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Keep your identity safe

Keep your identity safe
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It’s important in this day and age to keep your identity safe, both online and in real life. That means having strong passwords for your online accounts and knowing what to put in your wallet–and what to keep at home.

Read on to learn what you should never keep in your wallet.

Tax file number - like cash to a thief

Tax file number - like cash to a thief
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A big no-no: Stowing reference to your tax file number inside your wallet. “Your tax file number is one of the most valuable pieces of information in the hands of a thief,” says Eva Velasquez, an identity theft expert. “With it, they can easily open a line of credit in your name, receive medical attention, or even commit crimes using your information.”

If your wallet is stolen with your card inside, immediately report the theft to the issuing authority and watch out for these 11 red flags someone just stole your identity.

Medicare card

Medicare card
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Even if you aren’t carrying your details of your tax file number, your Medicare card is a valuable government-issued form of id. Old Medicare numbers. Only carry your card when you have a medical appointment, says Adam Levin, founder of global identity protection and data risk services firm CyberScout and author of Swiped. “All other days you make a copy of it, wipe out all but one or two numbers, and on the back write the [phone] number of an emergency contact,” he says. That way, rescuers will still be able to get the information they need during an emergency.

Receipts

Receipts
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At first glance, a shop or bank receipt doesn’t seem to carry much information. But a skilled crook can use those bits of information to steal your money more effectively, says Levin. For instance, someone who sees a bunch of receipts from weekday evenings at Target could shop there on a Monday night without looking suspicious to the credit card company. Or your credit card’s customer service department might be more likely to believe a crook who happens to know all your recent purchases. Or a phisher could pose as your favourite restaurant via email, putting malware on your computer when you click a link. “Why have a data point that, if someone could get their hands on that, would enable them to know just one more piece of the puzzle?” says Levin. “If I don’t need it, don’t throw it away—shred it.” Instead of stuffing receipts into your wallet after every purchase, ask to receive a copy via email.

 

Membership cards

Membership cards
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If you make a habit of saving money at Costco or getting to the gym often, good for you! But now for the catch: You shouldn’t be keeping your membership cards in your wallet. If someone got a hold of your wallet, the thief could use those cards to get into the gym and superstore, and each would be one more card you’d need to worry about replacing. Keeping those cards in your car is a safer bet, says Robert Siciliano, CSP, the CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com.

Gift cards

Gift cards
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Like cash, you have no way to get money back from gift cards if you lose them. “It’s a sitting duck,” says Levin. “This is cash. You don’t even need to show an ID to use them.” You wouldn’t carry around hundreds of dollars in cash, so you shouldn’t risk losing a big stack of gift certificates either. Only tuck them in your wallet when you know you’ll use them, says Levin.

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More than a few credit cards

More than a few credit cards
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You’ve got a credit card for your favourite department store, another for frequent flyer points, another for hotel points—the list goes on and on. But having a million cards isn’t the best idea; Siciliano and Levin both recommend capping it at two or three to avoid identity theft. For one thing, spreading your points out into several different cards, none will add up to anything useful, says Siciliano. An even bigger risk, though? The more cards are in your wallet, the more damage a thief can do quickly, says Levin. He recommends carrying just one credit card and a debit card, and leaving the rest at home. “If they all get stolen, the bank is not going to get them back to you in an hour and a half,” he says.

Keeping credit cards separate will give you a safety net, just avoid using them in these 10 scenarios.

Your work ID

Your work ID
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If your work ID lets you swipe in to get office access—especially during odd hours of the night—your business could be at risk if your wallet goes missing. Giving a thief access to the building could get both you and your employer in trouble, says Siciliano. He recommends using one wallet for your 9-to-5 and another for the weekends.

Passwords

Passwords
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About 67 per cent of people write their passwords down on a piece of paper, according to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, but keeping a running list of your passwords, PINs, and alarm codes in your wallet is just asking for trouble. “It wouldn’t take somebody more than a few minutes to figure out what those numbers are,” says Levin. “Why be an unwilling co-conspirator in the theft of your own identity?” Siciliano recommends using a password manager on your phone or computer instead. The app stores all your passwords for you, so you can make a different obscure one for every account without needing to memorise them all.

Avoid 12 password mistakes that hackers hope you make.

Blank cheques

Blank cheques
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Though increasingly becoming rare, criminals can still do a lot more with a blank cheque than you might think. For starters, they can easily counterfeit the cheques in order to tap into your checking account, says Steve Weisman, author of Identity Theft Alert. They can also use the bank account and routing numbers on the cheque to withdraw money electronically, which is faster and harder to track. The smarter move is to carry only one or two cheques when you know you will need them, leaving the rest safely at home.

These are the 7 things you should do ASAP if your wallet is lost or stolen.

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– The Reader’s Digest team