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Identity Theft Tips: Remove these items from your wallet today

Editor's Note: Beginning today, Creditnet.com is starting a new series on how to prevent identity theft. Over the next several weeks, we'll bring you tips on how to prevent ID theft before it happens, as well as the most common instances of identity fraud and how to avoid them.

When's the last time you dug through your wallet or purse to see what's really in there? I did this recently and, while the results were at times pleasantly surprising (like a stamp card to my favorite local burger joint missing just one more stamp for a freebie - YES!) and weirdly dated (a receipt from November ... 2011), I ended up with more than just a lighter wad to carry in my back pocket; I had actually taken a necessary step towards eliminating identity theft.

How? Well unbeknownst to me, I've been carrying around my social security card for ... well, I don't know how long. I don't remember putting it in there, nor do I remember my motives for doing so. But I will say this: I'm seriously glad I found it - and removed it - before something regrettable happened.

Carrying your social security card on you isn't just unnecessary; it's just a plain bad idea. If you lose your wallet or purse, you can cancel your credit cards pretty abruptly with a couple of phone calls. Your license at the very least has your picture on it. But your social security number? That my friends is like a key code that can get the wrong person into all sorts of doors.

According to an article from our friends at Kiplinger, your social security card is "the absolute worst item to carry around". That's because thieves don't need much more than your name and your social to open accounts, transfer money and wreak all sorts of havoc on your personal finances. And unlike other pieces of personal information, your social security number is permanent. Meaning once a thief has it, they've got it for good. 

If you're as smart as I am and you've been carrying your social security number around as well, reach into your wallet right now and get it out of there. In fact, double-check all cards in your wallet to confirm that your social security number isn't hiding anywhere else. A not-so-good Samaritan who finds your wallet will look everywhere for your social security number, which is precisely why you should do the same.

While you're at it, here are some other items worth removing from your wallet:

  • If you've written down your debit card PIN and keep it in your wallet, dispense of it at once. Also, it's four numbers. Come on - you can remember FOUR NUMBERS.
  • Carrying any blank checks, or even your entire checkbook? We'd recommend switching to plastic full-time. One blank check can mean a one-time removal of some serious funds, plus it gives identity thieves access to your routing number and checking account number. If your wallet goes missing and you know there's a check in there, it's time to get on the phone with your bank ASAP.
  • Old receipts. These are less averse to identity theft since they only print the last four numbers of your card number, but there's still some risk to keeping them in there. Plus, it's uncomfortable to sit on a stack of receipts all day. Keep them if you must, but don't leave them in your wallet.

There you have it. If you think something in your wallet could lead to ID theft issues down the line, just get it out of there. There's no reason to risk it, and it will make your life easier in the unfortunate instance of misplacing your wallet or purse.

Stay tuned for next week's ID theft prevention tip!


on Wed, 2013-06-12 10:03