Over the course of the last few weeks, we’ve talked about trends in e-commerce credit card hacking and other ways to ensure you’re staying safe this holiday season when making any online purchases. In this post, we’ll switch things up a bit to discuss a different — yet equally important — aspect of credit card fraud and identity theft, albeit from a physical and not a digital standpoint.
Obviously, when Americans leave the home — whether it’s for work, to run an errand, attend a church service, whatever — they need to take certain things with them. Among the most important is a purse or wallet, which is where the likes of payment methods, identification, medical cards and more are stored. But, do you really need all of those other items, especially when the threat of theft is there and when it becomes all the more rampant during the busy holiday shopping season?
A recent CNBC article from guest contributor Frank Abagnale, the notorious former con-man that inspired the movie Catch Me if You Can, detailed the items that you should never, ever carry in your wallet. Reviewing this information is more important than ever at this time of the year:
5 Items You Should Never Carry in Your Wallet
- Too many credit/debit cards: Think about it like this: If your wallet has five credit cards in it and it gets stolen, that’s five credit card companies that you have to contact to cancel the respective cards. And then it’ll be five credit card companies you work with to get new cards. Having your credit card information exposed is never going to be fun, but the less cards you have, the less you’ll have to worry about canceling cards and possibly fighting fraudulent charges made on them.
- Your social security card: This one is a common sense no-no, but it bears repeating: Never carry your social security card with you in your wallet. Keep these stored safely in a secure spot in your home for the rare times you’ll ever need to provide them.
- Checks: With the rise in digital and online payment, chances are you don’t even have a checkbook any longer. If you do, Abagnale strongly suggests you never bring it out in public. That’s because checks contain a lot of important information, like your name, address, routing number and account number. If someone were to get their hands on your checkbook, they’d likely very easily be able to perform check fraud. So if you still have a checkbook and need to write a check, just rip one out and take it to the store with you. However, you’d be wiser just completely moving away from checks.
- Bank deposit slips: Just like checks, bank deposit slips are loaded with confidential information you don’t want slipping into the wrong hands. Yet, many people still carry these in case they ever need to run through the bank drive-through teller.
- Receipts: Abagnale makes a good argument for shredding — and not just throwing away — receipts. It’s because they often contain pieces of information that could be used to steal your identity. Even the last four digits of your method of payment, he argues, are enough of a puzzle piece to get someone started.
So, what should you carry in your wallet when you leave the house for the day? While the obvious answer is “as little as possible,” there are certain things you cannot do without. Abagnale says these items should consist of your driver’s license, health insurance card, auto insurance information, one credit card, a small sum of cash and any identification you need for access to work. In other words, less can be more. In fact, many consumers have decided to do away with credit and debit cards altogether and move to a third-party payment program that keeps your credit card and bank information confidential, such as Apple Pay, PayPal or Google Pay.
Don’t be naive enough to think that identity theft or credit card fraud won’t happen to you. Know how to prepare and prevent such instances instead, whether it’s online or in the physical world.