Natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina often pave the way for looting, price gouging, and other opportunistic scams – including identity theft.
Many Gulf Coast residents are still in survival mode, focused on keeping themselves, their loved ones, and their belongings out of harm’s way. But as they deal with the devastation, warned Identity Theft 911 CEO Sheryl Christenson, they must remember to safeguard their personal information to keep identity thieves from compounding their problems.
“Potential victims must remember to think beyond their immediate need to survive,” said Christenson, “even though this flies in the face of most people’s conditioned response to disaster.” At such a moment, Christenson noted, your possessions – including documents containing all the information an identity thief covets most – are at their most vulnerable. Accordingly, there are basic precautions one should take to prevent a natural disaster from becoming an identity theft catastrophe.
* If you are faced with an evacuation order or some other circumstance
that forces you to vacate your home, protect the premises with the
strongest possible security measures.
* Shred, burn, or otherwise destroy any unneeded documents containing personal information, such as Social Security and driver’s license numbers, credit card and bank account numbers, phone numbers, and postal and e-mail addresses.
* If identity theft is prevalent in your area, consider leasing a safe deposit box at a local bank in which to secure such documents.
* Any items containing personal identifiers that are not destroyed or
safely secured should be your possession at all times. This is, in fact, reportedly one of the rare instances in which an individual should carry a Social Security card, birth certificate, passport, and similar articles.
“It’s essential to retain your composure during tumultuous events such as these,” said Christenson. “Identity theft may not be the first thing on your mind when you hear that a 500-mile-wide hurricane is headed in your direction. But the good news is that after a natural disaster is over, life goes on. Your identity is the foundation your entire life is built on. Don’t let identity theft compound the catastrophe.”
Identity Theft 911 (www.identitytheft911.com) provides fraud solutions to Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, and a number of America’s largest insurance companies and corporate benefits providers.
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