While high-tech scams and data breaches are on the rise, identity theft isn't only an online crime. Many identity thieves still use low-tech methods to steal their victims' personal information. That's why one of the best ways to protect your identity is to limit what you carry with you every day.
Take a look — are any of these items in your wallet?
Your Social Security card
The number one thing to never carry in your wallet or purse is your Social Security card. Your Social Security number is extremely valuable to identity thieves. They can use it to open new accounts or loans in your name, or even file a tax return and claim your refund. Keep yourself safe by leaving your Social Security card in a secure place at home.
Password cheat sheets
The average person has upwards of 90 online accounts that need passwords. With so many accounts to juggle, many people create “cheat sheets" to keep track of their logins. However, writing down your passwords, PINs or alarm codes and carrying them with you isn't a good idea. It won't take long for an identity thief to figure out what these numbers mean and gain access to your accounts.
A better way to keep track of all your internet logins is to use a password manager on your phone or computer. These apps can generate hard-to-crack passwords for each of your digital accounts and store them in one secure place. Another tip is to enable multi-factor authentication for your online logins, such as fingerprint or facial scanning. This will help to block someone from accessing your account, even if they have your password.
In the wrong hands, a blank check could be used to steal money directly from your bank account. Even used checks can be “washed" by scammers to remove the ink and rewrite new information. Leave your checkbook at home and only carry one or two checks when you know you will use them. Once you deposit a check and it's accepted, shred it to prevent check washing.
All your credit cards
If your purse or wallet is lost or stolen, it can be a big hassle to cancel each of your credit cards. It's a smart move to only carry the cards you use for everyday purchases, like a rewards credit card and your debit card. Keep your other cards at home, and only use them when you need them.
While you're cutting down the number of cards you carry, don't forget about gift cards. Consider using an app to scan and upload gift cards to a digital wallet. You'll protect your money and avoid overstuffing your wallet!
Anyone can become a victim of identity theft. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to safeguard your identity. If you have any of these sensitive items in your wallet, take them out today. It will make it much harder for someone to steal your personal and financial information! To find more helpful fraud prevention tips and resources, visit WPCU.coop/StopFraud.