Author Topic: Where do you store important documents?  (Read 4506 times)

Memphis Mustache

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Where do you store important documents?
« on: July 17, 2017, 11:24:27 AM »
So, I just wanted to get some thoughts on where everyone keeps their most important documents\records; basically, the kind of stuff that it would be a pain to replace.

Such as:
Birth Certificate
Social Security Card
Passport
Car Title
Deed/Title to house/property

Do you store your most important documents in a fireproof safe at home? In a safe deposit box at your bank? Digitally online or on a hard drive? In a filing cabinet at home?

I am just curious, as this is an area that I haven't really done a good job of dealing with, as I've been keeping everything in a filing cabinet at home. I know that I need to do a better job of protecting the hardest-to-replace documents and I am thinking that I will probably rent a safe deposit box from my bank but I was curious what others are doing.

Gimesalot

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2017, 12:05:37 PM »
As someone that has had to replace most of those documents, they are really not very difficult to replace in most circumstances.  FWIW, my American passport was stolen in China and while it was some hassle, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't that bad at all. 

So we keep our documents in a dresser drawer.  There are photos of them in our dropbox in case we need instant access to them.

sisto

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2017, 12:09:46 PM »
I use a fireproof safe at home
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Sailor Sam

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2017, 12:19:42 PM »
1. Hard copies in a plastic file box at home - birth certificate; passport; SS card; driver's license; Coast Guard licensing credentials, qualifications, and certifications; work qualifications

2. Xeroxed copies of all the above in the Fire & Emergency bag that sits by the front door

3. Xeroxed copies of all the above in Get Home bag that lives in the car

4. Digital scans on thumb drives in various places - home, work, off-site.

I scan documents as they come in, and resync the 3 thumb drives in Jan. Once the system is in place, it's easy to keep it rolling.

madamwitty

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2017, 12:38:11 PM »
I also use a fireproof safe at home for birth certificates, etc. I also scanned everything (including the contents of my wallet, in case it gets lost or stolen) and keep it on an encrypted virtual drive on my laptop (which is backed up to USB in a couple different locations.) If I ever decide to put important documents on the cloud, I will definitely make sure they are encrypted.

Lepetitange3

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2017, 12:55:33 PM »
Sailor Sam has the same system we do plus two forms of cloud backup.  but we are also retired military so our storage standard may be a little crazy for normal people

Memphis Mustache

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2017, 02:00:43 PM »
Thanks for the feedback. I have considered both a fireproof safe at home and a bank safe deposit box and I was leaning towards the bank box, as I assume that the bank is less likely to be robbed\burglarized than my home and I would assume that it would also be less likely to have some type of fire that could cause the contents to burn up.


Sailor Sam

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2017, 02:27:41 PM »
For your documents, are you looking for 'safe' or 'easy access'?

The safe option often comes with a high pain in the ass-itude. Bank boxes have very limited access in the best of times. Introduce an emergency that shuts down that one bank, in that one town, and suddenly you have zero access to the documents you'd really prefer to have on hand as you re-start.

Same story for fire-resistant boxes. They may be water and heat resistant, but it might take the fire-overhaul team a couple days to let you back in. Meanwhile, your ass is right in the wind, and mould is growing all over your documents.

Thanks to my job, I see people suddenly thrown into circumstances they were definitely not expecting. They often have well implemented plans for keeping their documentation (and access to money) safe. Very safe! So safe, the system only had a single point of failure. And sadly, that point of failure just sank to the bottom of the ocean. It often makes them very sad.

You may decide the bank box is the way to go. Only you know what will let you sleep at night. I just thought I'd mention flexibility and redundancy, because those are often forgotten.

Capsu78

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2017, 02:27:56 PM »
I store all of the original documents you mentioned (including our will) in my bank safety box- secure, video monitored, fire suppression and "someplace other" than my house in case a tornado/ fire event visits my house.  I keep hard copy of everything in my home fire safe and a scanned copy of everything on my computer.  ( Easy to access a scan in case I just need the numbers off my passport etc.  As for passports, when my wife was traveling heavy international for work, we kept them home in safe, but now with a job change and no scheduled international, back in the bank box they went.
When I do need to retrieve them because we have an international trip coming up, it is convenient for me to pull the passport at the bank and then walk over to customer service to notify them where we will be using our ATM cards.

