After a natural disaster, you may not see identity theft as a primary concern, -but evacuations and a lack of home security can put your sensitive information at risk. Learn what can make you vulnerable and what measures you can take to protect yourself and your family after a disaster hits close to home.
After a disaster, you're focused on the basics: finding a place to stay, securing food and water, and, above all else, protecting your family. But during this uncertain time, it's important to pay attention to more subtle threats as well-including the heightened risk of identity theft and fraud.
One reason identity theft is such a big concern after a natural disaster is that criminals know that affected areas have been evacuated and are ripe for looting. Not only may many of your personal papers be strewn about the area, but In the rush to flee with only the essentials, many people leave behind important documents, such as birth certificates and social security cards. MCMF recommends storing those items, along with a copy of other important financial or identifying documents in a locked box or large waterproof plastic bag and taking them with you when you evacuate.
Common types of scams include:
- "Phishing Scams": Thieves pretend to call from a company that lost data-such as your bank account, credit card or social security number. No matter how official the caller sounds, never give them your information. Legitimate companies will not contact you this way.
- Relief Group Solicitations: Scam artists call and ask for donations in the wake of a disaster. Remember, however, that during a time of crisis groups don't really have time to do anything but attend to the needs of disaster victims. You should donate to a reputable organization-only if you are the one to make contact first.
Contact all of your credit cards and alert them of the situation—they may advise you to cancel the card, and reissue you another one.
Contact your bank and explain the situation. Many banks offer various types of fraud protection. Now may be the time to sign up for one of those services. At the very least you will want to change your password to all of your accounts.
Set up on-line payments. More than likely you may not be getting mail at your home address immediately after the disaster. Setting up all of your bills to be paid on-line, is an easy way to keep track of everything during this stressful time. You may even want to set up direct drafts—whatever you choose—keep it simple and easy—and make sure you don't miss a payment.
Check your credit report—I wouldn't advise placing a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit report at this time, because more than likely now more than ever you will be making quite a few purchases and will need access to credit. By pulling your credit report—you can see everything that is on your report and note it’s accuracy. Check it again every Quarter for at least the next year to ensure accuracy.