Wallet safety tips — March 2012, reviewed January 2013

Your wallet is stolen.  You immediately call your bank and contact credit card companies, close old accounts and open new ones.  But even though you’ve done all you should, in a few weeks problems start showing up, such as bills for merchandise you never purchased.  Luckily your actual liability for the cost of the unauthorized purchases is limited by law or industry standards.  However, you may still spend many frustrating hours to clear your name.

Reduce your chances of becoming a victim through following these tips:

Limit the amount of confidential information you carry in your wallet.  Only carry the information you really need.  Social Security cards need to be kept in a safe place elsewhere.

Keep good backup information about your bank and credit card accounts, just in case your wallet is stolen. One good way is to take the time to photo copy the front and back of all the important cards kept in the wallet and keep that in a safe place elsewhere as well. 

Open your mail everyday and review any credit card or bank statements.  Finding a problem early should make it easier to deal with.

Check your credit reports annually.  Remember this can be done for free. Obtain your report from all three nationwide credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. (www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp/)  You can maximize your monitoring capability by ordering one every four months.  This may be a good strategy particularly if you have already had identify theft issues.

Some of these recommendations may be time consuming, but doing these preventive steps could save hours of frustration if you do become a theft victim.