Calgary, July18, 2013 - As floods raged through southern Alberta in June, muddy water carried away peoples' homes, cars and, in some cases, their lives. As we begin to rebuild our homes and our communities, the BBB encourages people to protect themselves from all manner of scams and frauds that can follow a natural disaster - including identity theft.
"Flood waters may have separated many from their passports, credit card statements, birth certificates and other potentially damaging documents that could compromise the security of their identity," says Sandra Crozier-McKee, president and CEO of the BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay. "We encourage homeowners to take action as soon as possible to ensure their safety against identity theft."
The BBB recommends the following steps:
- Make a list of all of your important documents and where they were stored.
- Check to make sure you know where everything is. If your documents are in your possession, but damaged, have them replaced as soon as possible and destroy the old ones by shredding them with a cross-cut shredder.
- Make a list of all local businesses that may have your personal information on file and contact them to see how they were affected by the flood.
- If you are unable to locate certain documents or you fear your information may have been compromised, consider placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit file which can help prevent fraudulent charges to your existing accounts or the opening of new accounts in your name. Contact the fraud departments of any of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.
- Online phishing scams also pop up after natural disasters in which thieves pose as a company that lost your data like bank account, credit card or social insurance number. No matter how official the caller sounds, do NOT give them your information. Legitimate companies will not contact you this way.
"This disaster caught so many of us by surprise, I think very few of us were prepared to protect our documents from damage or exposure to potential fraudsters," says Crozier-McKee. "We encourage everyone to take this experience, learn from it, and prepare for the future."
The BBB offers the following tips to protect your documents before disaster strikes:
- Gather up all of your personal and financial information and store it in a waterproof bag inside a fireproof safe. Some of the documents you should collect include:
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificates
- Death Certificates
- Adoption Paperwork
- Immigration paperwork
- Social Insurance Cards and Statements
- Insurance Paperwork (Home, Health, and Auto)
- Lease/Mortgage Paperwork
- Past Tax Returns
- Bank and Credit Card Statements
- Investment Paperwork
- Utility Bills
- Consider electronic billing for your credit cards and other bills.
- Take photocopies of your important documents and keep them in a safe-deposit box away from your home.
- Scan the same documents and store them electronically on a password-protected flash drive away from your home.
Infographics for television, print and web available on request.
Camie Leard, Director of Marketing and Communications
BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay
Phone: (403) 930-3395
Cell: (403) 84-7694