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BBB CONSUMER TIPS: If disaster strikes, are you prepared financially?

September 30, 2018

With Hurricane Florence behind us, it seems timely to think about our natural disaster planning, in regard to finances. 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?

Better Business Bureau and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation 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: These cards give you access to cash and the ability to make payments on outstanding bills. Make sure you know your PIN numbers; do not write them down or carry them with the cards!

• Cash: ATMs, credit card machines and gas pumps in affected areas may not be functioning, so it is a good idea to have cash available for necessary purchases. The amount will depend upon 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 may 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. For credit cards, make a copy of the front and the back of the cards. Copying both sides will provide you with your number and expiration date from the front and the back will have the contact information for your financial institution. Just be sure to keep the copies in a safe and secure location.

• 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 found that the culprits were family members or workers within their homes.

For more BBB consumer tips, visit BBB.org.

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