The giant tornado that tore across the Oklahoma City area, killing dozens of people, is a sobering reminder that we can never be fully prepared for a natural disaster.
With tornado and hurricane season underway and summer's heightened risk for brush fires just around the corner, it's a good time to take steps to protect your loved ones—and their identities—from harm.
Here are some steps to secure your identity before and after catastrophe 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. Remember credit and debit cards.
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. Back up key information and documents. Whether you’re in a shelter, staying with friends or crashing on your family’s couch, never let these items leave your sight. They are the key to your identity.
4. Check your credit report. Call 1-877-322-8228 or visit www.annualcreditreport.com. Consider adding an initial security alert to your credit report, by visiting www.experian.com/fraud/center.html or by calling 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742).
5. Hold your mail. Ask the post office to hold your mail until you've settled into your home. This will keep thieves away from sensitive materials left in your mailbox.
6. 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.
7. Call your bank, credit union, insurer or financial planner to see if they offer identity theft management services. Some institutions offer this service for free, as a perk for being a member or account holder.