The path to recovery can be challenging but take it one step at a time. In Part III of Navigating Natural Disasters: From Preparation to Recovery, we’ll walk through steps you may need to take immediately following a disaster: how to protect your identity and avoid scams; what to do if your property is damaged; and finding assistance from community organizations and government agencies if needed.
Protecting yourself from fraud
In the aftermath of a disaster, you might encounter situations where people ask for sensitive information, like your Social Security number. Unfortunately, scammers can take advantage of these moments to attempt identity theft. Even if you’re already cautious about scams, it’s always a good idea to look out for your identity, bank account(s), and credit record. Here’s how:
1. Freeze Your Credit: Utilize federal law for free credit freezes at Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian to hinder identity thieves from opening new accounts.
2. Fraud Alerts: Consider a one-year fraud alert on your credit record for added security in new credit applications.
3. Beware of Common Scams: Stay vigilant against post-disaster scams:
4. Reporting Scams: Swiftly report scams to:
- Local police and state attorney general.
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721.
What to do if your property is damaged
After experiencing a disaster, the process of recovery and rebuilding can feel overwhelming. However, by following these crucial steps, you can effectively navigate the challenges and work towards restoring stability in your life.
Assessing damage to your property:
- Take immediate action to help prevent further damage to your property.
- E.g., remove wet drywall and carpet to mitigate mold growth, secure openings with boards, use tarps for temporary cover, and/or install fencing to protect belongings and restrict access to hazardous areas.
- Capture the extent of the damage:
- Before undertaking any repairs, thoroughly document the extent of the damage for insurance purposes.
- Take photographs, including debris, and keep meticulous records of all damaged items.
- This documentation will be essential when discussing settlements with your insurance company.
- Avoid making permanent repairs until an insurance adjuster assesses the damage. If you must make temporary repairs right away, keep meticulous records of the costs incurred, as they may be eligible for reimbursement by your insurance company.
File an insurance claim and notify us:
If your property has sustained damage that is be covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy(ies), file an insurance claim to help fund repairs. It is important to notify your mortgage servicer after filing a homeowners insurance claim so they can be ready to support you as needed throughout the process.
If we are your mortgage servicer, here’s what to do first:
- First, contact your insurance company to file a claim.
- Next, call 833.253.1133 to notify us that you have started the claims process with your insurance carrier. Once we understand the extent of the damage, we will send you a packet of information to guide you through the claims process. This will include information about how claims funds will be disbursed to you.
- Then, you’ll be able to check the status of your claim at www.propertyclaimcenter.com. On your first visit, click “Create Account” to register. You will need to enter your loan number and email address to complete registration.
For more information about this process, please see our Disaster Claims & Assistance FAQs. If we are not your mortgage servicer, please contact your mortgage servicer for information and guidance.
Seek financial assistance if needed
If you anticipate the disaster leading to financial hardship and difficulty making your mortgage payments on time, reach out to your mortgage servicer early for guidance on mortgage assistance options and how to apply. If we are your mortgage servicer, explore our Financial Hardship FAQs for information about options that may be available to you and how to apply.
Secure temporary housing if needed:
- If the rebuilding process takes an extended period, consider finding temporary housing options.
- FEMA aids in locating hotels with rooms temporarily covered by the agency during the transition period.
- Explore whether your homeowner’s insurance can help cover temporary housing expenses.
- Retain receipts for temporary lodging costs, as they may be reimbursable by your insurance company.
Seek disaster-related assistance:
- FEMA offers various forms of assistance for areas declared as disaster zones.
- The American Red Cross provides temporary support with food, shelter, recovery plans, and medical care during disasters.
- Explore low-interest disaster relief loans offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), which are available to businesses, nonprofits, and homeowners for replacing or repairing damaged assets.
Rebuilding after a disaster is a challenging journey, but by following these steps and utilizing available resources, you can gradually restore your life and create a path towards recovery.
For educational purposes only. If we are your mortgage servicer, please contact us for specific guidance.