ITRC Solution 23
Emergency Situations and Identity Theft
Hurricanes, tornados, fires, earthquakes and man-made disasters are frightening and cause a lot of chaos. Taking the time today to create an action plan might help you avoid future identity theft related situations.
Be prepared to evacuate. Keep photocopies of these items readily available, preferably in a sealed large envelope or a locked box.
- Birth certificates for each family member
- A current photograph of each family member
- Driver’s licenses
- Social Security cards for each family member
- Death certificates
- Insurance papers, wills, deeds, property records, and photos or video of personal belongings
- Other vital papers for each family member, such as immigration papers, marriage licenses
- Financial account information that might be needed in an emergency
- Brief medical histories including medical equipment/supply need including style/serial numbers, all prescriptions and dosages for each family member.
- Medical insurance cards.
- Place the box or sealed envelope in your car only when you are ready to leave. Be aware that thieves sometimes loot cars parked in driveways of those who are evacuating. You will need those papers to identify yourself with various assistance groups and with insurance companies.
- Keep the locked box (or envelope) in sight at all times, even in a shelter. If necessary, remove these papers from the locked box and put them in a large plastic bag taped to your inner clothing. Don’t trust anyone, other than family members, to watch these documents.
- Few people want to leave computers behind. If you are time-crunched or limited in space, remove the hard-drive and take that with you. It can always be put in a new computer. Many people are using “USB backup drives” for regular backups of critical information. These can be removed in a few seconds during an emergency. You may also want to carry an extra pair of glasses with you.
- “Phishing Scams”: Con artists pretend to call from a company that “lost data.” They will ask for bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers. This is always a scam. Companies will not contact you this way.
- Relief Group Solicitations: Scam artists may pretend to be calling on behalf of a relief agency trying to raise donations. During a time of crisis, legitimate relief agencies are too busy attending to the immediate needs of victims. Only donate if you initiate the call to a well-established group. Hang up on any telephone solicitors asking for donations.
In most emergency situations, media will be a primary source of information alerting you on actions to take and scams to avoid.
- Should you conduct business with a company affected by the disaster, contact that company once they are allowed to return and determine if any of your identifying information (financial records, SSN, etc.) is missing. If so, ask what steps you should take.
- Should you find documents that contain information that is of a sensitive nature, immediately turn it over to a local law enforcement agency.