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FTC - Financial Readiness: As Critical as Fully Charged Batteries

6/1/2006

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This information is provided under a cooperative agreement between the Better Business Bureau and the U. S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has prepared this information.

FTC Consumer Alert
Financial Readiness: As Critical as Fully Charged Batteries
Home is where most people feel safe and comfortable. But sometimes — say, when a hurricane, flood, tornado, wildfire, or other disaster strikes — it’s safest to pack up and go to another location.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, says that when it comes to preparing for situations like weather emergencies, financial readiness is as important as a flashlight with fully charged batteries. Leaving your home can be stressful, but knowing that your financial documents are up-to-date, in one place, and portable can make a big difference at a tense time.

Here are some tips from the FTC for financial readiness in case of an emergency:
Conduct a household inventory. Make a list of your possessions and document it with photos or a video. This could help if you are filing insurance claims. Keep one copy of your inventory in your home on a shelf in a lockable, fireproof file box; keep another in a safe deposit box or another secure location.
Buy a lockable, fireproof file box. Place important documents in the box; keep the box in a secure, accessible location on a shelf in your home so that you can “grab it and go” if the need arises. Among the contents:
your household inventory
a list of emergency contacts, including family members who live outside your area
copies of current prescriptions
health insurance cards or information
policy numbers for auto, flood, renter’s, or homeowner’s insurance, and a list of telephone numbers of your insurance companies
copies of other important financial and family records — or notes about where they are — including deeds, titles, wills, birth and marriage certificates, passports, and relevant employee benefit and retirement documents. Except for wills, keep originals in a safe deposit box or some other location. If you have a will, ask your attorney to keep the
original document.
a list of phone numbers or email addresses of your creditors, financial institutions, landlords, and utility companies (sewer, water, gas, electric, telephone, cable)
a list of bank, loan, credit card, mortgage, lease, debit and ATM, and investment account numbers
Social Security cards
backups of financial data you keep on your computer
an extra set of keys for your house and car
the key to your safe deposit box
a small amount of cash or traveler’s checks. ATMs or financial institutions may be closed.
Consider renting a safe deposit box for storage of important documents. Original documents to store in a safe deposit box might include:
deeds, titles, and other ownership records for your home, autos, RVs, or boats
credit, lease, and other financial and payment agreements
birth certificates, naturalization papers, and Social Security cards
marriage license/divorce papers and child custody papers
passports and military papers (if you need these regularly, you could place the originals in your fireproof box and a copy in your safe deposit box)
appraisals of expensive jewelry and heirlooms
certificates for stocks, bonds, and other investments and retirement accounts
trust agreements
living wills, powers of attorney, and health care powers of attorney
insurance policies
home improvement records
household inventory documentation
a copy of your will
Choose an out-of-town contact. Ask an out-of-town friend or relative to be the point of contact for your family, and make sure everyone in your family has the information. After some emergencies, it can be easier to make a long distance call than a local one.
Update all your information. Review the contents of your household inventory, your fireproof box, safe deposit box, and the information for your out-of-town contact at least once a year.
Resources
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Community and Family Preparedness Program
American Red Cross Community Disaster Education
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (see also www.ready.gov/america/natural_disasters.html)
Your insurance company
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

June 2006

This information is provided under a cooperative agreement between the Better Business Bureau and the U. S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has prepared this information. The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid these practices. To learn more about the FTC and its services, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. 
 

 

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