This week's catastrophic tornadoes in Oklahoma are a terrifying reminder about how quickly our lives could be turned upside down by factors totally out of our control. It's difficult to even think about you and/or your family suffering such a terrible loss; but now is the time to take preventative measures to protect your family's identity after a disaster. While you can't control for tornadoes, wildfires, drought, flooding, or any other natural disaster for that matter, you can do your best now to ensure that in the event of a disaster, you have taken the appropriate steps to prevent identity theft.
Sadly, there are various forms of identity theft that commonly occur following a natural disaster. Get the post-disaster identity theft information you need to protect yourself now. Thieves, some in desperate situations themselves, take advantage of individuals in distress after getting their hands on another's personal information, bank account number, credit cards or insurance. Once they have this information, the effects could turn an already catastrophic situation into one that is even worse, damaging one's credit rating for years and years to come.
Take the time now to put together an emergency identity protection kit containing your family's important documents that you could grab in a hurry if you ever need to take cover/shelter or evacuate your home in an emergency.
This file should include tax papers, insurance policies (medical, homeowners, life, vehicle, etc.), checking and savings account statements, medical identification cards that list current prescriptions, known allergies, etc.; passports; Social Security cards; birth certificates; wills, deeds, etc; copies of drivers licenses and identification cards; property records; immigration papers, recent credit report and any other critical documents.
Save all important electronic files (including scans of treasured family photos) to a portable drive that is password protected. Experts recommend leaving your computer at home.
Keep your portable storage drive and files with you in a locked box somewhere near an exit in your home. Do not keep these in your car, as it could be stolen out of your card, your car could be stolen or you may otherwise not be able to get to your car in enough time to get them out (you wouldn't be able to run to your car in a tornado, hurricane, etc.). Never let the locked box out of your sight, especially if you are forced out of your home. Be extra vigilant about protecting your locked box, even around friends and extended family, as identity theft is most often committed by someone who knows their victim.
Keep the key to the locked box taped to your body. It sounds crazy, but there is no safer place for it. It could fall out of your pocket, you could lose your wallet, it could be stolen along with other belongings, etc.; so the safest place for the key is taped to you!