When a catastrophe like Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma happens, your world can be turned upside down. During these tough times, it may be difficult to know who to trust and where to look for guidance and assistance, as well as what financial steps to take as you begin recovering. These are a few organizations that can help immediately after a natural disaster:
Start thinking about your financial obligations once you have addressed your most urgent needs, especially if you have experienced damage to your home or property. We have five steps you can take to help you secure your home and finances:
1. Contact your insurance company. If the storm damaged your home, car, or property and you have insurance, you can start the claims process by calling your insurance company. If you plan to claim damages related to flooding or storm damage, you should verify that you have the right kind of coverage. If you don’t have a copy of your insurance policy, you can ask for one. Ask for an electronic copy of your policy—receiving physical mail may be difficult following the flood. That will help you verify your coverage. If possible, take photos and videos of your damaged property. Documenting damage will help you with your insurance claim.
2. Register for assistance. Registering online at , is the quickest way to register for FEMA assistance. If you are unable to access the internet, you can also call at 1-800-621-3362.
3. Contact your mortgage servicer. Talk to your mortgage lender right away and tell them about your situation. Damage to your home does not eliminate your responsibility to pay your mortgage, however your lender may be willing to work with you given the circumstances. If you don’t have your lender’s contact information, your monthly mortgage statement, or coupon book with you, you can or call toll-free at (888) 679-6377 to find the company that services your mortgage.
4. Contact your credit card companies and other lenders. If your income is interrupted or your expenses go up, and you don’t think you will be able to pay your credit cards or other loans, be sure to contact your lenders as soon as possible. Ask your creditor to work with you. Explain your situation and when you think you might be able to resume normal payments. It is important to make those calls before your next payments are due.
5. Contact your utility companies. If your home is damaged to the point you can’t live in it, ask the utility companies to suspend your service. This could help free up money in your budget for other expenses.
After contacting the companies related to your most urgent financial needs, take a look at your bills and set priorities—including your mortgage, rent, and insurance payments. Given the countless people experiencing distress from the flooding, contacting your creditors may be difficult. Be persistent and make every effort to reach them.
While many people pull together during times of crisis, there is also an increased risk for scams and fraud. To avoid scams, you need to ask questions—lots of them. Questions will help you determine if something is too good to be true. If the person trying to sell you a product or service can’t or won’t answer your questions, this is a red flag that you might want to look for someone else to do business with.
Watch out for:
Starting over requires a lot of hard choices. If you have been affected by disaster and want to make sure your financial records are secure, here is a to help you consolidate all the information you need—including account numbers, personal records and financial records. Being prepared and knowing how to protect yourself can help you avoid scams and get back on your feet faster.