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Have You Done a Wallet Audit?

One of the most important things you can do to protect your finances and your identity is to audit your wallet. Do you know what’s in there?

What’s in your wallet makes a big difference — especially if your purse is stolen. The items in your wallet or purse can provide identity thieves [3] with what they need to pretend to be you, as well as possibly run up credit card bills and drain your bank account.

When you know what’s in your wallet, you have the ability to move fast. You can cancel credit cards and freeze bank accounts quickly, and limit the damage.

List What’s In Your Wallet

First, list the items in your wallet. All of them. Empty your purse. List everything you keep in your wallet or purse. Make a note of which items go with what bills. For instance, if you have a credit card in your wallet that is used for automatic billing for your cable, you need to know that. If you need to cancel that card, you need to know exactly which bills are going to be affected.

As you make your list, don’t add too much detail. Your list should only include the phone number for banks (debit cards) and credit cards that are represented in your wallet. Don’t include account number information on your list; you never know if your list will fall into the wrong hands. Don’t forget to list items like your health insurance card, and any membership cards that you have in your wallet. You’ll need to know what needs to be replaced. After all, you don’t want someone else using your gym membership card and blocking you out.

Your wallet or purse list should never be kept in your wallet. You can keep it in a safe place at home, or keep it in your pocket. Just make sure that you have it somewhere safe. If you are traveling, you can even leave the list with someone you trust, and then call later. It’s also possible to email yourself the list, so that you have access to it almost everywhere.

What NOT to Keep in Your Wallet

It’s important to be careful about what you keep in your wallet. The number one thing that you want to leave out of your wallet or purse is your Social Security card. Your Social Security number [4] is just the ticket for identity thieves. Instead, memorize the number, and only take it when you absolutely have to. Check your driver’s license. Most states allow you the option of not including your Social Security number on your license (you can keep it to the last four). Also, be wary of your Medicare card or health insurance card. Find out if you can use a photocopy — black out everything but the final four numbers — instead of the actual thing for most transactions.

Also, consider paring down your wallet or purse when you travel. I take everything out of my wallet before I travel. I take one credit card (one that doesn’t involve automatic bill payments), and my business debit card, along with my identification and my health insurance card, and some cash. However, I normally also keep some of my cash in a pocket, or even in my sock. My purse is usually rather sparse when I travel, since I want minimal damage.

What’s in your wallet?

(Photo: mroach [5])