So we just ran across this story where a woman had her wallet stolen twice in one year. Talk about a painful experience. She reported all of her credit cards stolen, called her bank and filed a police report both times. What she didn’t realize is that doing all that wouldn’t protect her from having her identity stolen.
Did you know that when your wallet gets stolen the least financially damaging thing you have to worry about is the cash that was in it? Protecting yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft is the bigger, and more long-term concern.
The FDIC provides some helpful tips to protect you from identity theft in the event that your wallet is ever stolen including, do not carry around more checks, credit cards or other bank items than you really expect to need. Don’t carry your Social Security number in your wallet or have it pre-printed on your checks – There’s really no good reason to carry this information with you in your wallet. Pick passwords and “PINs” (Personal Identification Numbers) that will be tough for someone to figure out – don’t use your birth date or home address, for example. Don’t keep this information on or near your checkbook, ATM card or debit card. Don’t ever leave your wallet unattended in a store, restaurant, office or other public place—not even for a few minutes. Some of the most interesting identity theft stories I’ve heard have to do with having wallets go missing at work. One woman didn’t even have her wallet stolen; one of her employees would simply reach into her wallet while she was in a meeting and use her credit cards to shop online. She didn’t even know there was a problem because her wallet was never technically missing.
What’s the lesson learned? Protect your wallet! It’s also a good idea to keep an inventory of your wallet contents. Photocopy the front and back of your credits cards so that you know exactly which cards were in your wallet when it was stolen. Keep this inventory list in a safe place and update it whenever you make changes to your wallet contents.