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What Should Never, Ever Be in Your Wallet

We’ve all done it—reached into our handbag or into a pocket for a wallet that isn’t there. Was it stolen, did we leave it on a checkout counter or in a taxi? Did a pickpocket get it?

What’s in your wallet, and how bad would it be if it was stolen? If you keep all the wrong things in your wallet, even an accidental loss could lead to identity theft, credit card fraud and a host of serious financial problems.

Kiplinger’s recent article, “The Worst Things to Keep in Your Wallet,” identifies the things you should immediately take out of your wallet. After you’ve done that, photocopy whatever’s still in your wallet. That way, if your wallet is lost or stolen, you can at least quickly and easily file reports.

Your Social Security Card. There’s no faster way to identity theft than losing your Social Security number. Criminals can use your SSN to apply for loans in your name or obtain credit cards. Never carry your Social Security card or even a piece of paper with your Social Security number on it. You should also be certain that there’s nothing else in your wallet has your SSN on it, like other forms of identification.

Your Handy-Dandy Password Cheat Sheet. Admit it, you have one. Maybe it’s taped to your computer or under your keyboard. It’s your password cheat sheet. We Americans use at least seven different passwords to access all of our accounts. It is recommended that you create individual passwords made up of unique combinations of numbers, letters, and symbols that you change regularly. How do you remember them all? For most of us, it’s a cheat sheet.

One of the worst places for a password cheat sheet with your financial passwords is your wallet. Instead, you can jot down your passwords and keep them in a locked box in your house. You can also use a digital password manager.
Your Spare Set of Keys. A step beyond the lost wallet, is a lost wallet with your spare house key along with your ID that shows your home address. It’s an invitation for thieves to break into your home. Instead, keep your spare key with a relative or friend.

Checks (Really?). OK, some people still write checks, and many of us still carry a blank check in our wallets—”just in case”—for emergency purposes. However, blank checks are risky. A criminal can use a blank check to quickly drain money from your bank account. If the stolen check isn’t used, it has your bank account and routing numbers on it—a target for electronic withdrawals from your account. Just take the checks with you that you might need immediately and leave the checkbook at home.

Your Passport. A passport, like any government-issued photo ID, can be a gold mine to use against your finances, if a criminal gets his hands on it. If you’re traveling in the U.S., take only your driver’s license or other personal ID. Leave your passport book and wallet-size passport card in a safe place at home or in a bank safe-deposit box. If you’re traveling abroad, carry a photocopy of your passport and leave the original in a hotel safe.

Multiple Credit Cards. How many credit cards do your really need? Just think how svelte your bulging wallet could look with fewer credit cards in it. Therefore, if your wallet is lost or stolen, you won’t have as many credit cards to cancel.

Your Birth Certificate. Do you really need to carry this around? If only your birth certificate is stolen, it won’t get anyone very far. However, a criminal could use it with other types of fraudulent IDs and do some major damage to your finances.

A Bunch of Receipts. Why do you need all those receipts crammed into your wallet? Businesses are prohibited from printing on paper receipts, more than the last five digits of your credit card. However, skilled thieves could use those last five digits and merchant information on receipts to phish for the remaining numbers on your credit card! Get rid of those receipts and shred them. If you need to keep receipts for possible returns or warranties, ask the merchant to send you a digital receipt instead.

Your Medicare Card. With our awareness of fraud today, it’s hard to believe that Medicare cards used to have their Social Security card printed right on the card. However, if you have an old one, be careful with it. This is being changed, but it’s gradual. Therefore, you may not have a new card until April 2019. One workaround: take the Medicare card out of your wallet and replace it with a photocopy of the card—be sure to black out your Social Security number on the photocopy. You should also file the Medicare card in a secure place, where you will be able to get it if you need it. Be sure to remember where you put it!

Reference: Kiplinger (August 17, 2018) “The Worst Things to Keep in Your Wallet”

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