Several years ago, my wallet was bursting with things I thought I was supposed to keep with me, just in case. If you’re like I was, you might be carrying around a treasure trove of confidential information that could be used against you. If any of it ever fell into the wrong hands, your financial life could be in jeopardy.
Once a thief has your confidential data, there’s a slew of crimes they could commit. Withdrawing money from your bank accounts, making charges on your credit cards, getting a driver’s license in your name and renting an apartment in your name are just a few common crimes. Criminals have even been caught using stolen information to file fraudulent tax returns, make bogus medical insurance claims and assume a victim’s identity when arrested.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
Fighting identity theft costs money and many frustrating hours reporting the theft, disputing fraudulent transactions, cleaning up credit reports and clearing your good name. Because the repercussions of identity theft are so serious, it’s critical to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.
Examine what’s in your wallet and make sure to remove the following eight items to prevent identity theft.
1. Your Social Security Card
Your Social Security number is the cornerstone of your identity, so carrying the card or a photocopy of it in your wallet is a big no-no. You only need to show the card in very limited situations, such as when you have a new job.
Instead, keep the card in a locked, fireproof filing cabinet or bank safe deposit box. Ditto for your passport and birth certificate.
2. Other Documents That Include Your Social Security Number
Your Social Security number can be included on other documents in your wallet, such as a medical or dental insurance card. To keep them with you safely, make a copy of the card or document, black out your Social Security number and carry the copy.
More on Identity Theft: 10 Ways to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
3. Blank Checks
If you’re still carrying and writing paper checks, consider using a debit card instead. Paper checks reveal your bank account number and are very easy to counterfeit.
4. A List of Your Passwords
Online passwords are tricky because you should change them frequently, and good ones are hard to remember. That said, don’t carry around a list of your passwords in your wallet or in your phone.
5. Multiple Credit Cards
Pare down your wallet to one or two cards that you really need for everyday spending. There’s no need to risk having all your credit cards stolen.
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6. Your Debit Card PIN
Never write your personal identification number (PIN) on a debit card, carry it with the card or keep it in your phone. If a thief gets access, your bank account could be drained in seconds. This is a number that you just need to memorize to stay safe.
7. Safe Deposit Box Key
Having a bank safe deposit box for your valuables and confidential documents is a great idea but only carry the key when you’re on the way to access the box.
8. Purchase Receipts
Even though receipts only show the last digits of your debit or credit card number, criminals can still use them against you.
Remove receipts from your wallet at the end of the day and safely store them. Or better yet, use organization apps like Shoeboxed or Evernote to keep digital copies of receipts in the cloud.
Click through to read more about how to report credit card fraud.
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