Identity and financial theft is a problem that has increased over time and become a prominent issue in today’s society. As the world goes digital, there are numerous ways that hackers attempt to try and gain personal information.
However, the old-fashioned methods of theft should not be discounted as criminals are very eager to gain information through stolen wallets, purses, stealing mail or even dumpster diving. That being said, you should always be careful of what items you carry in your wallet (or purse).
Here are some items you should avoid carrying and instead keep tucked away in a safe place:
• Social Security card/number
Perhaps the most valuable piece of information thieves seek is a Social Security card, and this item should be carefully guarded. Thieves can use this number to open new bank accounts, apply for lines of credit and a host of other nefarious purposes. Never carry a Social Security card in your wallet, instead memorize it and then keep it locked up someplace safe at home.
In days gone by it was common for consumers to whip out their checkbooks when making purchases. That has now changed as concerns about theft rise. Checks contain a lot of valuable information that criminals would love to have, including full names, addresses, and especially bank account and routing numbers. Also, if stolen, a thief can write a host of checks by forging your name and emptying your bank account and/or leaving you with a lot of bank fees.
In addition, typically, businesses who accept checks want personal information in the notes which thieves can be. It is best to only write checks when necessary, and to not carry the checkbook when out and about per Southeast Missouri State University. If you must write a check, only bring the number of checks you’ll be needing.
Official passports issued by government are also an item coveted by identity thieves.
“Thieves would love to get (ahold of) this,” says Nikki Junker, a victim adviser at the Identity Theft Resource Center, according to Kiplinger. “You could use it for anything.”
Possible uses includes traveling under the victim’s name, opening bank accounts or getting copies of other important documents, such as a Social Security card or driver’s license.
• List of passwords/PINs
Passwords and PINs are the keys needed to access digital property. If you have a list that contains passwords in your wallet, and a thief gets a hold of it, the criminal can use this information to pilfer your digital assets and steal additional personal information that can be used for malicious intentions.
• Medicare, Medicaid or health ID cards
Another item you should be cautious about carrying is Medicare or health insurance cards that have SSN information on it. Kiplinger recommends you instead photo copy your original card and black out the SSN on it. Most health insurance companies now issue automated ID numbers, but if your card has a SSN on it, be careful.
According to the Hearst Corporation, other items you should not tuck away in your wallet are extra credit cards, spare house keys, birth certificates and military IDs. Additionally, check for any other documentation that may have Social Security Numbers on them and remove these from your wallet as well.
Additionally, lock up or shred those receipts from banks and merchants, do not keep these in your wallet. Even though limited information is on these, there are strings of numbers and other identifiers that savvy thieves could use for financial or identity theft.
In order to ensure keeping your personal data out of the hands of criminals, it is a good idea to check through your wallet on a routine basis and remove any items that are not immediately needed.