Capsu78

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2017, 02:35:52 PM »
Sailor Sams points are well taken.  Here is a deep dive on the topic from someone who had to evacuate from Katrina.  While the info is a bit dated technology wise, the lesson he learned the hard way can easily be extrapolated to todays concerns:

http://theplacewithnoname.com/blogs/klessons/p/0006.html

TheStachery

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2017, 02:43:39 PM »
I use a fireproof safe for the very important physical documents.  All very important docs are scanned and stored in my 1password vault (could synced).  All other docs are scanned and stored on my laptop that is backed up everyday.  The flaw in this is that if there is a fire I need to grab the back up disk, or my laptop since the files are all stored in the same location.

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2017, 02:55:10 PM »

We use a fireproof safe at home for things like SS cards and passports.

We use a safe deposit box at a bank for home deed, auto titles, wills and misc legal documents.  I have a trusted family member that has signature authority (and a second key) in case an emergency happens and something like an original Medical PoA is needed.  (Family member has copies... but original is in safe deposit box).

I also keep a full backup of all home computers (done once a quarter) on a disk in the safe deposit box.  (I do other backups more regularly that stay inside my house but only off-site once a quarter).
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RWD

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2017, 03:12:01 PM »
We also use a fireproof safe

Christof

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2017, 03:31:14 PM »
When you store documents in a bank safe make sure you understand how to retrieve them in an emergency.

Many years ago I went through the exercise of creating a disaster recovery plan and realized that when my house burns down, so do my safe key and possibly my ID. The ID wasn't a problem as the bank staff knew me, but the missing key would require to drill a hole into a safe. The bank estimated it would take three weeks to get someone into the bank and I obviously would have to replace the safe.

I now have copies of my documents and the safe key in different physical locations.

surfhb

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2017, 05:53:44 PM »
In a drawer next to my bed.   Any emergency or life threating event would outweigh loosing any important documents.     All these are easy to replace anyway.   

I try not to overthink these things.

scottish

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #15 on: July 17, 2017, 06:02:46 PM »

We use a fireproof safe at home for things like SS cards and passports.

We use a safe deposit box at a bank for home deed, auto titles, wills and misc legal documents.  I have a trusted family member that has signature authority (and a second key) in case an emergency happens and something like an original Medical PoA is needed.  (Family member has copies... but original is in safe deposit box).

I also keep a full backup of all home computers (done once a quarter) on a disk in the safe deposit box.  (I do other backups more regularly that stay inside my house but only off-site once a quarter).

Is this an external hard drive?   I use flash sticks for this purpose.

Zamboni

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #16 on: July 17, 2017, 06:12:46 PM »
My lawyer specifically advised me not to put my will in a difficult to access location like a home safe or bank safety deposit box . . . he also advised against distributing a zillion copies of it to people (just in case I elect to change it later, it is better if old version don't cause disputes after my death.)

So, I have my will in a binder on a bookshelf and I have mentioned to relatives that it is there.

My driving license is attached to my car key, and my passport and global entry ID are with me most of the time in my laptop bag (the license and passport ID's are not usually kept together, though, so hopefully I would only lose one at a time). Birth certificates and other important documents are in a file drawer. I was recently able to get certified copies of my own birth certificate from the hospital where I was born in Hawaii . . . it took awhile to receive them in the mail, but otherwise it wasn't a big deal. If my house burns down, I'll be more upset about losing a few sentimental things that are harder to replace.

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #17 on: July 17, 2017, 06:16:24 PM »

We use a fireproof safe at home for things like SS cards and passports.

We use a safe deposit box at a bank for home deed, auto titles, wills and misc legal documents.  I have a trusted family member that has signature authority (and a second key) in case an emergency happens and something like an original Medical PoA is needed.  (Family member has copies... but original is in safe deposit box).

I also keep a full backup of all home computers (done once a quarter) on a disk in the safe deposit box.  (I do other backups more regularly that stay inside my house but only off-site once a quarter).

Is this an external hard drive?   I use flash sticks for this purpose.

It's a conventional 2TB drive in a USB enclosure.  Plug it in, run script, unplug.
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frugalmom

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #18 on: July 17, 2017, 06:16:41 PM »
I used to have a really good insurance agent.  In addition to suggesting I walk around the house (early days of digital cameras) to take pictures of all our important (read expensive to replace stuff) and keep an accurate inventory.  She had lots of good ideas about storing back ups of documents.

