In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, there are plenty of things for those on the East Coast to worry about. And while it may not be the first thing to think about, protecting your identity after a major natural disaster should be a concern. If your home is destroyed during a hurricane or natural disaster, your personal information and paperwork can go everywhere, leaving you open to identity theft—and making rebuilding even tougher.
The best way to protect yourself is to work ahead. Keep all of your important documents (think: marriage and birth certificates and property deeds), as well as copies of credit cards and driver’s licenses in a waterproof bag in a sturdy portable lockbox or safe. You can also opt to keep these materials off premise in a safe deposit box at a bank. If you choose to keep your original documents at home, the box should go in an easily accessible location in your home so that you can grab it and go if you need to evacuate in a hurry. You should make copies of everything from credit cards to marriage certificates to property deeds. You can also scan them and save in a Dropbox account or in a Google Docs—just be sure everything is secure and password protected.
If you’re a planner, that might be all well and good. But what happens if you evacuate your home and forget your identifying information?
You’ll have to request new copies of your information from the state and to do that, you’ll likely need to have your social security number and other important identifying information memorized.
If you didn’t grab your driver’s license on the way out of the house, you’ll have to start there, since getting copies of your social security card and birth certificate require a photo ID.
To Request Your Driver’s License:
Many states require you to file a report if your driver’s license is lost or stolen. To find out how to replace your driver’s license for your particular state, visit the Department of Motor Vehicles website at.
Specific requirements may vary state to state. For example, in California, you’ll be required to:
- Visit your DMV in person, so they can verify your identity
- Fill out a DL 44 form. The DMV will then verify your social security number, photo and personal information it has on file for you. If the can positively identify you, then they’ll issue you a new card.
To Request Your Birth Certificate:
- Again, here, policies can vary depending on your state. To find out what the state’s policy here.
- In general, you will need to:
- Contact the public health department in the state where you born.
- Write a check to pay for copies of your birth certificate
- Show a photo ID to prove your identity. Some state even require a notarized statement sworn under penalty of perjury that you are who you say you are.
- In general, you will need to:
To Request Your Social Security Card:
- Gather documents proving your identity. This can include your driver’s license or passport.
- Complete an Application for a Social Security Card.
- Take or mail your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office or your local Social Security Card Center. To find an office that serves your area, visit https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/FOLO/fo001.jsp.
Did you lose any other vital documents not covered in the above list? Figure out how to obtain copies of them by visiting USA.gov’s website.