The nation’s drought and extremely high temperatures have many experts worried this year may be America’s worst wildfire season on record. Right now, there are 52 different wildfires raging in the western United States. Imagine family suffering major loss to your home, your pets, your community; and in the midst of that disaster, a thief takes advantage of the situation and gets their hands on a personal document that gives them access to your identity, your bank account, your credit, your medical insurance. The effects could be catastrophic.
Evacuation orders are being put into place in cities and towns across the western half of the nation. But don’t wait until that point to put together an evacuation kit.
Protect yourself from various identity theft types now by creating a file of your family’s important documents, which you can grab in a hurry should you receive evacuation orders.
What to include? Pull tax papers; health, home, life and vehicle insurance documents; checking and savings records; medical identification cards; passports; Social Security cards; birth certificates; wills, deeds, etc; copies of drivers licenses and identification cards; property records; medical records; a list of current prescriptions and allergies and immigration papers.
What about my computer? What’s the risk of online identity theft? Save important electronic files (as well as treasured family photos) to a portable drive and password protect your documents and your computer. Experts recommend you can leave your computer (especially if it’s a desk top) at home, if you’ve password-protected and locked everything.
Where do I keep all of these? These records should be in a locked box somewhere near an exit door in your home. Do not put the box in your car in advance, as it could be stolen from your car. Never leave your locked box unsupervised, especially at an emergency evacuation shelter, where your desperate situation could be too tempting for thieves to resist. And be careful too not to let your guard down if you’re staying with friends or family, as one identity theft fact is that in many cases, the victim knows their thief.
So where do I keep the key? As crazy as it sounds, the experts recommend taping the key to your body so it can’t be stolen out of your purse, wallet or pocket.
After a disaster, beware of scammers trying to exploit the situation. Make relief donations to only established, reputable organizations and never give personal information to “companies” that contact you claiming to have lost your account information.