What I ended up doing was taking pictures around the house and scanning the documents.  I then burned these things to CD's.  She actually kept a copy for me.  I kept a copy at the bank in my safety deposit box, and had a further copy "hidden" in a Music CD case in my CD collection.  The thought was the copy at the safety deposit box was the ultimate back up.  My agent had a copy incase my house was a total loss.  The copy in my house was just convince.  The original documents were in the safety deposit box. 

This excluded passport.  That was in the drawer as it was used many times a year.

This reminds me.  I should photograph my house again

Icecreamarsenal

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #19 on: July 17, 2017, 06:17:33 PM »
In a file cabinet.  3 feet from the fireplace.  I'm going to move the cabinet a couple of feet further away after reading these responses though.

kissthesky

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #20 on: August 05, 2017, 04:04:41 PM »
Fireproof safe is probably the best way to go. They are not cheap though. I haven't been able to justify buying one to replace using my filing cabinet in the office + just getting new ones if something bad happened. I also have my will and other important stuff in a "if I get hit by a bus biking to work tomorrow" online folder shared with my immediate family members.

GenXbiker

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #21 on: August 05, 2017, 04:50:22 PM »
Fireproof safe.

Also scans to files encrypted and stored off-site.

cchrissyy

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #22 on: August 05, 2017, 05:18:20 PM »
originals in the house, no special protection
digital copies online


I have had 2 home burglaries with loss of computers. one of those also stole my physical backup external hard drive (ugh!) and the other took passports (very easy to replace).  so, I'm a big fan of backing up somewhere-besides-home.

The reason not to have a safe is, unless it is the big kind you bolt into your house, a thied could steal everything in the safe all at once. it's an obvious target to steal, likely ot have high value items, and if a thief can lift it, they can take their sweet time  opening it form the safety of their own place.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #23 on: August 05, 2017, 05:35:57 PM »
Dropbox for digital copies, for convenience. A filing folder at home that's not protected by anything.

I don't own anything that can't be replaced. Even my paper stock certificates can go up in smokes and it would be fine.

SS cards are definitely replaceable. Every person gets 10 lifetime replacements. If you find yourself robbed or in a fire more than 10 times, you may want to rethink your lifestyle choices.

rockwater

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #24 on: August 05, 2017, 06:40:38 PM »
Recommendations on a quality, smaller, fireproof safe?

BudgetSlasher

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #25 on: August 05, 2017, 06:46:17 PM »
We have tiers.

1) Important documents that we almost never need (think title insurance records and title to car, as an aside there is no need to keep a deed to your house once it is recorded) are kept in a safety deposit box at the bank along with a some high value inherited items that are not often used. We might reconsider this if the box were not free due to the extent of our relationship with that organization. Honestly this also include SS cards and birth certificates.

2) Important documents that would still be a hassle to replace but that are used on a more regular basis (think passports and the like) are in a safe at home. It makes the DW feel better, but the reality is that: A) Fire proof does not mean that the document will not need to be replaced if they suffer through an entire house fire, B) That the safe's lock is no at all "secure", and C) Locating all of the "important" documents in a safe, that is not concealed in a truly cleaver manner or anchored in an above average manner, simply packages all of the importants for a potential thief to carry away and work on at their leisure.

3) Everything else is probably somewhere around the house, but neither of could readily locate.

Imma

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #26 on: August 06, 2017, 06:36:16 AM »
Maybe I'm incredibly naive but I think all of these documents are in one box in an Ikea Expedit. But then again, most of them wouldn't be too hard to replace in my country. I don't have my original birth certificate, or deeds to my house or mortgage, or will. My original birth certificate is kept by the city I was born in, the deeds and will are kept by the solicitor. You only receive certified copies of them for personal use and it's fairly easy to request a new certified copy of them when they are lost.

Of course, you are dependent on the city councils and solicitors to keep important documents safe, but when society has collapsed to the point birth records are not being kept, paperwork is the least of your worries. Even right through WWII these registers were always meticulously kept.

I think the most likely emergency to happen is something like an accident or sudden illness that would require our relatives to be able to find important documents and because they are stored together in a location that makes sense to people who know us, I'm sure they'd find them quickly.

skip207

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #27 on: August 06, 2017, 06:52:28 AM »
Passport in a safe along with National Insurance card. 
Drivers licence in my phone cover pocket. 
I don't think I have a birth certificate its not really needed in the UK once you have DL and PP.
All other documents like life insurance, car registrations etc are just in a normal filing cabinet.  If the house burns down with me in it I will let someone else worry about sorting all that!
Deeds to the house are all online now.

RetirementDreaming

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #28 on: August 06, 2017, 08:50:30 AM »
Fireproof safe at home.

