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Protect Against Identity Theft in the Aftermath of a Tornado

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By Matt Cullina of Identity Theft 911

Survivors of the tornadoes that killed hundreds in the South need to prepare for another threat, this one man-made: Fraudsters often target victims in the aftermath of this kind of large-scale natural disaster.

The violent storms that ravaged six states in April left thousands homeless and unable to access their personal documents. The tornadoes also scattered confidential personal information including bank and credit card statements and social security cards. This material may have blown miles away never to be recovered. Or it may wind up on a stranger’s front lawn.

The tornadoes were the country’s worst natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. After Katrina, the FBI reported a marked increase in insurance fraud in the area. Of the more than 80 billion government dollars appropriated for reconstruction efforts in the region, it is estimated that insurance fraud accounts for between $4 and $6 billion.

Alabama has been the hardest hit. State Attorney General Luther Strange has warned survivors to be on high alert.

So, even as survivors rebuild their lives they face the serious danger of identity theft. Here are some steps victims can take to stay safe:

  1. Protect important information and documents. Whether you’re in a shelter, staying with friends or crashing on your family’s couch, never let these items leave your sight. They are the key to your identity—and will need this information to prove who you are.
  2. Be proactive and check your credit report by calling 1-877-322-8228 or visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. Consider adding an initial security alert to your credit report, by visiting www.experian.com/fraud/center.html or by calling 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742).
  3. Ask the post office to hold your mail until you return home. This will keep thieves from finding sensitive materials that are left in your mailbox.

Identity Theft 911 fraud specialists have years of experience helping to protect financial, credit and identity data, while maintaining uninterrupted access to financial accounts. Our experts can also help quickly replace important documents. If you become a victim of identity theft we can help by providing one-on-one guidance through the resolution process and minimizing the damage, stress and lost time you suffer.

After all, the disaster survivors have already been through enough.

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A version of this article originally appeared on Identity Theft 911 on May 5, 2011.

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