You know that sinking feeling: you grab your wallet to find out it’s not there. This is when panic sets in. Is it on your car seat? At home? Did you drop it? Or have you been the victim of a pickpocket? By following our advice on what not keeping it in your wallet won’t save this panic, but it can lessen it.
If your wallet is crammed with personal and financial information, you should be aware that much of this information can be exploited by identity thieves. All you need to get started is your name and Social Security number. This alone can lead to bogus loan applications and the opening of fraudulent accounts. It can get worse if they can steal your government issued photo ID, including your passport or passport card, from your wallet and retouch the image.
We’ve reached out to consumer protection experts to identify the items you need to remove from your wallet immediately. Oh, and a quick tip before you dive in: photocopy the front and back of whatever is left in your wallet. This way, if your wallet is lost or stolen, you can at least quickly and easily file reports with the appropriate government agencies and financial institutions.
Losing your social security number is a safe ticket against identity theft. Once stolen, dishonest identity thieves could use this number to obtain loans in your name or obtain credit cards. For this reason, identity theft experts say you should never carry your Social Security card, or even a piece of paper with your Social Security number on it. If you need it for one-off identification purposes – for example, to take out a mortgage or apply for benefits – go home directly after this appointment and store it in a safe place.
This task accomplished, make sure nothing else in your wallet has your social security number on it, including other forms of identification. States can no longer display your SSN on newly issued driver’s licenses, state ID cards, and motor vehicle registrations. However, if you still have old photo IDs with your Social Security number, apply for a new ID immediately. Even if there is an additional charge, it is worth protecting your identity.
We have them all, somewhere: cheat sheets for passwords. It’s because the average American uses at least seven different passwords to access everything from ATMs to credit card accounts. According to experts, the smart game is having individual passwords made up of unique combinations of numbers, letters and symbols that you change regularly. But how do you all remember it? For 73% of people, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey, it’s a cheat sheet. And one of the worst places for a password cheat sheet with your ATM card PIN is your wallet.
There are better options: If you need to write down your passwords somewhere, keep them in a locked box in your home. You should also explore a digital password manager. One to consider is LastPass. The basic service is free, or you can upgrade to the premium version for $ 3 per month. This gives you a lot more functionality and storage.
It’s also a good idea to enable two-factor authentication on any account that allows you to do so. You’ll enter your username and password as usual, but the account will then confirm your identity by asking you to enter a code that was sent to your smartphone or email address.
A lost wallet is bad enough. A lost wallet containing your spare home key along with your home address ID is an invitation for real-world thieves to easily break into your home. Security experts say don’t put your property and family at risk. (And even if your home isn’t broken into after losing a spare key, you’ll likely spend over $ 100 paying a locksmith to change the locks for added peace of mind.)
The best thing to do is to keep your spare key with a relative or friend. If you ever get stuck, it might take a bit longer to get your backup key back, but that’s a relatively minor inconvenience.
Old school, yes, but some of us still write checks, although much less than we did back then. And in an emergency, our parents said, keep a blank check in your wallet, “just in case.” This is not good advice.
Blank checks are risky. In the wrong hands, a blank check could be used to quickly withdraw money from your bank account. And even if the stolen check is not used, the check has your bank account and routing numbers, a target for electronic withdrawals from your account. To stack up, that blank check will likely contain your home address (and some people also added their social security number, another no-no).
The best option is to take only the check (s) you think you will need immediately with you and leave the checkbook at home.
A passport or passport card, like any government issued photo ID, can be a weapon used against your finances if it falls into the wrong hands, identity theft experts warn. It can be used to travel in your name, get a new copy of your social security card, or open bank accounts.
If you’re wondering, “Who’s carrying their passport in their wallet?” ” the are Passport wallets with slots for cash, credit cards and more.
And passport cards, useful for Americans who frequently cross the northern or southern borders, are about the same size as a driver’s license, and it’s easy to forget you keep them in your wallet.
When traveling to the United States, carry only your driver’s license or other personal identification. Leave your passport book and wallet-sized passport card in a safe place such as a fireproof safe. When traveling abroad, experts advise taking a photocopy of your passport and leaving the original in a hotel safe.
You can reduce that big wallet by using fewer credit cards. That way, if your wallet gets lost or stolen, you won’t have as many credit cards as you need to cancel. Our recommendation: Carry a rewards card for daily purchases as well as a backup card for unforeseen purchases or emergencies.
And as we mentioned, photocopy the front and back of whatever is in your wallet, or write down your credit card cancellation phone numbers or websites on a piece of paper at home. . The “lost or stolen” number is usually on the back of your credit card, but if your credit card is stolen, it won’t do you any good.
Your stolen birth certificate won’t get anyone very far. But if they have it in conjunction with other types of fraudulent identities, security experts say, thieves could do significant damage to your finances.
Be especially vigilant on the rare occasion when you need to carry all of your most sensitive documents at the same time. An example of this is during a mortgage closing, when you may need to bring your birth certificate, social security card, and passport. Do not lose sight of them and bring them directly to your home before celebrating this closure. It is not a good idea to leave them in your car.
You don’t need all those receipts stuck in your wallet. While businesses haven’t been allowed to print more than the last five digits of your credit card number on paper receipts for years, identity theft experts say skilled thieves could use those last five. numbers and merchant information on receipts to phish the remaining numbers on your credit card (very often your name is also on these receipts).
Take these receipts out of your wallet every day and shred them. If you need to keep receipts, for possible returns or guarantees, have the merchant skip the paper and send you a digital receipt instead. Most retailers will. If you have a printed receipt that you need to keep, consider scanning it and storing it securely in the cloud. Apps that do this include Shoeboxed, which lets you create and file digital copies of your receipts and business cards. Plans start at $ 18 per month for your first year.
Many retirees may still have old health insurance cards with their Social Security numbers printed in their wallets. Carry only your new health insurance card. Medicare has stopped issuing Medicare cards with Social Security numbers and replaced them with new paper cards. New health cards have their own number.
If you have an old Medicare card with your Social Security number on it, remove it from your wallet and replace it with the new card. Destroy the Medicare card with your Social Security number on it.
Many of us have gift cards in our wallets just in case we find ourselves in the retailer or restaurant the card is good for. It is not such a good idea.
After all, retailers don’t ask for ID when using gift cards because your name isn’t on them (even though the Home Depot gift card you received on your birthday says ” To dad ”on the back). This means anyone who digs into your lost wallet can redeem those gift cards like cash – no questions asked.. The smartest way to use them is to leave them at home until you know for sure that you are heading to that destination where you can use those gift cards. Or redeem them online.