Lessons from the Pros

Education Resource

Your Wallet Isn’t the Place for these Five Important Items

In a society where hackers and other tech-savvy criminals now receive the bulk of the press, it’s easy for consumers to take their eye off the ball when it comes to old-fashioned—yet still highly prevalent—forms of thievery.

Case in point: While most everyone uses some combination of passwords, thumbprints, encryption and virus protection on their computers and mobile devices, millions of us leave unguarded in our wallets any number of items that criminals, identity thieves and the like really covet…and will go to great lengths to take from you.

So which items do you need to do a better job protecting, you wonder? Well, peel open that wallet of yours and specifically search for these five or six items, which can allow brazen thieves ready access to not only money and sensitive banking and financial information, but also your home and property, not to mention the most irreplaceable assets of all: your family and loved ones.

Don't let a thief catch you with these items in your wallet.

Social Security Card

While microchip-enabled debit and credit cards were introduced around 2015 in an effort to better protect consumers against card theft, hacking and duplication, chip cards have also contributed to a reversion of sorts among thieves and fraudsters. According to the Insurance Information Institute, criminals are again focusing on new account fraud, whereby the thief opens a new credit card or other financial account using a victim’s name and stolen information like their social security number…which is precisely why your social security card should never, ever, be kept in your wallet!

Your social security card falling into the wrong hands is a lot like a license to steal, as criminals need little more than your name and social security number—both of which are right there on the card—to open a new account in your name. Tweet: Your social security card falling into the wrong hands is a lot like a license to steal, as criminals can open a new account in your name with little more than the information on the card. https://ctt.ac/3qy7c+ For that reason alone, make sure any and all social security cards are safely and securely stored at home—perhaps alongside passports, financial deeds and important papers in a water and/or fireproof lockbox.

Gift Cards

Gift card scams are part of a multi-billion-dollar-a-year illegal business where criminals, empowered by easy access to cards and any necessary equipment—like card readers, replacement code strips, etc.—are especially brazen.

For consumers especially, experts say it’s prudent to increase protection by taking that stack of holiday gift cards out of your wallet or purse, and only bringing gift cards with you when you specifically intend to use them. That’s a departure from the norm for many of us who tend to carry gift cards at all times just in case the mood to shop strikes us while on the go.

For thieves, gaining access to purchased or even unpurchased gift cards affords a number of options, any of which can be used to anonymously extract card balances. And it’s that (comparative) level of ease and anonymity that sets gift cards aside from higher-risk targets like debit and credit cards.

Throw in the fact that gift cards carry small and often limited balances, and gift card fraud tends not to garner much attention from authorities, either. That means there’s minimal chance of prosecution for these criminals, and consumers must act as their own primary line of defense.

PIN Numbers/Passwords

An often-quoted Microsoft study reports that the average US consumer has around 25 different online accounts that require a password. And while we tend to re-use the same password for many of those accounts—much to the dismay of security experts, by the way—about 37% of consumers still forget a password at least once a week.

Access Free Financial EducationIn the minds of many, the most convenient solution is to maintain a comprehensive list of usernames and passwords for all of their important online accounts. And while that seems practical, it’s also highly risky, particularly if that all-encompassing list of passwords was stolen from (or alongside) your wallet. Such a scenario would provide a criminal a direct lifeline to your bank accounts, investments, debit/credit cards, and other online portals.

The same is true of keeping a list of PIN numbers in your wallet as well. But here is quite possibly the worst offense—and don’t laugh because some folks really do this – write their ATM card or other PIN number(s) right on the card(s).

To be certain, leave PIN numbers, passwords and usernames out of your wallet. If you must aggregate this information, keep it locked up securely alongside any other sensitive, personal data in the safety of your own home. Of course, there are apps for most everything nowadays, too, which means you can also opt for any one of the many mobile apps which use encryption technology to securely store PIN numbers and passwords on your computer, tablet or other mobile device.

Debit & Credit Card Receipts

Wallets and purses tend to be a popular landing spot for things like store and banking receipts, ATM slips, coupons and special offers, those aforementioned gift cards, and the like. In spite of our best intentions to clean them out as soon as we get home, the fact is those things often remain right there in our wallet for weeks or months on end.

The problem with this is that bank slips and credit and/or debit card transaction receipts can contain at least some of the personal or sensitive information crooks are after, and you don’t want them to have. But don’t just take our word for it; instead, take a closer look at your next Customer Copy and you’ll likely find:

  • Your name as it appears on your card
  • Card type (Visa, Mastercard, etc.)
  • Partial card number
  • Business name and address

Armed with this info, it’s not especially difficult for a resourceful thief to scan the dark Web for the rest of your account or card number. Plus, store receipts containing the business name and address can allow thieves to infer whether or not you live locally. (For example, if it’s a receipt from a primary care physician, doggie day care, pool or garden supply shop, etc.) And from there, a simple search of public records and social media may reveal more than enough to commit insurance, benefits or other types of fraud.

To protect card numbers or other sensitive information on debit and credit card transaction receipts, security experts recommend taking the customer copies of these documents home to be shredded and properly disposed of.

Spare Keys

Wallets and purses are common places to keep emergency items. Some, like a small amount of cash ($40-$50, perhaps), are smart just in case you wind up somewhere debit or credit cards aren’t accepted, or if power or other systems are down and electronic payments can’t be processed. But others, like spare keys to your home or place of business are never recommended.

The reason for that is if your wallet happens to be lost or stolen, a thief would likely find your home address on your driver’s license and would then know just where to go to use the key to access your property.

For businesses, the process isn’t much different. Thieves can either consult your business card—which is very likely in your wallet, too—or perform a simple, online search. Then, with the spare key already in hand, a thief could be inside in a snap.

So, while your wallet or purse seems like it would provide safe keeping for items like spare keys, it’s not advisable simply because there’s no recourse or sufficient defense in the event that the entire wallet or purse is stolen.

DISCLAIMER This newsletter is written for educational purposes only. By no means do any of its contents recommend, advocate or urge the buying, selling or holding of any financial instrument whatsoever. Trading and Investing involves high levels of risk. The author expresses personal opinions and will not assume any responsibility whatsoever for the actions of the reader. The author may or may not have positions in Financial Instruments discussed in this newsletter. Future results can be dramatically different from the opinions expressed herein. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Reprints allowed for private reading only, for all else, please obtain permission.