HipGnosis

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #29 on: August 06, 2017, 10:45:21 AM »
This thread has opened my eyes - I need to update my document storage strategy and practice.

What is a 'MMM' approved or sanctioned way of getting documents scanned?

Also;  I haven't had a social security card for... longer than I can remember. 
But I was in the Air Force, so I had a military photo ID w/ my SSN (which even my ex knows by heart because how much it was used) and now have a DoD retiree photo ID with it.
Do I (or anyone) really 'need' a SS card??

Paul der Krake

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #30 on: August 06, 2017, 11:22:46 AM »
This thread has opened my eyes - I need to update my document storage strategy and practice.

What is a 'MMM' approved or sanctioned way of getting documents scanned?

Also;  I haven't had a social security card for... longer than I can remember. 
But I was in the Air Force, so I had a military photo ID w/ my SSN (which even my ex knows by heart because how much it was used) and now have a DoD retiree photo ID with it.
Do I (or anyone) really 'need' a SS card??

That's usually what people present for their I-9 (employment verification), but if you have a passport or intend on leaving the workforce soon it doesn't matter.

Spork

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #31 on: August 06, 2017, 01:22:32 PM »
This thread has opened my eyes - I need to update my document storage strategy and practice.

What is a 'MMM' approved or sanctioned way of getting documents scanned?

Also;  I haven't had a social security card for... longer than I can remember. 
But I was in the Air Force, so I had a military photo ID w/ my SSN (which even my ex knows by heart because how much it was used) and now have a DoD retiree photo ID with it.
Do I (or anyone) really 'need' a SS card??

I've been asked for copy of SS card several times (banks, employers, etc) even though it clearly says "not to be used for identification purposes" right there on the card.

I'd say the easiest way to scan documents is to just buy an inexpensive scanner and do it yourself.  I've had several over the years -- all very mid range in quality -- and I've always been happy with the results, even for photographs.  My current scanner is a all-in-one HP printer (but the printer portion is long broken).  We run linux only in the house, so usually my biggest concern is linux/SANE compatibility.  It's probably easier if you're running Windows/Apple.
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cchrissyy

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #32 on: August 06, 2017, 02:09:00 PM »
I have this scanner, which I love because it scans things into searchable PDFs
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003990GMQ

it's fast and handles stacks of sheets at once. it's small and portable enough to loan to friends. anyway, I have the order email, I bought as a business expense $250 back in 2011 and I'm still very happy with the purchase. Thanks to this thing, I only need to store one single box of papers at home, everything else is digital and easily found thanks to the searchable PDF thing : )

marshdesign

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #33 on: August 06, 2017, 07:56:44 PM »
Now when I rob your house I know exactly where to go! :)
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Laserjet3051

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #34 on: August 06, 2017, 09:03:15 PM »
Filing cabinet or drawer in my house.

Vertical Mode

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #35 on: August 06, 2017, 09:44:00 PM »
Posting to follow this thread. I really need to get my shit together on this front.
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HipGnosis

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #36 on: August 12, 2017, 12:11:30 PM »
I have this scanner, which I love because it scans things into searchable PDFs
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003990GMQ

it's fast and handles stacks of sheets at once. it's small and portable enough to loan to friends. anyway, I have the order email, I bought as a business expense $250 back in 2011 and I'm still very happy with the purchase. Thanks to this thing, I only need to store one single box of papers at home, everything else is digital and easily found thanks to the searchable PDF thing : )
Is 'searchable PDF' something that will be in the specs. of scanners?

gerardc

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #37 on: August 12, 2017, 12:23:41 PM »
In a drawer next to my bed.   Any emergency or life threating event would outweigh loosing any important documents.     All these are easy to replace anyway.   

I try not to overthink these things.

Agree, people here are way too paranoid. It's just a little bit of trouble to replace in a once in a lifetime situation.

In a file cabinet.  3 feet from the fireplace.  I'm going to move the cabinet a couple of feet further away after reading these responses though.

Haha, perfect.


GuitarStv

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #38 on: August 12, 2017, 03:01:57 PM »
Filing cabinet in my basement.  It's probably fireproof . . . I mean, it's made of sheet metal.  :P

Spork

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #39 on: August 12, 2017, 03:36:00 PM »
Filing cabinet in my basement.  It's probably fireproof . . . I mean, it's made of sheet metal.  :P

I am assuming this is meant tongue in cheek.... Just in case: not likely unless the cabinet is built to be fire proof.  Paper scorches around 400 F.  If you want to store photos or other media, you're looking to try to keep it below 125 F.
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dcamnc

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #40 on: August 12, 2017, 03:38:37 PM »
I have my stuff in a massive fireproof safe. That said, I had to replace most of these documents when the military lost them; they weren't too hard to replace actually.

