The Cards We Carry

The Cards We Carry

“What’s in your wallet?”

So goes the saying that accompanies the Capital One Venture card solicitation.  You can also go from “0 to Card in 60 seconds.”  The number of credit cards in use today varies from one card per individual up to about 7% of the population having 7+ cards.  Conservatively, there are about 200 million credit cards in use today.

So what should you not have in your wallet today?  With identity theft becoming such a thriving industry today, the following guidelines are very applicable:

Never carry your Social Security card.  Never! If you lose your wallet and your Social Security card was in it, unlike a credit or debit card, you cannot simply cancel the card and change the number.  This number is what’s known as a “unique identifier” meaning that the number is unique to you and cannot be changed except in very rare circumstances.  With your Social Security number, an identity thief can take over your identity, open new accounts in your name, create a new driver’s license, on and on.

Never carry your Birth Certificate.  This is a fundamental document that can get you a replacement Social Security card, a passport, s driver’s license, etc.  This document is the single most destructive document in existence if it falls into the wrong hands.

Never carry a blank check.  Some people have decided to carry a blank check in their wallet or purse. No!  Your checks contain account and routing numbers.  In the wrong hands, these numbers can be used by a thief to clean your account out, overdraw your account, and leave you stuck with a financial loss.

Never carry anything that contains your passwords.  Writing down your many passwords is a good idea but don’t carry this paper in your wallet.

Never carry your Passport in your wallet or purse.  A passport is required for international travel.  A passport can be used to acquire a new Social Security card, a driver’s license or State ID card, and can be used as an identifying document in acquiring a loan or opening a new credit account.

Limit the number of credit cards you carry.  Most people have more than one credit card.  In many cases this is done to expand their credit opportunities when, for example, a merchant may not accept an American Express card but will take a MasterCard or Visa card.  If you do decide to carry multiple credit cards, take a second to make a copy of the front and back of all the cards you carry and keep this information handy at home.  One credit card is usually sufficient.

Limit the number of merchant credit cards you carry.  Most merchants will have your credit information on file eliminating the reason to carry their card and many merchants now accept Visa and MasterCard as well as their store card.

Lastly, never carry your Medicare card or any health identifying information.  Your Medicare number contains your Social Security number.  You can always get this information to a physician or hospital at a later time.  In fact, do not submit your Social Security number as a matter of course when completing information for a physician’s records.  In many cases, this would be used as a way of patient identification but leaves you open to too many people having access to your information.

Look upon “what’s in your wallet” very seriously.  Periodically, review the contents of your wallet and remove as much as you can that is not absolutely essential and limit access to your identity.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer