Talk about kicking you when you’re down, but the sad reality is identity theft and credit fraud INCREASES after natural disasters. The environment is chaotic, defenses are down and often personal items are strewn all over the place, making it that much easier for scammers to pretend that they’re you.
So hop on a good plan soon! Here are seven ways to protect your identity should the unthinkable happen:
1. Make sure you’re fully backed up. This means a full backup on an external hard drive stored in a different location from your computer and a second backup in the cloud. Also, put your most important information on an encrypted thumb drive (you can download free encryption software).
2. Store a credit card and an ATM card in your safe deposit box. You may find yourself without your wallet or purse.
3. Make an emergency kit that’s easy to grab. Include your important documents (mortgage and home ownership documents, car registration, passports, insurance contracts, copies of birth and marriage certificates, etc.), safe deposit box key, encrypted thumb drive … but NOT your Social Security card.
4. Include your digital estate in your emergency planning. Your digital footprint may be a lot bigger than you think. Check out this article for a list of the various online accounts you may have that could need attention.
5. Prepare your smart phone. It may become more important than ever. Simple adjustments can conserve battery power and keep your information safe.
6. Keep your laptop close at all times. Shelters are notorious scammer hangouts.
7. Watch out for phishing scams. Even following a disaster, banks and other institutions will not ask for personal information via email.