Better Business Bureau Offers Tips for Securing your Legal and Financial documents

Secure your identity: Know what to toss, keep and where to store it

If a natural disaster or the unexpected were to occur, would you be prepared? Unfortunately, severe financial losses from uninsured property or the destruction of vital documents could greatly affect the ability to work or make essential transactions.

In recognition of National Consumer Protection Week, Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin advises consumers to anticipate the worst case scenario and make sure your vital documents are in a safe place.

Important documents that should be safely stored in your home may include your birth or marriage certificates, Social Security card, car title, property deeds, copies of insurance policies and a will. BBB recommends storing these documents in a fireproof box or safe, or in a bank’s safe deposit box.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recommends storing valuables, family keepsakes and pictures of your home’s contents for insurance purposes in a safe deposit box. If you do have a home safe, make sure all of your essential documents are stored together in a discreet location, but one you can easily access. Remember, no safe deposit box or home safe is completely protected from theft, fire, flood or other damage, but taking these precautions could save your important documents from ruin.

To help you get organized and prepared, your BBB and the FDIC offers the following advice:

Shred documents containing personal information. Document shredding and electronics recycling are two of the most effective ways to dispose of sensitive records, data, documents and information. Electronic devices, even when no longer in use, often retain confidential personal information that can fall into the wrong hands if disposed of incorrectly. Shred all statements and applications you get in the mail that you don’t want to keep, including credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms, billing statements for utilities and phone service.
Protect your Social Security number, account numbers and passwords. Don’t carry these numbers in your wallet. Give out your Social Security number only if absolutely necessary, and offer to provide another type of personal identifier, if possible.

Know what financial records to toss and when. BBB recommends storing your tax records for at least seven years. Credit card and bank account statements that don’t have any tax significance can be tossed after a year. Credit card and debit card receipts should be saved until the transaction appears on your statement. Remember, any documents that contain important personal information should be shredded to avoid identity theft.
Have an accessible emergency savings fund. According to the FDIC, experts recommend having an emergency savings that can accommodate at least three to six months of living expenses. An emergency savings fund is also an alternative to taking out a loan or dipping into another fund, such as retirement savings.

Have an emergency evacuation bag or box stocked. Most of what you are likely to pack inside will be related to personal safety. The American Red Cross recommends your emergency kit include – at minimum – water, non-perishable food, flashlights, a first aid kit and a 7-day supply of prescription medications. Also, include copies of personal documents, including extra cash, copies of your current credit cards and identification cards, a key to your safe deposit box and contact information for your financial services providers. This kit should be waterproof, easy to carry and kept in a safe place.
For additional information and tips, visit their website. To make sure you’re ready for the unexpected, visit the Ready website or FDIC website.

For the latest news and information, follow us on Watch Your Buck website, Facebook and Twitter. To check out a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit Better Business Bureau website. Find other news story topics by visiting our Press Release News Center.