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Financial Tips: What You Should Remove From Your Wallet

(From Maine’s Credit Unions Financial Literacy Blog)

According to the Social Security Administration, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. This is a crime where someone steals your personal information, usually for financial gain. While a lot of identity theft is a result of skimmers, phone scams, and not practicing safe internet practices, a lost or stolen wallet is a dream come true for identity thieves. If you’re looking to reduce the chance or severity of your identity being stolen, you should consider removing these four things from your wallet:

Social Security Card

Your Social Security Number is the absolute last thing you want in the hands of someone with bad intentions. If someone gets your number, that person can use it to apply for loans in your name, open credit cards, file a tax return and claim a refund – among many other things that can severely damage your credit standing and get you in trouble with the law. Unless you’re applying for a driver’s license, opening up an account at a financial institution, or completing paperwork for a new job, there is no reason to risk keeping your Social Security Card in your wallet.

PINs and Passwords

If you’re someone who has their debit card PIN or account passwords written down somewhere in their wallet, now is the time to remove that cheat sheet. It can be difficult to remember all of your passwords, as many have specific requirements or need to be reset after a certain time period. However, that cheat sheet could give someone access to all of your financial accounts. If you don’t want someone making purchases in your name or stealing all of your money, memorize what you can and use trusted software to manage the PINs and passwords that remain.

Checks

While the simplicity and convenience of debit cards has led to a decrease in check usage, there are still many who write them. If you do carry checks, it’s best to limit the amount that you carry in your wallet. Checks clearly state your account number, name, and address, which makes things very easy for identity thieves. With that information, they could transfer money from your account, fill your blank checks, and completely drain your account of funds. Instead of carrying all of your checks with you, tear out what you will need for the day and leave the rest at home.

Multiple Credit Cards

If your wallet is stolen and you have nine credit cards in it, you’ll have to cancel nine credit cards and dispute with nine different card companies. Carrying more credit cards than you need gives potential thieves more opportunities to steal your money or information. Plus, it’s more work on your end to reestablish accounts if you become a victim of identity theft. You should stray away from keeping more than two credit cards in your wallet – your preferred card and a backup for when the unexpected occurs. Also, if you have nine credit cards, make sure you’re keeping your debt-to-credit ratio at 30% or below. Having too many credit cards with a high debt-to-credit ratio can have a substantial negative impact on your credit score.

If you lose your wallet, this blog provides some helpful resources.