Hurricane season begins this Friday. Are you ready?
The federal government predicts between four and eight hurricanes during the Atlantic season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 and covers storms that form in the Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico.
The American Red Cross and FEMA have safety checklists for before, during and after a hurricane that include tips on how to protect your families, homes and businesses. Our experts outline five tips to protect your identity before disaster strikes:
1. Create a family ID theft protection plan. Make front-and-back copies of personal documents and store them in a safe deposit box. That includes birth certificates, driver’s licenses, passports, as well as Social Security, voter’s registration and medical insurance cards. Don’t forget credit and debit cards. Consider storing everything in an encrypted file to access online.
2. Store irreplaceable items in the cloud. I's easy and affordable to store irreplaceable items in an online vault. This includes special family photographs, and historical, estate and trust documents.
3. Protect important information and documents. Whether you’re in a shelter, staying with friends or crashing on your family’s couch, never let identity-related items on your person—a driver's license, passport—leave your sight. They are the key to your identity—and you will need this information to prove who you are.
4. Ask the U.S. Postal Service to hold your mail until you return home. Look at getting a post office box. This will keep thieves from finding sensitive materials that are left in your mailbox.
5. Watch out for post-disaster scams. Beware of identity thieves who may call, text or email you soliciting donations. Think twice before you give them money and/or personal information. Donate money to well-known charities.
Finally, if you think you may be a victim of identity theft, call your bank, credit union, insurer or financial planner to see if they offer identity theft management services. Some financial institutions offer this service for free as a perk for being a member or account holder.