Have you heard the motto “be prepared”? 1,000 wallets and purses are stolen every two minutes. While it’s smart to be concerned with online security, 76% of identity thefts result from the theft of something physical, like a wallet. People carry way too much stuff in their wallets, handing their entire lives over to identity thieves. So before you leave the house, read our list of what NOT to keep in your wallet, so you can carry just the essentials—and protect your finances and identity.
Checkbooks seem innocent enough, but they have your bank account number and possibly imprints of your signature. In the wrong hands, blank checks are easily cashed. If you know you need to write a check that day, rip one out and take it with you, or if you bring your checkbook, take it back out of your bag or wallet at the end of the day. It’s best not to get in the habit of carrying a checkbook around.
You’re at serious risk of identity theft if your passport falls into the wrong hands. While it may seem obvious to some, you’d be surprised at how many people carry this around as a form of ID. If you’re traveling internationally, leave your passport in the hotel safe (carry around a photocopy if you want). Losing your passport in a foreign country is a terrible hassle that involves trips to the embassy, wasted time and sometimes changed travel plans.
Too Much Cash
Try to carry only as much cash as you are willing to lose. You should always have some cash on you in case of an emergency, but you don’t want to feel a huge hit if your wallet is lost or stolen.
Too Many Credit Cards
Don’t carry every credit card you have: If your wallet is lost or stolen, the thief will have a field day with more cards to use. Plus, you won’t have anything to use in the meantime as you take care of getting new cards. Carry only one of your main cards, and possibly a backup, and leave the rest in a safe place at home. Keep photocopies of the fronts and backs of all your cards at home. If your cards are lost or stolen, you won’t have to hunt around for numbers.
A Non-PasswordProtected Phone
If your mobile phone allows you to password protect it—do so! Smart phones may provide instant access to bank accounts. A phone with email capability alone could mean access to account numbers or credit card numbers. This way, a thief can wipe your phone’s memory, but he’ll never have access to your valuable information.
Don’t carry these around in the off-chance you’ll pass by the store and decide to use it. If your wallet falls into the hands of a thief, gift cards are the first thing he will use, because they’re just like cash. Leave them at home, unless you know you’re going shopping at that store.
Many of us are guilty of this—we use our wallet or bag as a receipt-holder, thinking nothing of it. But receipts can sometimes have credit card information or your signature. Not to mention that you may need some important receipts for returns or warranties, and if your business expense receipts go missing, that can be a big reimbursement hassle. Get in the habit of taking receipts out of your wallet at the end of every day.
Jewelry or USB Devices
If you’re changing jewelry before a night out on the town, you might toss it in the zippered section of your wallet or your bag, and the same thing goes for a USB device after a work meeting. Then you may forget about it for a while—until your bag is stolen. It’s just common sense, but make sure to clean out your valuables from your wallet or purse every night.