When you hear the term ‘Identity Theft’ you usually think about someone stealing your identity online. But the truth is that the majority of identity theft—nearly 75 percent—happens in the real world. Real world situations where you identity might be stolen including shopping, taking your trash out, and having your purse or wallet stolen.
Any time you’re in a situation where there are a lot of people, you run the risk of having your purse or wallet stolen. It’s a simple theft, really. Someone bumps into you and the next time you reach for your wallet, it’s gone. Or you set you purse down on the shelf for just a second to look at something and when you reach for it, it’s gone. Observant and opportunistic thieves will take whatever chance they see to gain some extra cash.
That’s one of the biggest problems about having your purse or wallet stolen. Often, the initial theft happens because the criminal wants a quick buck, found in the cash you’re carrying around. After they go through and pull out your cash, they’ll usually just discard whatever remains. That means your personal information is left laying around for whomever happens to stumble upon it. Worse still, the original thief actually realizes the value of your credit cards and personally identifying information and takes your cash then sells those items to the highest bidder. Either way, you lose.
Here are three tips for keeping your purse, wallet, and your identity safe:
- Keep it close. If you’re carrying a purse, make sure it has short straps so that it rides right under your arm. And if you don’t have a purse with a short strap, swing your purse over your body with the bag part of the purse in front of you. It’s much harder for a thief to steal your purse from the front than the side or back. Also don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket or in the side pocket of a jacket. Carry it in your front pocket, or in an interior jacket pocket. But if you’re carrying it inside your jacket, be sure to keep your jacket buttoned or zipped.
- Travel light. Carry only essentials in your wallet or purse. All too often we feel the need to carry every credit card, our checkbook, Social Security card, and other identifying information on us when we’re shopping. Don’t do it. Carry only the cash you need. Limit yourself to one credit card, and leave the checkbook at home whenever possible. The less you carry, the smaller the mess you’ll have to clean up if your wallet or purse does go missing.
- Take inventory. Stop right now and list everything that’s in your purse or wallet without looking. Once you’re done, check your list against what’s in there. I’ll bet you forget a few items. Sometimes, we carry around items that we don’t use often, then if we have to remember what we were carrying, it’s nearly impossible. Don’t rely on your memory, which is likely to be faulty under the best of circumstances. Instead, make copies—front and back—of everything that you carry with you. Leave the copies locked safely away at home so if you find that you have to account for missing items you’ll know exactly what they are.
Identity thieves steal identities because it’s an opportunity to make a little extra cash. Don’t make it convenient for them. Ultimately, nothing will stop a determined identity thief, but the harder you make it for them, the more likely a thief is to move on to another target.