As survivors of recent hurricanes can attest, it is essential to be prepared for the unexpected, both physically and financially. Being adequately insured and having an emergency savings fund are important. But so is having the personal and financial information you may need to manage your finances if you lose access to your home.
Fraud increases after a natural disaster, as thieves break into damaged or evacuated homes to search for documents that can be used for identity theft. Other common scams include fake charities, home inspectors or government workers who show up requesting personal information or, in some instances, money.
Another scam is changing the address of affected families in the hopes of capturing insurance claim checks that are issued after a disaster.
Create an Evacuation Kit
To help identify and organize the information and documents you would want, start a tool such as the Family Records Almanac offered by the Financial Fitness Association. The Almanac that can be downloaded and printed has places to record everything from financial account numbers to family histories. You may want to put the pages in a binder with plastic storage sleeves to hold documents like property deeds, tax returns and insurance policies.
You may also want to store valuable personal items like photo albums, jewelry and family heirlooms in a central location so you can easily gather them if you are forced out of your home. At least know where these items are so you can find them in a hurry. Valuable items such as coin collections, stock certificates and negotiable bonds should be kept in a safe deposit box.
Have an Evacuation Plan
In the confusion of a disaster, it is important to be able to find and contact family members. Establish a rendezvous location and travel route to use if you have to get out of your immediate area. Keep a list of important phone numbers handy and make sure you have some cash to pay your living expenses for a few days.
No one can prevent a natural disasters or fire destroying your home. However, having your financial and personal information safe can make the recovery much easier.