(From the Better Business Bureau)
CHICAGO, IL – The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois (BBB) is advising consumers to avoid identity theft by taking non-essential items out of their wallets. Losing your wallet and money is not only a hassle; it can also lead to serious identity theft issues if you do not take precautionary steps. In 2010, more than 9.9 million American’s were victims of identity theft, a crime that costs roughly $5 billion.Â Â Â Â Â
“When someone loses a wallet, not only have they lost the money it contained, but they have also handed access to their identity over to potential identity thieves,” said Steve J. Bernas, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. “Before you leave the house, it’s important to know what to remove from your wallet to help protect your finances and identity.”
The BBB advises not to carry the following items:
- Social Security Card: This is the number one thing to NOT keep in your wallet, and if stolen will make you most vulnerable to identity theft. A thief can open credit cards, take out loans or even buy a car. There is no need to carry this around as an extra form of ID. This should be left at home in a secure place.
- Checkbook: It may seem safe to carry your checkbook; however these checks contain your bank account number, address and possibly imprints of your signature. Blank checks can be easily cashed if in the wrong hands. Just carry a single check if you plan on writing a check that day.Â
- Passport: Not only is it a time consuming and expensive to obtain a new passport if it is stolen, it also can carry serious risks of identity theft. If you’re traveling internationally, leave your passport in the hotel safe. Losing your passport in a foreign country is a terrible hassle.
- Too Much Cash: Try to carry only as much cash as you are willing to lose. You should always have some cash on you in case of an emergency, but you don’t want to feel a huge hit if your wallet is lost or stolen.
- Too Many Credit Cards: Carry only the credit cards you plan on using, or only one of two of your main cards. Keep the backup cards in a safe place at home.
- A Non-Password Protected Phone: If your smart phone has the option for password protection, use it. Many people forget that their smart phone may provide access to personal email, bank accounts, medical records, PayPal accounts and much more.
- Receipts: Many of us use our wallet or bag as a receipt-holder. This can seem harmless, but receipts can sometimes have credit card information or your signature. Lost receipts make it difficult to return merchandise.
For more information on how to avoid identity theft, visit www.bbb.org