Protect the contents of your wallet

How safe are you from identity theft? Unfortunately, a lot of the information you need to protect is kept in a very vulnerable place—your wallet. Fortunately, there are ways to help keep your information secure is if you follow a few simple rules. Primarily, it involves changing your attitude toward your personal information, and respecting the potential for financial loss that comes with not keeping it secure. I have some suggestions on ways to keep the information in your wallet secure.

First, don’t leave your wallet lying around. Even at home. Unfortunately, two out of five cases of ID theft is caused by someone the victim knows. Also, you should never leave your purse or wallet in your car. This could result in someone breaking into your car to get your things—which only adds insult to injury.

Take inventory of your wallet’s contents. Try listing everything that’s in your purse or wallet without looking. Once you’re done, check your list against what’s in there. Make copies—front and back—of everything that you carry with you. Leave the copies locked safely away at home so if you find that you have to account for missing items you’ll know exactly what they are.

Determine what is essential and remove nonessentials from your wallet. In most cases, there is no need to carry every credit card, checkbook, Social Security card, and every piece of identification. Carry only the cash you need. Limit yourself to one credit card, and leave the checkbook at home whenever possible. The less you carry, the smaller the mess you’ll have to clean up if your wallet or purse goes missing.

Once you know what should be there, get in the habit of checking the contents to make sure you find all of your cards. After making a purchase, check to make sure you’ve been given the right credit card. And always keep your PIN confidential. Don't write it on your card or carry it in your wallet.

After you have secured the contents of your wallet, think about the other places where your information is vulnerable—like your cell phone. By taking a small step like password protecting your cell phone, you can make it harder for identity thieves to get to your personal information. And when getting a new phone, be sure to clear the information from the old phone. Studies show that the vast majority of recycled cellular phones are handed over with their owner’s personal information and contact lists completely intact.

Unfortunately, even diligent consumers cannot totally protect themselves from all types of identity theft. If you do become a victim of identity theft, time is of the essence. Acting quickly and thoroughly can help to limit the potentially far-reaching impact. For more information about preventing or recovering from identity theft, visit the Financial Education section of MoneyManagement.org.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

  • Better Business Bureau A+ rating Better Business Bureau
    MMI is proud to have achieved an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and improving marketplace trust. The BBB investigates charges of fraud against both consumers and businesses, sets standards for truthfulness in advertising, and evaluates the trustworthiness of businesses and charities, providing a score from A+ (highest) to F (lowest).
  • Trustpilot Trustpilot
    MMI is rated as “Excellent” (4.8/5) by reviewers on Trustpilot, a global, online consumer review platform dedicated to openness and transparency. Since 2007, Trustpilot has received over 116 million customer reviews for nearly 500,000 different websites and businesses. See what others are saying about the work we do.
  • Consumer Federation of America Consumer Federation of America
    MMI is a member of the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development Department of Housing and Urban Development
    MMI is certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide consumer housing counseling. The mission of HUD is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD provides support services directly and through approved, local agencies like MMI.
  • Council on Accreditation Council On Accreditation
    MMI is proudly accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. COA’s thorough, peer-reviewed accreditation process is designed to ensure that organizations like MMI are providing the highest standard of service and support for clients and employees alike.
  • National Foundation for Credit Counseling National Foundation for Credit Counseling
    MMI is a longstanding member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), the nation’s largest nonprofit financial counseling organization. Founded in 1951, the NFCC’s mission is to promote financially responsible behavior and help member organizations like MMI deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.