Identity Theft

Hurricane Isaac: 10 Tips to Keep Your Identity Safe

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Naming tropical storms has been around since 1950, largely to avoid confusion among forecasters when more than one storm is brewing. But Hurricane Isaac, which delayed the Republican National Convention this week and is now projected to hit the Gulf Coast, has taken this anthropomorphic practice to a new level.

When Hurricane Isaac was initially projected to hit Tampa during the convention, Rush Limbaugh said the storm, or the hype around it, was Obama’s fault. A Ron Paul for President Facebook fan page wondered if the storm had a vendetta against the GOP for denying him the nomination. (The post didn’t get too many “Likes.”) The Examiner.com asked readers if the hurricane’s possible path suggested it was a Democrat. And the Internet wondered if the storm would be as strong as the drinks served by the Love Boat bartender, Isaac Washington.

Despite the many faces attached to this hurricane, these storms are no laughing matter. They endanger you, your loved ones and your personally identifiable information.

Those who find themselves in the path of the storm can follow these tips for protecting themselves and their data. For people who live in the areas threatened by the storm, check out the safety checklists from the American Red Cross and FEMA for what to do before, during and after a hurricane.

Free Credit Check & MonitoringAnd be sure to follow these expert tips on protecting your identity:

1. Have vital documents safe and ready to go. You should gather up all of your personal and financial information, store this paperwork in one place in a waterproof bag, and put it in a safe, if possible.

2. Make backup copies and scans. Have a copy of all the contents of your wallet, originals of important papers (like birth certificate, driver’s license, passport, etc.), and backups for computers, laptops, digital photos and smartphones in a safe-deposit box or scanned into a computer backup device stored off-premises or in an encrypted file online where you can retrieve them.

3. Create a family emergency disaster and communications plan. Since families may not be together when disaster strikes, you have to think about how your family will communicate in different situations. Create a communications plan and primary and secondary contact plan of who you will call and how in the event of an emergency. You can also include a pre-designated primary and secondary meeting place. A sample plan and contact card are available from the government at fema.gov.

4. If you have to evacuate, just grab the waterproof bag of documents and go. Even better, if the safe is portable, take the whole thing.

5. Keep emergency numbers handy for key support functions and home utilities, like emergency services, electrical power, natural gas, water, telephone, etc. Also know where your shut-off switches and/or valves are for these utilities and know how to shut them down. In the event of a pending or significant disaster, turning off utilities can help prevent secondary fires, explosions and internal flooding at your residence.

6. Consider remote electronic data storage — it is cheap and easy. If you have some irreplaceable papers and/or special family photographs, historical documents, estate and trust records, such as wills, power of attorney letters, etc., consider scanning the select items onto a disk and/or storing them in an accessible, online vault.

7. For insurance purposes, as well as later property identification, record the model and serial numbers for your big-ticket items, such as a large-screen TV, audio equipment or other personal belongings of value. You will also want to photograph these items as evidence of possession and store these photos on disk and/or electronic vault so they can be easily retrieved.

8. Keep your cell phones and PDAs charged, and bring your chargers with you in the event of evacuation.

9. 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 you will need this information to prove who you are.

10. Ask the U.S. Postal Service to hold your mail until you return home. Look at getting a post office box. This will keep thieves from finding sensitive materials that are left in your mailbox.

A version of this article originally appeared on Identity Theft 911 Blog.

Image: NASA Goddard Photo and Video, via Flickr

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