The opportunities for identity thieves are magnified in a disaster situation, when highly sensitive personal documents, computers, cellphones and PDAs are left behind in a rush to vacate a home or office in the face of a disaster.
"People's lives revolve around digital data and most people don't have backups," explains John Rousseau, chief fraud officer of IdentityTheft 911, a Scottsdale, Ariz., company that helps protect households and businesses against identity theft.
"You see the panic in their face during a disaster when they need that information and recognize they can't reclaim their identity which someone else may have stolen," he says.
"The digital world enhances the ability to protect key documents by giving individuals the opportunity to scan valuable personal documents into a thumb drive or memory stick, transferring critical data that must be absolutely encrypted to a safe location," he says. "Creating digital files of family photographs, identity and financial documents incorporates redundancies that can protect families who lose primary documents due to disaster."