Some time ago we had a talk with the ladies concerning the 12 things they should never carry in their purses. Now, it’s your turn men (actually ladies these tips apply to you too. After all you likely carry a wallet in your purse.) Here are 13 things you should never carry in your wallet in case it’s ever lost or stolen.
13. Excess Cash
It’s good to have cash on hand. After all, you never know when you may need to use it in the place of a check or a debit or credit card. But, don’t get in the habit of carrying excess cash in your wallet. You make yourself a target for thieves. Not only that, but cash doesn’t carry quite the same protection as credit cards. If your cash happens to get lost or stolen, it’s as good as gone. So, listen to the experts and carry only a small amount of cash for small purchases or emergencies.
12. Tons of Credit and Debit Cards
Carrying around tons of credit and debit cards in your wallet puts you at a bigger risk of identity theft than if you had, say, just two or three cards in your wallet. That’s because the more cards you have in your wallet, the more damage a thief can do said Adam Levin, the founder of global identity protection and data risk services firm CyberScout. “If they all get stolen, the bank is not going to get them back to you in an hour and a half,” he told Reader’s Digest.
TIP: If you can, avoid carrying debit cards altogether. Like cash, debit cards also don’t have the same protection as credit cards. “Every time you use a debit card, you put your money and your bank account at risk,” CNBC contributor Frank Abagnale said on the news organization’s website. “Instead, I keep two credit cards in my wallet: One for personal purchases and one for business purchases. That’s it. With credit cards, federal law limits my liability if there’s an unauthorized purchase. Also, I’m spending the credit card company’s money every day until I pay my bill at the end of the month. Meanwhile, my money is earning interest in a bank account.”
11. Multiple Gift Cards
Unless you’re going on a massive shopping spree, there really is no need to carry multiple gift cards in your wallet. If your wallet is ever lost, you most likely will never get those gift cards back. Not only that, but the thief will end up going on a shopping spree at the expense of your loved ones who thought enough of you to give you those gift cards in the first place.
TIP: Consider using a gift card app instead.
10. Your Work ID
Picture this: your wallet gets lost or stolen. A thief ends up finding your work ID inside and lets him or herself into your office in the middle of the night, obtaining access to all kinds of confidential files or, depending on where you work, valuable products. Not only will this spell trouble for your employer, but it will also spell trouble for you as well. The solution? Robert Siciliano, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, recommends using two different wallets: one for your job and a separate one for the weekends.
9. Social Security Card
There’s really no reason to carry your Social Security card around with you on a daily basis — unless of course, you don’t know your social security number off the top of your head. In that case, we suggest that you memorize it ASAP. Otherwise, you put yourself at risk of identity theft. In fact, “your Social Security number is the critical piece of information a thief needs to carry out identity theft,” Eva Velasquez, president, and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center told Reader’s Digest. They can use it to easily open a new credit card.
8. Medicare Card
We understand the importance of having your medical insurance cards on hand. You never know when there will be an emergency and you need to present this information to the ER registrar. But, your Medicare card has your Social Security number on it. Instead of carrying the real thing with you, One Reverse Mortgage suggests making a copy of your Medicare card and blacking out your Social Security number. That way you won’t have to worry about thieves having your Social Security number if your card ever gets lost or stolen.
Believe it or not, there are people who still write checks. But, carrying these items around in your wallet is a big no-no. The last thing you want is for a thief to get hold of your checkbook. That’s because when it comes to check fraud, it can take anywhere from a day to four months to get your money back. Plus, your checkbook contains your bank account number, address, phone number, and possibly imprints of your signature. This makes it extremely easy for thieves to take over your account and fabricate checks and other documents in your name. The best thing to do is to carry only the checks with you that you will need immediately and leave the rest at home.
TIP: Don’t carry bank deposit slips in your wallet either. These contain the same information as your checks and can be used to access your bank account.
Unless you’re traveling to a foreign country, leave your passport at home in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box. That’s because carrying it around in your wallet can put you at risk of identity theft. Even when you’re traveling abroad, you shouldn’t keep it in your wallet. You should carry a photocopy of your passport and leave the real one in the hotel safe instead. Thieves can use your stolen passport to travel in your name, get a new copy of your Social Security card, or open bank accounts.
5. Birth Certificate
There are only certain times in your life (e.g. traveling, getting a new driver’s license, closing a mortgage, etc.) when you need to present your birth certificate, so it doesn’t make sense to carry it around with you. Instead, leave it at home in a safety deposit box or another secure place. The reason is that even though birth certificates are not considered a key piece when it comes to identity theft, they can be useful in obtaining other personal information.
A gas station receipt might not look like much to you, but to a thief, it’s filled with useful information, like the last four digits of your credit card. And believe it or not, they can use those four digits to reconstruct your entire account number. Here’s something else: “Someone who sees a bunch of receipts from weekday evenings at Target could shop there on a Monday night without looking suspicious to the credit card company,” an article published by Reader’s Digest says. “Or your credit card’s customer service department might be more likely to believe a crook who happens to know all your recent purchases.”
3. Spare Keys
Carrying a spare key in your wallet is pretty much the same thing as giving it to a stranger, telling them where you live, and begging them to rob you blind. That’s because if your wallet ends up lost or stolen, thieves will not only know your address (your driver’s license is in your wallet), they’ll be able to let themselves into your house. Even if they don’t get into your house, you will need to have your locks changed, and that can cost you a few hundred dollars. And, if the spare key just so happens to belong to your car, this can prevent you from driving.
TIP: Leave your spare keys with a trusted friend or family member.
2. Membership Cards
When it comes to membership/loyalty cards, you should only carry them when you plan to go to that particular store. It can be nearly impossible to get the balance back on your store cards if they’re lost or stolen. And, thieves can easily access your rewards points if they get hold of your cards. Plus, you’ll have to worry about replacing each one of them. Siciliano suggests keeping these cards in your car instead. “I’m not walking to Costco—I’m driving,” he told Reader’s Digest. “If I need to go, it’s in the car.”
Years ago, people would write their bank account passwords or pin numbers on a sheet of paper and carry it around with them in their wallets. The truth of the matter is there are people who still do this today. “Some people feel passwords are safer in their bag than at home because it’s always on them, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Velasquez told Reader’s Digest. “You’re much more apt to lose your purse or wallet than have a break-in.”
But, it’s not just your bank account passwords you should keep safe. You need to protect ALL of your passwords — email, phone, computer, etc. Your best bet is to memorize all your login information. If, however, that doesn’t work for you, you can always store your passwords at home in a locked box or in a passcode-protected smartphone app.
TIP: If your wallet is ever lost or stolen, you need to contact your creditors and bank right away to request a new credit and/or debit card number. You’ll also need to monitor your credit card and bank statements, and order a credit report to check for fraudulent activity.