The Eastern seaboard was just beginning to settle into the new school year when news broke that one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the area in decades was fast approaching – Hurricane Florence. As many prepare their homes and families for the dangerous storm, we are encouraging consumers to also take steps to safeguard their identities and data from being compromised by nefarious fraudsters looking to take advantage of the situation.
The impact the storm can have on homes and the surrounding environment is easily apparent to many consumers. However, many are unaware that the risk of their data and identity being compromised also increases in the wake of emergency situations. You should be aware of these risks and the steps you can take to protect yourself from the fraud many criminals may attempt to commit as you recover from this storm.
Securing Documents and Devices Ahead of the Storm
If your family is preparing to evacuate your home and/or business, we encourage you to think beyond packing just the essentials such as your first aid kits and blankets. Many consumers don’t give much thought to what happens to their sensitive documents (Social Security card, birth certificate, etc.) when they evacuate their homes prior to a disaster. However, looters do think about these documents and frequently look for them, as well as valuables, when they’re searching rubble after a storm. The damage these criminals can do with your family’s Social Security cards or a computer left unprotected can victimize your family all over again.
For this reason, we recommend you take those documents with you when evacuating. To make grabbing them quickly easy in such a situation, you should keep important documents in a secure but readily accessible place at all times. However, because some situations may make it impossible for you to take these documents with you before leaving your homes, we recommend ahead of such emergency disasters that you purchase a quality fire safe to store these documents. Fire proof safes can not only protect your identifying documents and important papers from everyday theft and damage, but it can also keep those items from falling into the wrong hands in an emergency. Password protecting your computer can also keep someone out of it after you’ve had to evacuate.
Mitigating Risk after the Storm
Recovering from any kind of weather emergency or natural disaster can take a toll on the victims. The last thing you should need to deal with after one is a scam. Often, impostors offer fake government assistance, bogus home inspections, or masquerade as officials who want to gain access to your property to help repair any damage caused by the disaster.
There are a variety of ways that these criminals can strike, so consider the following to help you use your best judgement:
- Be careful not to let a desire to return to normal force you to let your guard down or make hasty decisions.
- Do not allow access to your property to someone who does not supply legitimate identification.
- When asked to pay up front for materials or labor, use caution.
- Do not allow contractors to begin work without getting a price quote in writing (to avoid hefty “surprise” fees after the work is completed).
- Be on the lookout for roving out-of-town crews or unlicensed people who take advantage of the latest storm to steal from the victims.
- It’s also important to be on the lookout for fake charities that often pop up in the aftermath of a storms. To avoid donating to a scammer, only use trusted sources of charitable giving.
While storms and other natural disasters can’t be avoided, you can take the necessary steps to properly secure your personal information ahead of time and minimize risk of falling victim to fraud after them. If you haven’t already, consider signing up for an identity protection service that includes credit and identity monitoring, fraud identification, and 24/7 resolution assistance for an extra layer of protection. Purchase Iris identity protection today to give your family the peace of mind of knowing that if you are targeted by a fraudster or your information is compromised, our team will be here 24/7/365 to resolve the issue for you — so you can focus on the other important aspects of storm recovery.