Two things you probably never leave home without are your wallet and your cell phone. Now that you can use your smartphone for everything from presenting airline or movie theater tickets to making mobile payments, you may find you have less need to carry a wallet. However, your billfold or wallet is still a handy place to keep cash, insurance cards, and credit cards within easy reach. With identity theft a constant threat, it is more critical than ever to safeguard your personal information as well as your physical money and assets. Therefore, here are ten items you will want to remove from your wallet to protect yourself against theft.
10. Social Security Card
The Social Security Administration warns that if thieves get ahold of your social security number, they are able to open lines of credit under your identity. This allows them to rack up debt that affects your credit score. Therefore, it is critical to guard your social security number against falling into the wrong hands. Remove your social security card from your wallet and keep it in a safe place such as a home safe or a safety deposit box. In addition, make sure you are not carrying any other documents that contain this number.
9. Birth Certificate
A birth certificate is not an item one typically keeps in his or her wallet. However, there are occasions where you may need to present this document. When these situations arise, keep your birth certificate separate from other documents that contain personal information. Taken together, such papers can provide identity thieves with a wealth of information they can use to pad their own pockets while damaging your credit.
8. Blank Checks
Those checks in your wallet can provide a thief with your home address as well as your bank routing and account numbers. Access to these numbers can make it possible for dishonest persons to make online payments directly from your checking account. Therefore, it is wise to leave your checkbook at home and carry only the checks you need for that day. After all, how many times do you write checks nowadays while out and about? While we are on the subject, avoid carrying large amounts of cash in your wallet. Estimate what you will need and keep the rest safe at home.
7. Cash Register Receipts
Take time each evening to clear cash register receipts from your wallet or purse. These receipts do not contain your full credit card numbers. However, they may contain portions of your credit card number along with your name. You may want to keep receipts on hand for a short period of time to make sure you will not be making any returns. Then, shred receipts you no longer need and store those necessary for tax purposes in a safe place. Better yet, skip the paper and request emailed receipts from the stores that offer them.
6. Gift Cards
If your wallet holds a treasure trove of gift cards, then losing that wallet means losing access to the cash those cards represent. Many stores have apps that allow you to keep track of gift card balances online and redeem them through your smartphone. An added bonus to using an online wallet for gift card balances is that you don’t lose those balances if you lose your physical wallet. Meanwhile, if you have physical gift cards, leave them at home until you are headed to the store to use them.
5. List of Website Passwords
You may notice that many websites today require passwords of a certain length, containing a mixture of letters, numbers, capitals, and symbols. Some websites require changing your password after a certain length of time to an unused password. This means many of us find we have a variety of passwords. We may struggle to remember which password goes with which account. Despite the confusion, avoid the temptation to carry a list of passwords in your wallet. Otherwise, losing your wallet may provide a thief with your passwords as well as your stash of cash.
4. Medicare Cards with Social Security Numbers
If your Medicare card has your social security number printed on it, avoid carrying it unless you absolutely need it. In April of 2018, the U.S. government discontinued the practice of printing social security numbers on Medicare cards. However, if you still have a card with this number, losing it could allow this critical piece of personal information to fall into the wrong hands. In the past, insurance companies and other providers used social security numbers to identify patients. Thankfully, these venues should not be printing social security numbers on identification cards today.
3. Multiple Credit Cards
If you have multiple credit cards, avoid carrying all of them with you each day. If your wallet falls into the wrong hands, it is better to deal with the headache of canceling one or two cards rather than several. As a general rule, it may be helpful to carry one go-to card and a backup. Place the phone numbers from the backs of your credit cards into your phone contacts. That way, if you lose your wallet, you will quickly be able to reach your credit card company to report the loss.
Your passport may not typically reside in your wallet. However, in the future, you may find you need it more often if your driver’s license is not updated to a Real ID. As of October 2020, a passport may be beneficial not only for traveling to other countries, but also for flying across the United States. Increased security measures at airports and the Real ID Act mean that individuals must furnish secure identification documents when traveling. When this occurs, avoid carrying your passport on a regular basis as losing this document can open you up to identity theft.
1. Spare Keys
Sure, your house key is slim enough to slip easily into the folds of your wallet. However, if you lose that wallet, the finder now has both the address from your driver’s license and a key to your front door. Furthermore, burglars are well aware that homeowners like to stash spare keys under the welcome mat, beneath potted plants, or above the doorframe. To protect your home and belongings, you may want to get more creative when stashing your spare key or else keep it with a friend or trusted neighbor.