Imma

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #41 on: August 13, 2017, 05:05:31 AM »
I have this scanner, which I love because it scans things into searchable PDFs
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003990GMQ

it's fast and handles stacks of sheets at once. it's small and portable enough to loan to friends. anyway, I have the order email, I bought as a business expense $250 back in 2011 and I'm still very happy with the purchase. Thanks to this thing, I only need to store one single box of papers at home, everything else is digital and easily found thanks to the searchable PDF thing : )
Is 'searchable PDF' something that will be in the specs. of scanners?

It's actually a software thing, not a hardware thing. What you need is called OCR (optical character recognition) and you can find that option in all PDF-software these days. I know Acrobat, NitroPDF and PhantomPDF all offer them and you can usually download the software for free on their website for a 30-day trial.

GuitarStv

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #42 on: August 13, 2017, 09:28:38 AM »
Filing cabinet in my basement.  It's probably fireproof . . . I mean, it's made of sheet metal.  :P

I am assuming this is meant tongue in cheek.... Just in case: not likely unless the cabinet is built to be fire proof.  Paper scorches around 400 F.  If you want to store photos or other media, you're looking to try to keep it below 125 F.

I meant that the cabinet itself wouldn't burn (and is therefore fireproof).  All the stuff inside certainly will.  :P

Rosy

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #43 on: August 13, 2017, 01:39:08 PM »
1. You might have heard of the biggest sinkhole ever, that recently opened up in Florida. Mr. R. works with the guy who's place is now about 50 feet under. He and his wife left for work and 30 minutes later it happened.
He had his info stored on a backup drive - gone of course, along with everything else.

Purely by luck, there was one small corner of his office that stuck out on top and after a few days a crew was able to retrieve his computer, his boat and trailer, that's all. The day after, the sinkhole increased in size and finished eating his house.
They are now living in an older RV which was parked in front of the garage. His wife was able to convince one of the emergency crew to drive it off the premises (on the day it happened), just in time before the sinkhole widened and access was lost forever.


2. I watched our place go up in flames when I was three, we escaped with nothing but the clothes on our back.

3. When we lived in Houston, we made it unscathed through Hurricane Charley. Drove up to see the damage at the beach (near Galveston) the following day, a whole row of homes near the beach was completely destroyed to smithereens, there was furniture and even a toilet strewn for a couple of miles along the beach.

I'm with Sailor Sam - it's good to be prepared and since we live in Hurricane country, a get the hell out of Dodge bag for evacuation and a get home bag for whatever. Copies and certified copies in different places.

Anyway - just having your important documents stored in the house is not a good idea. It also seems like common sense to have one designated person who has your full information or at least access to your documents or knows where to find them, in case of your demise.


alexboy

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #44 on: October 12, 2017, 07:30:06 AM »
I keep my documents in fireproof folder.  I store there important documents, passports, insurance papers, vital records etc... I'm more concerned about fire than theft. Btw, I also keep there a back up hard drive of all my pictures and some love letter from my wife when we just were dating:)

birdman2003

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #45 on: October 12, 2017, 07:45:58 AM »
I wonder if I should buy a small fireproof safe and keep it empty in my office at home.  The thief takes it home and opens it to find . . . nothing.  Meanwhile my documents are safely stored elsewhere.

Bateaux

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #46 on: October 12, 2017, 07:51:08 AM »
Big fire resistant gun safe.
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spicykissa

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #47 on: October 12, 2017, 08:12:53 AM »
In a little hanging file box from Target. And I don't even have digital backups of most things. Living on the edge, I guess!

onewayfamily

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #48 on: October 13, 2017, 11:14:31 PM »
It's actually a software thing, not a hardware thing. What you need is called OCR (optical character recognition) and you can find that option in all PDF-software these days. I know Acrobat, NitroPDF and PhantomPDF all offer them and you can usually download the software for free on their website for a 30-day trial.

In addition, I'm pretty sure if you just add documents to Evernote (including PDFs, images etc.) they are all searchable by the software.
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talltexan

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Re: Where do you store important documents?
« Reply #49 on: October 16, 2017, 12:17:54 PM »
ptf