Sadly, in the United States we are prone to a huge variety of natural phenomena which all cause great devastation. From the rampaging wild fires and earthquakes of the West, to the floods of the East; the Mid-West tornadoes and the hurricanes in the South, it seems we cannot avoid the wrath of the elements. The physical, psychological and economic cost of these disasters is almost unreckonable – one only has to think back to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – one of the costliest and deadliest in our recorded history.
Being natural phenomena, there is nothing we can do to prevent them, but there are steps we can take to minimize the damage to our homes and our property during the onslaught, and particularly during the aftermath. When we think of protecting ourselves, we usually think in terms of real estate: storm-proofing our homes to make everything safe. But there is a darker side to these natural disasters which is entirely man-made, and of which we should always be aware.
I am talking about those human vultures that seize such opportunities as these to commit crimes; pillaging property for valuables and, in more recent years, dealing in the increasingly lucrative business of identity theft. No-one wants to think about such eventualities but we really should as identify theft is on the increase and we should safeguard this in exactly the same way we would our jewels and precious heirlooms.
Assessing risks and devising an identity protection plan is best done in the calm before the storm, as in the panic of the aftermath it will almost certainly be too late. Begin by collecting together all personal information, such as passports, driver’s licenses, birth, marriage and death certificates, social security details, utility bills, leases, mortgages and insurance documents and all financial documentation such as bank and credit card statements, loan information, tax returns, investment portfolios etc. Keep these together in the safest place you can find, preferably in a strongbox or safe and inside a sturdy, waterproof container or bag which can be retrieved quickly and easily in an emergency.
Next make a list of outside agencies or businesses which hold personal information about you and contact all of them after the storm to make sure your information has remained secure. Go through your paperwork regularly and dispose of any unwanted documents using a shredder. Keeping on top of paperwork is a chore, but one you will be thankful you did in the event of a disaster. Safeguarding your identity is nothing more than commonsense but these few simple steps could save you endless stress, worry and future financial loss.