diaster Relief’ or home repair. Don’t give anyone your social security number, credit card number or PIN without thoroughly checking them out. If they pressure you with a time deadline, they’re probably scammers trying to take advantage of your vulnerability.
  • Opt-out of pre-approved credit offers – if you haven’t done this yet, now is a good time to do it. It’s a simple free telephone call that takes only minutes – 1-888-567-8688 (888-5-OPT-OUT.)
  • Fraud Alertplace a fraud alert now. It’s free and will give you protection from thieves opening new lines of credit in your name. It won’t interfere with you trying to get credit yourself to rebuild and recover.
  • Get Credit Reports – after things have settled down, order your free credit reports from annualcreditreport.com. Check for any incorrect information.

Keeping your identity safe after a natural disaster will make the recovery a bit easier.

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