According to the Social Security Administration, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. This is a crime where one person steals another person’s personal information, usually for financial gain. Many such crimes take place through phone scams, skimming, or as a result of not following safe internet practices – but a lost or stolen wallet is a dream come true for identity thieves. For people looking to reduce the chance of their identity being stolen, or the severity of the results if it does happen, removing these four things from their wallets could be helpful:

Social Security Card
A Social Security number is absolutely the last thing people want in the hands of someone with bad intentions. Fraudsters can use Social Security numbers to apply for loans in the owner’s name. They can also open credit card accounts, file tax returns and then claim refunds – among many other actions that can severely damage one’s credit standing and lead to legal trouble for the Social Security number’s owner. Unless someone is applying for a driver’s license, opening an account at a financial institution, or completing paperwork for a new job, there is no reason to risk keeping a Social Security card in a wallet.

PINs and Passwords
Anyone who has debit card PINs or account passwords written somewhere in their wallet should remove the cheat sheet as soon as possible. It can be difficult to remember all of one’s passwords because many have specific requirements, or need to be reset after a certain time period has elapsed. However, that cheat sheet could give someone else access to all of the owner’s financial accounts. So memorize whatever you can, and use trusted software to manage the PINs and passwords that remain.

While the simplicity and convenience of debit cards has led to a decrease in check usage, many people still write them. However, it’s best to limit the quantity of checks carried in a wallet. Checks clearly state individuals’ account numbers, names, and addresses, which makes things very easy for identity thieves. With the information on checks, a thief could transfer money from someone’s account, write blank checks, and completely drain an account of funds. So instead of carrying all of the checks, tear out enough for one day and leave the rest at home.

Multiple Credit Cards
If a stolen wallet contains nine credit cards, those are nine accounts that need to be cancelled, negotiated, and possibly disputed with nine different card company representatives. Carrying more credit cards than necessary gives potential thieves all kinds of opportunities to steal money or information. Plus, the theft victim must do more work to reestablish accounts, if they do become a target of identity theft. So we suggest people avoid carrying more than two credit cards in their wallet – one preferred card and a backup for when the unexpected happens.
With identity theft on the rise, being proactive and taking the correct precautions can reduce the chance or severity of stolen identity.