What Not To Carry In Your Wallet

With identity theft rampant, keep only the essentials in your pocket or purse.

Over at AARP — where old folks like me hang out, Jon Clay, vice president of threat intelligence for Trend Micro, a global cybersecurity firm, gave us some solid advice for protecting our cash, and identity, while traveling.

Pickpockets, and ne’er-do-wells say “finders keepers” when they stumble on a lost wallet, or stolen one, aren’t after just your cash. When it comes to personally identifiable information, it may be that the original crook profits by reselling it, Clay says.

Worse, the crook may bring in accomplices and share the loot. After a lost wallet was pocketed in June at a casino in Davenport, Iowa, the thief kept the $800 inside and an ID card. Later, the rightful owner’s name and personal information was exploited to set up an online bank account to obtain a debit card and checks, and with accomplices, the first crook and his cohorts went on a spending spree at a half dozen merchants, later peddling some of their $5,600 in purchases on Facebook Marketplace, authorities said.

“We all think we are being careful, but it takes one second for a criminal to steal our wallet or purse,” says AARP’s Amy Nofziger, who oversees its Fraud Watch Network helpline. “Limit what you carry to ensure you don’t put yourself at a greater risk,” she says.

Keep your wallet safe

Since many merchants accept digital wallets, carry just a single credit card in the event you encounter a gas station that won’t let you pay with a digital wallet. A digital wallet contains digital versions of your credit and debit cards, and you pay with a smartphone, such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay.

Even if you’re not tech-savvy, your wallet can be leaner. Take some time to declutter and potentially spare yourself from some time and trouble cancelling accounts and obtaining new cards. First, consumer advocates say, make photocopies (or take smartphone photos) of the front and back of all your cards, so you know whom to contact if they go missing.

10 Things to remove from your wallet

Here are the 10 things that Clay suggests you remove from your wallet and store in a safe place, such as a fireproof lock box or a safe deposit box depending on how often you need to access them:

  • Social Security card.

  • COVID-19 vaccination record card, which carries your date of birth and hints at where you live.

  • Multiple credit cards and credit-card receipts.

  • Checkbook, or even one blank check.

  • Work ID card.

  • Passport or passport card.

  • List of your passwords.

  • Gift card not fully redeemed.

  • Birth certificate.

  • Library card. It sounds benign, but a crook can always check out lots of books and sell them for a buck or two apiece and you’re stuck with the fines.

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