What if a thief gets your wallet?
The loss of ID, credit cards and health insurance info can cause major hassles. Reduce the risk by doing a 'wallet audit.'
In the bag were her debit card, driver's license, about $20 in cash and a health insurance card. I suppose she's lucky that the opportunistic thief didn't take the keys, too. Otherwise the family would have had to change the home's locks and rekey her automobile.
She called the bank immediately to freeze her account. Fortunately she has no credit cards, so she won't have to explain to Visa's fraud department that she really didn't buy $6,000 worth of computer equipment.
No one can protect her from the dreaded driver's license photo retake, though.
It could have been worse, and she knows that. She also knows that the aggravation won't end with a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Because her personal information is now out there somewhere, she faces the possibility of identity theft.
Maybe you'll never be robbed or lose a wallet. Don't bet on it, though. Taking a few basic precautions will minimize the potential for loss and make dealing with the hassles a little easier. Not easier to bear, just easier to accomplish.
What's in your wallet?
Without looking, write down everything that's in your billfold, purse or backpack. Next, check to see what you left out. More than one item, I bet.
Time to do a "wallet audit," which is accomplished in two parts:
First, weed out everything you don't need on a regular basis. This includes credit cards (carry one or two at a time, tops), checkbook (if you still use one), the gift cards you got for Christmas and, heaven forbid, your Social Security card.
Make a list of the things you keep, plus the contact information for each card you carry, including your debit. (Don’t write down card numbers, mind you -- just their names.) Keep that list anywhere but your wallet: with a relative or friend, emailed to yourself, stored on laptop or phone or on an index card in a coat pocket.
In case of theft or loss, make those calls immediately. You're not liable for fraudulent purchases if you report the loss promptly, but card companies ultimately pass on the costs to consumers. Don't add to this collective burden.
If your driver's license or other personal information goes missing, see MSN Money's "Financial Privacy" page for tips on protecting yourself from the possibility of identity theft.
A few more wallet audit tips:
Library card. Cancel it. Someone could take out a couple of dozen books or DVDs -- and you'd be on the hook. (At least that's what a Seattle librarian told me when I got mugged a couple of years ago.)
Medicare card. A senior's Social Security number is part of the Medicare ID code. Photocopy the card and use a black marker to obliterate the last four digits. Keep the copy in your wallet and the real card under lock and key, taking it out only if you have a medical appointment.
Health insurance card. Medical identity theft is a fast-growing problem. Ask if your insurer will cancel your ID number and assign a new one; if that's not possible, check all insurance-related mail to make sure no one is using your card.
Gift cards. You have little chance of getting back the funds if cards are lost or stolen. Keep them locked up until you're ready to shop, or download an app and store them on your smartphone.
Photos. Don't carry the only copy of any picture. Making a duplicate takes only a few minutes and may save you some heartache later on.
Obviously, the most important thing to do is keep an eye on your dough. Don't set your wallet or purse down anywhere. Tuck it into your waistband, under your arm or between your knees.
Do not rely on your fellow man to be honest, because you may be disappointed. Inconvenienced, too.
More on MSN Money:
I scanned all my docs and placed them on my internet cloud. Anything happens, well it's a 2./10 on the stress scale rather than a 11/10. Scanning + uploading took me about 5 mins. Time well spent.
I do NOT have my credit cards o gift cards in my wallet.
However, I DO have way too much ‘stuff’ in it. Think I am going to go w/a combo of 2 approaches:
Since I just got a new printer w/scanner I am going to scan everything I do carry
I will look over my collection of ‘stuff’ for a separate cc case.
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
WHAT IS FRUGAL NATION?
Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
ABOUT DONNA FREEDMAN
Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
The popular online program lets you earn Amazon cards, PayPal cash and other rewards.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Even those who don't like to shop are probably hitting the stores this month. Here's what to be on the lookout for and here's what to avoid.