Ways to Protect Your Credit and Finances in Natural Disasters
Tornados, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes. All of them can wreck havoc not just on your home, but on your finances and credit as well. Gerri Detweiler, Credit.com's Director of Consumer Education, shares tips for protecting your credit and finances during a natural disaster.
Know Who You Owe
You probably have a routine for paying your bills, whether that means paying them online or by mail. But what happens if you don't have access to your computer or your mail? Be sure to keep a list of your creditors and contact information in a safe place - a safe deposit box, for example, or in your emergency kit. (You've got one, right?)
Reach Out to Them
If you've been a victim of a natural disaster, it's important that you contact your creditors as soon as you're safe and out of harm's way. Creditors are often willing to work with you but only if you're proactive and contact them when the disaster occurs. Many banks, creditors and service providers have special natural disaster policies and procedures designed to help their customers with account issues and payment delays. The key to getting help is to act quickly. Never assume that your creditors automatically know that you've been hit by a natural disaster and you're stuck in the thick of it.
Remember, late payments can remain on your credit report for seven years - much longer than it will take (hopefully) to recover otherwise.
Monitor Your Credit - Now
Lastly, it's also important, if you've had a natural disaster disrupt your life, to check your credit reports regularly in case you did miss an important bill. You can check your credit reports for free from each of the three major credit reporting agencies once a year through the federally mandated free credit report website AnnualCreditReport.com. It's also good to monitor your credit score for changes — and you can do that for free once a month using Credit.com's Credit Report Card.
Ideally, though, you want to start monitoring your credit now so that's one less thing to worry about if disaster strikes.
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