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The Ohio Department of Aging

Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Life - October 2011

Are you carrying your life in your wallet?
Don't give thieves the keys to steal your identity

One thousand wallets and purses are stolen every two minutes in America. Since 76 percent of identity thefts result from the theft of something physical, like a wallet, people who carry too much stuff risk handing their lives over to identity thieves, according to law enforcement officials. What you keep in your wallet will determine how at risk you are for identity theft in case you lose it. Carrying too much of the wrong stuff can really cost you. It takes an average of $8,000 to recover from identity theft.

Here are eight items -you should consider leaving at home and why:

Your Social Security card
The last thing you want to lose is the one card that identifies every aspect of your financial and personal life. If your Social Security card gets in the wrong hands, someone could open a credit card, apply for a loan, or even buy a car.

Your passwords and pass codes
If you store any type of website or ATM password in your wallet, you could be giving a thief the keys to your personal and financial information. If this information includes the code for your home alarm, you've literally handed him the keys to your house. If you have trouble remembering important pass codes, store them digitally on a password-protected phone.

A non-password protected phone
Many people have smart phones that allow them instant access to bank accounts, medical records and more. Even if your phone only accesses e-mail, a thief could easily search for banking or ATM passwords or addresses. If you have your information protected with a password, a thief can erase your phone's memory and use it, but he won't have access to your data.

Your checkbook
Your checkbook has your bank account number and routing number on it, your address and possibly imprints of your signature. Using that information, thieves can tap into online transfers and move money electronically from your account to theirs.

Credit and debit cards
Many people put all their cards in their wallet and carry them with them at all times. If your wallet gets lost or stolen, that means you're going to have to cancel every one of them. Only carry the one or two cards you use on a daily basis and leave others at home. Also, make sure you keep photocopies of the front and back of each card at home. The 1-800 number to call and report a lost or stolen card is very often on the back of your card -- which doesn't do you a lot of good once the card is gone.

Carry only as much with you as you're willing to lose. It's good to have a little cash on you at all times for emergencies, but you don't want to carry so much that you're going to feel a real hit if your wallet gets stolen . Carrying your cash and credit cards together just saves a thief time and energy when robbing you.

Gift cards or certificates
Gift cards and gift certificates are just like cash - they don't require ID for use. Leave them at home and take them with you only when you are going to shop at that store.

Receipts can have your credit card information on them, as well as your signature. Get in the habit of taking out your receipts every night instead of carting them around with you.

Instead of carrying your financial and personal life with you wherever you go, plan ahead. If potential employer tells you she needs to see your Social Security card, you can bring it along on an interview. When you are going shopping, take only the credit or gift cards for the stores you will be visiting. If you plan to write a check, take only one or two checks instead of your checkbook.

There's one thing to put in your wallet: a baby photo. According to a 2009 study, wallets with photos are more likely to be returned than wallets without photos, and a photo of a baby takes the lead. Almost 90 percent of wallets with baby photos were returned, compared to 53 percent for puppy photos, 48 percent for happy family photos and 28 percent for photos of an elderly couple.

So - what's in your wallet?

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