Protecting Your Identity and Financial Interests
God helps those who help themselves.
– Algernon Sydney from a 1698 article titled Discourses Concerning Government
Identity theft has become a major concern to almost everyone. As a consequence, you should have a plan to protect your personal and financial information and be monitoring your credit status on a regular basis. During a crisis it will be of utmost importance to be able to prove and protect your identity.
Neither FEMA nor the Red Cross directly address the issue of identity theft, although both make it clear you need proof of your identity to benefit from some of their recovery programs. When you are displaced you are out of your element and your normal guard is either completely down or compromised to some extent. Your faculties may not be as sharp as they would be normally, so remain alert and be aware of your surroundings. You will be carrying, either on your person or in your Kit, vital documents which are unique to you. Take care not to leave them unattended at any time!
Criminals and other malevolent (wicked) people thrive on or otherwise exploit vulnerabilities during a time of crisis. Identity theft can happen to anyone at any time. Not everyone who offers help is being a Good Samaritan who has your best interests at heart. In fact, it’s best to ask anyone you deal with to identify who they are by showing their credentials. Write down their personal information and any organization they say they represent. Most people do not expect others to be deceptive or to illegally profit from their misfortune, but it happens all too often.
Sources of Identity Theft
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge and/or consent. By representing themselves as someone they are not, they are committing fraud. The following are some common sources of fraud that can be used individually or in combination with one another to trade off of your goodwill:
- Credit or debit cards themselves or the numbers from those cards
- ATM, gas and department store cards
- Social Security numbers
- Bank account information
- Telephone calling card numbers or cell phone account information
- Computer or online account log-on and password information
- Utility and other telecommunication/cable account information
- Driver’s licenses personal identification cards, passports/visas
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