Natural Disasters and Identity Theft

Natural Disasters and Identity Theft

We had a record-breaking year for natural disasters in 2017, with $16 billion events upending peoples’ lives across the United States. Disaster preparedness is essential as we head into spring and summer, especially if you live in an area prone to flooding, hurricanes, wildfires or tornadoes.

Why? Because when people have to abandon their homes after an area-wide disaster, they frequently overlook key documents and identification, including:

    • Birth certificates
    • Financial and insurance account records and numbers
    • Medical records
    • Passports
    • Social Security cards

These items are key to protecting your financial life and good name. And they could be destroyed by fire, carried away by water or wind, or even stolen by looters. The last thing you need during post-disaster cleanup is to deal with the red tape to replace documents and IDs while fighting identity theft or fraud. This article explains:

    • Where natural disasters are most common
    • Types of fraud that happen after disasters
    • 5 things you can do ahead of time to protect yourself

The fraud after the storm

Since 1953, the federal government has declared disasters across every state. The top-five states for federal disaster declarations since 1953 are highlighted below.

Rank Total # of federal disasters

    1. Texas 254
    2. California 250
    3. Oklahoma 167
    4. Washington 132
    5.  Florida 122

After a disaster, emergency services providers and good Samaritans are followed by fraudsters looking for significant money-making opportunities. How significant? After the 2016 Louisiana flooding, a single fraudster used stolen identities to submit 55 unemployment assistance applications, which would have netted her more than $150,000. The federal government established a National Center for Disaster Fraud after being inundated with fraud complaints after natural and man-made disasters.

Why fraudsters target natural disasters

Fraudsters know that after a disaster they have plenty options for…

Continue reading this Grange article.


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