We carry a great risk of becoming victims of identity theft every day, and it all starts in the wallet and purse. Every piece of plastic, every password, and every receipt you put in your wallet or purse could be the very thing thieves use to compromise your finances and steal your identity. The best way to protect yourself and your belongings is to use common sense and not carry the following items:
Social Security card and number
Your Social Security number is incredibly valuable and it can be detrimental if someone gets access to it. You may use your Social Security number for work documentation and government services, but very rarely will you have to show your Social Security card. If your card gets into the wrong hands, there’s no telling what a person will do with it. Thieves can open a credit card in your name, apply for loans, and much worse. If you can’t memorize this number for the life of you, do not write the numbers on paper and leave it in your wallet or purse. Even if you delete the dashes, a thief can figure out what number this is because all SSN have nine digits. Be smart and leave your Social Security card and number in a safe place with other important documents.
When traveling abroad, you can’t really get around carrying your passport on you. However, American travelers are advised to pack extra passport photos and a photocopy of their passport information in case it is lost or stolen. These documents and photos should be left in the hotel, preferably in a hotel safe. This will make getting a replacement easier and protect you from other identity theft dangers.
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It might be convenient to keep your checkbook on hand, but it can be a big mess if someone gets ahold of it. One look at your checkbook and a thief will have access to your account number, routing number, and possibly your signature. If they’re really sneaky, they might be able to forge your signature and cash a check. Avoid this fiasco by keeping your checkbook at home in a safe place.
Passwords, such as PIN numbers, e-mail passwords, and even alarm codes should not be carried around in your wallet or purse. It doesn’t take much for a thief to figure out that four digits could be your PIN number. If you cannot remember important passwords that you need to use on a regular basis, then store them on a protected computer or phone.
Gift cards and certificates
Many people carry gift cards and certificates in their wallet because they never know when they’ll end up using them. This might seem convenient, but if your wallet or purse gets stolen, you’ll be kicking yourself for not leaving these gifts at home. Gift cards and certificates are as good as money, and you don’t have to show an ID to use them. Avoid this risk by leaving gift cards and certificates at home until you’ve picked a day to use them.
As wonderful and convenient as USBs are, they can be very problematic if a thief gets ahold of one. Many USBs contain confidential files and personal information that a thief would love to have. Not to mention, all of your hard work and important documents could be lost in an instant if someone snags your purse or wallet.
Many people disregard receipts and leave them hanging around or stuffed into a purse or wallet, but these small pieces of paper can be quite telling, especially to a smart thief. Some receipts contain your credit card information and signature, which opens the door for identity theft and forgery. Also, if a thief has access to your address and they can see what you bought on a receipt, they may go as far as to rob your house.
Unprotected cell phone
A cell phone without a password is a dangerous thing to carry around. A thief will have full access to your e-mail and other personal information stored in your phone. Placing a password on your phone could deter a thief from taking your phone in the first place and prevent them from accessing any personal information. If your phone does not have a password option, then carry it in a pocket or on your body instead of in a bag.
Too many credit cards
Carrying all of your credit cards in your wallet can be very risky and quite the hassle if they get stolen. Not only will you have to cancel each and every credit card, but you’ll also have to use cash or write checks while you wait on new credit cards to be sent. To avoid this fiasco, only carry the cards you use on a regular basis and leave the rest at home so you’re not completely S.O.L.
Large amounts of cash
Carrying a lot of cash in your wallet or purse is risky for many obvious reasons. If you get mugged, you’ll be out a lot of money. It’s never a bad idea to keep some cash on you, especially when traveling, but be sure to bring only as much as you need and don’t flash it around for others to see.