The holiday shopping season is here again, and identity thieves are on the lookout for careless customers who either misplace vulnerable personal information, or leave it unattended in a cart.
More than any time of year, this season is a prime time for stolen credit cards and swiped bank information. Why? Because your numbers and sensitive information is being used more than normal.
While you shouldn’t obsess about circumstances you can’t control, (most of us have lost a card or an entire wallet at some point in our lives) there are ways you can avoid becoming a victim even if someone attempts to steal your financial information. The most important way you can do this is to be very careful about what information you carry around on a daily basis.
If you looked in your wallet or purse right now, would you find any of these things?
Carrying around extra receipts is something I am guilty of, myself. Before realizing it, I often have a wad of receipts in my wallet, but don’t want to throw them away because I either haven’t entered them in my budgeting app yet, or they contain items I may want to return.
While most businesses don’t list full credit card numbers on receipts, even the last four digits can provide enough for skilled hackers to figure out the rest. It’s recommended that you empty receipts out of your wallet on a daily basis.
To limit access to nay receipts, consider using a mobile or online electronic receipt app. Otherwise, shred them as soon as you don’t need the information. Also, never throw the receipts away in a public trashcan, as thieves can too easily rummage through and get your info.
2. Excess Credit Cards
Carrying around one form of payment is often necessary to do business, but when possible, don’t carry all of your credit or debit cards with you. The more cards you’re carrying, the greater chance one or more of them will be lost or stolen.
Also, in the event your wallet is stolen, you won’t have to cancel your entire list of cards — just the one you were carrying at the time. It’s a good idea to keep a list of cancellation phone numbers at home in case of theft, so you can have them cancelled as soon as possible, with no harm done.
Checkbooks are also a no-no. Even though we use checks less and less in our everyday life, it’s easy to fall into the mentality that you might need it someplace that doesn’t take plastic, and you’re not carrying cash.
Blank checks are just asking for financial and identity theft, so when possible, only carry the number of checks you need with you and hold onto them tightly.
4. Social Security Cards
You might not be carrying a wad of credit cards, a checkbook, or even any cash (you’ve already spent it all, right?), but there are other personal documents that make it extremely easy for thieves to access your Social Security number and other financial information.
For this reason, you should never carry your Social Security card in your wallet! If you need it for insurance or benefits purposes, you can always have it photocopied and scanned directly to an office. Otherwise, you don’t need it with you on a daily basis.
5. Birth Certificates
Not many of us carry around our personal birth certificate everyday, but lots of parents will carry around their children’s birth certificates in case they need it for medical information or school records. This makes it all too easy for the vital information to get stolen, and then you’ll have a huge mess to sort through on your child’s behalf.
Like with the Social Security card, you can always take a picture, copy, or scan the document directly to any office that might need it. In fact, there are several online services that allow you to safely store important information like this, that can easily be accessed digitally when you need to give someone a copy.
For some world travelers, a passport is used as their means of an ID card or driver’s license, so carrying one around is unavoidable. However, you should limit yourself to only having a passport on you when it’s absolutely necessary. Otherwise, leave it at home, or in a bank vault for safety.
A passport is one of the most comprehensive kinds of identity, and one that’s difficult to obtain, so you want to make sure a thief doesn’t get their hands on it.
7. Insurance Cards
Although it’s unlikely, check your insurance cards to make sure they don’t have your Social Security number on them, and keep them at home until you really need them.
Knowing your group number, in case of an emergency, should be enough until you’re able to retrieve your insurance card directly. Any other form of identity, other than your driver’s license, should be kept at home unless absolutely necessary.
Keeping these items out of your wallet all year round will make it easier to follow safe practices while your doing your holiday shopping. So before heading out into the crowds, do a quick inventory of what’s in your wallet or purse and leave these important financial documents at home.