4 Tips for Keeping Your Wallet or Purse Safe From Identity Thieves

Simple Tips for Staying Safe

Woman looking into a large purse

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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%—happens in the real world. In fact, your identity can be stolen while you're shopping or even taking your trash out.

When Is Your Wallet or Purse Most Vulnerable to Theft?

Anytime 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 simple theft, really. Someone bumps into you, and the next time you reach for your wallet, it’s gone. Or you set your 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 discard whatever remains. That means your personal information is left lying around for whoever happens to stumble upon it.

Worse still, is if the original thief 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.

Four Tips for Keeping Your Purse or Wallet Safe

There are actions you can take to prevent identity theft.

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.

Don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket or the side pocket of a jacket. Carry it in your front pants pocket, or 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. We 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 what they are exactly.

Identity thieves steal identities because it’s an opportunity to make a little extra cash. Don’t make it convenient for them. An identity theft protection service can help you catch any breaches early. 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.