Your wallet is one of the must-haves when you walk out of the house. But carrying too much information in it can be hazardous if it is stolen.
Here are 10 things you should keep out of your wallet as much as possible.
1. Anything with your Social Security number on it
Of all the things you can lose control of, your nine-digit Social Security number might be the most damaging. It is all an identity thief needs to open new credit card accounts or loans in your name.
Social Security cards aren’t the only thing with your number on it, though. If you have a license, motor vehicle registration or state ID card issue prior to December 2005, you may well still have your Social Security number on it. If you have a Medicare card issued before April 2015, it has your number on it as well. If you have an ID with your number on it, request a new one.
2. A password cheat sheet
The average American has at least seven different passwords with unique combinations of letters, numbers and symbols. While it’s hard to keep track of them all, carrying around a Post-it or notebook with all your codes on it is asking for trouble. Look into an encrypted mobile app, such as Norton IDSafe or SplashID.
3. Spare keys
If your wallet is stolen, your driver’s license will tell the thief where you live. Including a spare key is like putting out the welcome mat and saying come on in.
Don’t put your property and family at risk. Even if your home isn’t robbed after losing a spare key, you’re probably out $100+ in locksmith fees to change the locks.
Something to keep in mind – if you keep spare keys in your car, every time you hand your car keys to a valet, you could be making yourself vulnerable.
Blank checks are a no-brainer of a risk — they are get-money-for-free tickets for thieves. But even a lost check you’ve already filled out can be trouble — perhaps long after you’ve canceled and forgotten about it. With the routing and account numbers on your check, anybody could electronically transfer funds from your account.
Only carry paper checks when you will absolutely need them. And leave the checkbook at home, bringing only the exact amount of checks you anticipate needing that day.
5. Passport/Global Entry card
A government-issued photo ID such as a passport opens up a world of possibilities for an identity thief. People could travel in your name, open bank accounts or even get a new copy of your Social Security card.
Carry only your driver’s license or other personal ID while traveling inside the United States. When you’re overseas, photocopy your passport and leave the original in a hotel lockbox.
6. Multiple credit cards
Keeping credit cards is not a bad things — those who regularly carry a card tend to have higher credit scores than those who don’t. But you should consider how many you have. The more your carry, the more you’ll have to cancel if your wallet is stolen.
Try carrying a single card for unplanned or emergency purchases, plus an additional rewards card on days when you expect to buy gas or groceries. In the smartphone app we mentioned above, keep a list of all the emergency cancellation phone numbers for your credit cards.
7. Birth certificate
You don’t often need to carry your birth certificate, but when you do have it out, it is usually with other important personal documents. An occasion such as a mortgage closing could require multiple documents – a treasure trove for an ID thief. The certificate itself won’t get a thief too far, but it could be a part of the key the thief uses to crack your identity.
It’s been 14 years since businesses were prevented from printing anything with your full credit card number and/or expiration date on it as a receipt. But phishers can start with the limited information on receipts and figure out the rest of your numbers.
Clean out your receipts every night, save the ones you need to keep and shred the rest.
9. Gift cards
While they don’t seem as important as other pieces, no one wants to give a thief a gift. Gift cards are free money – almost as good as cash.
Try to only keep them in your wallet on the days when you are going to use them. If they aren’t in the plans, then just leave them at home.
10. Your phone
Many wallets have pockets for phones. While this can be a convenient holder, losing your wallet – with your address and credit cards – and your phone – with your banking apps – can be a disaster. Keep your phone in a separate closed pocket.