COLLEGE STATION – In the story “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Sherlock Holmes contrived to have the opera singer Irene Adler divulge the location of an important item by convincing her there was a fire in her house, knowing she would rush to retrieve it from its hiding place.
But what happens if someone loses an important item such as a personal or financial document in a fire, flood or other disaster? How does one go about getting it replaced?
“We rarely give thought to the important documents and personal records in our lives,” said Nancy Granovsky, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service family economics specialist. “But when we lose them or they are ruined by water, fire or some other type of natural disaster or unexpected occurrence, we realize how urgently we need to replace them.”
Granovsky said AgriLife Extension’s publication, “Personal and Family Financial Records Inventory,” available through the agency’s bookstore at https://www.agrilifebookstore.org, provides a place to list important financial information, such as names of financial advisers and account numbers, as well as names of financial institutions and insurance companies.
The publication is available as a form-fillable PDF that will allow it to be updated easily and stored electronically.
“This publication gives guidance on how to consolidate all your personal and family financial information and can simplify the retrieval of information should your paper documents be lost, stolen or misplaced,” she said. “Just make sure that you keep the hard copy and/or electronic version, whichever you choose, in a safe place.”
Granovsky said information on which agency, service or business to contact if there is a need to replace important documents can be found on the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network, or Texas EDEN, website at http://texashelp.tamu.edu.
“Texas EDEN has a variety of disaster preparedness and recovery materials that provide information on how individuals, families and businesses can prepare for and recover from a disaster,” Granovsky said. “They contain practical, helpful information from AgriLife and Texas A&M University System experts, as well as experts from state and federal agencies and throughout the national land-grant university Extension system.”
Here is some information from the Texas EDEN site on which entity to contact for replacing many important documents:
– To replace a Texas driver’s license or state identification card, contact the Texas Department of Public Safety at 512-424-2600 or https://www.dps.texas.gov/ or call the issuing DPS county office.
– To replace checks, credit cards, ATM and/or debit cards, or check on safe deposit boxes, contact your financial institution or get information from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation at 877-275-3342 or http://www.fdic.gov.
– To replace credit cards, contact the issuing institution. Some of these are: American Express, 800-992-3404 or http://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards; Discover, 800-347-2683 or https://www.discover.com/credit-cards/help-center/account/replacement-cards.html; MasterCard, 800-622-7747 or http://www.mastercard.com/cgi-bin/emergserv.cgi; and Visa, 800-847-2911, http://www.usa.visa.com.
– If unable to remember specific credit cards, obtain a credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus. To get credit reports from Equifax, Experian or TransUnion, call 877-322-8228 or go to http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
– To replace Social Security cards, another form of identification, such as a driver’s license, will be required. Contact Social Security at 800-772-1213 or http://www.ssa.gov.
– To replace a birth certificates or marriage license, contact the Department of State Health Services at 512-458-7111 or https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/.
— Medicare replacement cards can be requested by calling 800-772-1213, going to the Social Security website at http://1.usa.gov/1gjZfhF or visiting the local Social Security office.
– To replace a passport, contact the U.S. Department of State, Passport Services, Consular Lost/Stolen Passport Section, at 202-955-0430 or http://travel.state.gov/passport/lost/us/us_848.html.
– Copies of federal income tax returns can be obtained by contacting the Internal Revenue Service at 800-829-1040 or by downloading the “Request for Copy of Tax Return” at:
http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506.pdf. Complete the request and send it to the IRS office listed on the form.
– For replacement of military records, contact the National Archives and Records Administration at 866-272-6272 or http://www.archives.gov/contact/.
Granovsky also noted that when traveling, it is important to take only the “basics” of whatever personal or financial documents may be needed.
“It’s easy to lose, misplace or leave behind important documents when you travel,” she said. “There’s also the possibility of theft. It’s best just to take whatever documents or personal information that is essential and leave the rest in a secure place back home.”
She also noted that if someone has valuable documents or hard-to-replace information, such as a work product on a thumb drive, it is important to protect these while traveling.
“I would recommend using a room safe if there is one,” she said. “And many hotels and motels have a either a safe or a secure area behind the front desk or in their offices. And make sure that any electronic files you are carrying are not your only copy.