When a natural disaster strikes, victims may have so much running through their minds that the health of their credit reports and scores* isn't even a blip on their radar. But it's during difficult times that consumers may be most vulnerable to identity theft and other types of fraud. Keeping an eye on your credit reports and scores after a catastrophic event may help you stay vigilant and aware of fraudulent activity that is being carried out in your name.
Here are a few tips that may help you protect your good credit score from being affected by fraud:
- Identify Any Missing Information
Whether it's a tornado, earthquake or hurricane, a natural disaster can result in financial information being scattered and lost. For this reason, you should maintain an ongoing list of all records you have, which you can use to cross-check with items you find after the disaster. Items to include on your lists are your Social Security card, birth certificate, bank and credit card statements and medical records. Keeping a detailed list may help you identify more quickly any information that may be missing. In the case that you cannot find a certain document, contact the appropriate agency to order a new copy.In order to make sure your list is not lost in a disaster, mail it to a friend or family member in another geographic region, or email it to yourself using an email service that is accessible from any computer that has Internet access.
- Credit Monitoring to the Rescue
If you're a disaster victim and are unable to verify the safety and security of all of your private records, you may want to enroll in credit monitoring to stay abreast of the information in your credit reports. Credit monitoring provides you with an added layer of fraud protection which may lead to the early detection of unauthorized or fraudulent activity on your credit accounts. The best credit monitoring services provide you with the time, date and location of an illegitimate credit action, so you can contact authorities in a timely manner.
- Avoid Follow-Up Scams
Identity thieves often strike at you when you are most vulnerable, which is why you should keep up your guard. After a natural disaster, scams may pop up asking for your personal information, such as your address, dates of birth and Social Security number, in exchange for relief or assistance. More often than not, these offerings are frauds in disguise. So if you are in need of aid, make sure to research any organizations that offer you help so you can ensure they are a reputable and legitimate group.