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Preventing Identity Theft: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Carry With You

Safeguard your identity by lightening your load.

Identity theft is a big problem in today’s world and it’s just getting worse. That’s why you need to be vigilant in protecting yourself – and not just when you’re online.

For example, every time you walk out the door, you probably make sure you have your wallet, keys and phone with you.

But chances are, you’re also carrying a few things you don’t need — and that are better off left at home. The reason is, they would be hard to replace or might put you at risk for identity theft if they were lost or stolen.

Here are 10 such items you shouldn’t carry unless you specifically need them:

1. Social Security card. No one ever asks to see it, but if a crook got his hands on it, he could open a credit card in your name, sign up for a loan or even buy a car. Memorize your SS number instead of carrying the card with you.

2. Passport. You need it when traveling abroad (keep it with you at all times when doing so), but leave it at home otherwise.

3. Passwords. Don’t write down the PIN for your ATM card or the code for your home alarm. If you can’t remember the four digits, at least store them digitally on a password-protected phone. Speaking of which …

4. Non-password-protected phone. Your smartphone can be a great tool for organizing information, but it can also help facilitate identity theft. If your phone allows you access to your bank accounts, medical records, PayPal account and other sensitive data — or even if it only accesses email — make sure the phone is password-protected. If the phone is stolen, the most the thief will get is the phone itself — not your vital information.

5. Checkbook. More people than ever pay bills online these days, but if you are among those who still write checks, take one from your checkbook and carry it with you. Never take your checkbook or register out of the house.

6. Too many credit cards. You’ve seen people who open their purse or wallet to reveal a string of credit cards. Bad idea. If they’re stolen, it’s no fun canceling each one and then waiting for replacements. Carry only the one card you use daily, along with perhaps one backup. Also, keep photocopies at home of both sides of each card so you’ll have the account number and phone number to call in case of loss or theft.

7. Too much cash. This tip won’t prevent identity theft, but it can save you a lot of money (and headaches). Carry with you only as much as you are willing or can afford to lose. Leave the rest at home. Remember: You can use your credit card for just about any expense you incur.

8. Gift cards. Remember: They are just like cash; they don’t require an ID for someone to use them. Take them with you only when you know you’re going to redeem them that day.

9. Jewelry. If you’re not wearing it, leave it at home. Don’t carry jewelry that you intend to wear later. You’re increasing the odds you’ll lose it.

10. Receipts. Many receipts have your credit card information and your signature on them — enabling thieves to do a lot of damage. You might collect receipts throughout the day, but don’t leave them in your wallet, purse or pocket longer than that.

And best of all, these tips won’t just help prevent identity theft, they’ll lighten your load as well.

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