With Hurricane Matthew bearing down on the East Coast, it seems timely to think about our planning for natural disasters. Natural disasters can destroy your personal property and severely impair your ability to conduct financial transactions. If you had only a few minutes to evacuate your home, and had to be away for several days or weeks, would you have access to cash, banking services and the personal identification documents you would need to support your family?
The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. offer tips on what to have ready if a disaster should strike without warning:
Forms of Identification: These include driver’s licenses, medical insurance cards, Social Security cards, passports and birth certificates. While it is best to have originals, it is also important to have copies, in case originals are misplaced or destroyed.
Checks and Deposit Slips: Even if you rarely write checks, consider having your checking account number handy. That way you can authorize an important payment over the phone. If you do rely on checks, have enough blank checks and deposit slips to last a month or so.
ATM Cards, Debit Cards and Credit Cards: Make sure you know your PINs; do not write them down or carry them with the cards!
Cash: ATMs, credit card machines and gas pumps in affected areas might not be functioning, so it is a good idea to have cash available for necessary purchases. The amount will depend on the size of your family, your expected financial needs and your ability to use debit or credit cards to make purchases.
Phone Numbers for Financial Service Providers: Make a list of the local and toll-free numbers for your bank, credit card companies, mortgage lender, brokerage firms and insurance companies. You might need to contact these providers to defer a payment, replace lost cards or open a new account.
Account Numbers: These would include bank and brokerage account numbers, credit card numbers and auto and homeowner’s insurance policy numbers. Copy the front and back of your credit cards so that you have the card number and the toll-free contact number on the back.
Safe Deposit Box Key: You cannot get into your safe deposit box without your key, no matter what forms of identification you present.
After you have gathered this information, store it in a safe, protected place that will be easily accessible should you have to evacuate. Do not leave it out in the open or in an unlocked drawer. Many identity theft victims have been “robbed” by family members or workers within their homes.
For more tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA Inc.