From Newark Police
We have all had that sinking feeling when we realize that you can’t find your purse or wallet. Is it lost, misplaced or stolen?!
With just your name and Social Security number, identity thieves can open new credit accounts and make costly purchases in your name. If they can get their hands on (and alter) a government-issued photo ID, they can do even more damage, such as opening new bank accounts. These days, con artists are even profiting from tax-return fraud and health-care fraud, all with stolen IDs.
Here are the eight things you should purge from your wallet/purse immediately to limit your risk in case your wallet is lost or stolen.
And when you’re finished removing your wallet’s biggest information leaks, take a moment to photocopy everything you've left inside, front and back. Stash the copies in a secure location at home or in a safe-deposit box. The last thing you want to be wondering as you're reporting a stolen wallet is, “What exactly did I have in there?”
#1 Your Social Security Card... (and anything with the number on it).
Your nine-digit Social Security number is all a savvy ID thief needs to open new credit card accounts or loans in your name. ID-theft experts say your Social Security card is the absolute worst item to carry around. Once you've removed your card, look for anything else that may contain your Social Security Number.
#2 Password Cheat Sheet
The average American uses at least seven different passwords (and probably should use even more to avoid repeating them on multiple sites/accounts). Ideally, each of those passwords should be a unique combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, and you should change them regularly. Is it any wonder we need help keeping track of them all?
However, carrying your ATM card’s PIN number and a collection of passwords (especially those for online access to banking and investment accounts) on a scrap of paper in your wallet is a prescription for financial disaster.
#3 Spare Keys
A lost wallet containing your home address (likely found on your driver's license or other items) and a spare key is an invitation for burglars to do far more harm than just opening a credit card in your name. Don't put your property and family at risk. (And even if your home isn't burglarized after losing a spare key, you'll likely spend money in locksmith fees to change the locks for peace of mind).
Instead: Keep your spare keys with a trusted relative or friend. If you’re ever locked out, it may take a little bit longer to retrieve your backup key, but that’s a relatively minor inconvenience.
Blank checks are an obvious risk—an easy way for thieves to quickly withdraw money from your checking account. But even a lost check you've already filled out can lead to financial loss—perhaps long after you've canceled and forgotten about it. With the routing and account numbers on your check, anybody could electronically transfer funds from your account.
Instead: Only carry paper checks when you will absolutely need them. And leave the checkbook at home, bringing only the exact amount of checks you anticipate needing that day.
A government-issued photo ID such as a passport opens up a world of possibilities for an ID thief. With this item a thief could use it for anything — including traveling in your name, opening bank accounts or even getting a new copy of your Social Security card.
Instead: Carry only your driver’s license or other personal ID while traveling inside the United States. When you're overseas, photocopy your passport and leave the original in a hotel lock box.
#6 Multiple Credit Cards
Although you shouldn't remove credit cards altogether, consider a lighter load. After all, the more cards you carry, the more you’ll have to cancel if your wallet is lost or stolen. We recommend carrying a single card for unplanned or emergency purchases.
Also: Maintain a list, someplace other than your wallet, with all the cancellation numbers for your credit cards. They are typically listed on the back of your cards, but that won’t do you much good when your wallet is nowhere to be found.
#7 Birth Certificate
The birth certificate itself won’t get ID thieves very far. However, birth certificates could be used in correlation with other types of fraudulent identification.
#8 A Stack of Receipts
Beginning in December 2003, businesses may not print anything containing your credit or debit card’s expiration date or more than the last five digits of your credit card number. Still, a crafty ID thief can use the limited credit card info and merchant information on receipts to phish for your remaining numbers.
Instead: Clear those receipts out each night, shredding the ones you don’t need. But for receipts you save, keep them safe by going digital.
Anyone with information about crimes in Newark is asked to call Newark Police Department's non-emergency line at 510-578-4237 or can call the Silent Witness Hotline at 510-578-4000, extension 500.
Follow the Newark Police Department at nixle.com.