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Protecting Your Wallet and Handbag

Your wallet probably holds access to your most private financial data, in the form of debit cards and credit cards, along with plenty of other personal details, contained in the various forms of ID you might keep there. If your wallet or purse are lost or stolen, this can have grave consequences. Along with a thief cleaning out your accounts, you also have to deal with the hassle of replacing everything you had in the wallet.

One important fact to realize is that if somebody was to steal a wallet, they could rack up a large sum of money before your banks realize what had happened. Today, many people have fraud protection through their bank, but while this protection is essential, it is not perfect. What if you left your social security card inside? What if you have more than one credit card in there? Even if the bank is willing to replace the money spent by the thief, the consequences of a lost wallet are more than financial.

Despite this hassle, most people leave their wallets relatively unprotected for large portions of the day. Do you carry yours in a back pocket, jacket, or even a gym bag? Do you ever leave it in a locker or in your car? There are steps you can take to make sure your life won't freeze in the instant your wallet is taken.

First, make photocopies of the front and back sides of each card in the wallet. That way, if they are ever stolen, you'll have the information you need to get them canceled or replaced quickly. This includes not only credit cards and IDs but also gym memberships and other cards you might keep in your wallet on a daily basis. Be sure to keep the copies themselves in a safe place - such as a locked safe in your home - so that the copies themselves don't pose an identity theft risk.

Now, clean out your wallet. Many people carry far too many cards in their wallet. How many do you really need on a daily basis? If you're carrying around more than one or two bank cards, you're exposing yourself to unnecessary risk. Carry only the necessities, and even fewer cards if you're going somewhere that you perceive to be more dangerous than usual. Many people go the additional step of carrying a debit card that's only tied to one of their accounts - keeping most of their savings in another account - to limit the amount a thief would be able to access. Consider writing "SEE ID" next to your signature on the back of your credit card. Though many cashiers do ignore this, it does have a chance of stopping the thief quickly.

If your wallet is ever stolen, act quickly to minimize the damage done. Banks will only freeze your account if they know something shady is going on. Call them immediately to alert them to the lost or stolen card, so that a thief doesn't have a chance to rack up thousands of dollars in fraudulent transactions. If both your wallet and keys have been stolen, change your house locks immediately. The cards in your wallet provide a thief with your address, and your keys will allow them to walk right in through the front door, unless you change the locks.


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