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Lost your wallet? Tips to avoid identity theft

November 9th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Alex Thatcher

Have you ever lost your wallet/purse or had it stolen? Then you know the terrible feeling of panic, fear and helplessness.

A few weeks ago I was on a roadtrip with the USU tennis team. We were in the Tulsa, Okla., airport on our way home when the coach told us to have our IDs ready to get our airplane ticket. I unzipped my backpack and began to feel around for my wallet. It wasn’t there. I frantically checked the other pockets and my heart dropped when I still didn’t find it.

After checking my duffle bag and still not finding it, I told my teammates and coach. They started checking their own bags to see if it had somehow ended up in someone else’s backpack. Feeling embarrassed but mostly worried I thought about my credit card cards, debit card, checking account information, driver’s license, cash and more that might have been lost or stolen.

Just as I was starting to feel sick to my stomach I remembered that I had placed the wallet in a small inconspicuous pocket in my backpack before leaving the hotel. I unzipped it and there it was. Everyone let out a sigh of relief, especially me, and we proceeded to check in.

Although it turned out all right, this incident has me worried over what I’d do if I did lose my wallet. I researched the topic a little and found out how serious identity theft is and how it can be avoided.

According to Spend on Life, an online resource that helps consumers maintain healthy credit, more than 11.1 million adults were victims of identity theft in 2009, up 12 percent from 2008. That’s almost 5 percent of the U.S. population. Those people were defrauded out of $54 BILLION, and the average victim spent 21 hours and $373 out-of-pocket straightening out the mess. More than one in 10 of the crooks in those cases were people the victim knew.

IdentityTheftLabs.com offers some helpful precautions to save time, money and stress if your personal information is ever compromised:

• Carry only what you need in your wallet or purse. Store all non-essential information in a safe place.

• Make a detailed list of the items you do carry with you, and put that somewhere safe.

• Never carry your Social Security number in your wallet or purse.

• Never carry account numbers or passwords.

• Keep contact numbers and information for all your financial and personal information in a secure place (where you can find it).

Identitytheftlabs.com also gives a few steps if your wallet/purse does happen to get lost or stolen:

• Call your credit card and ATM card issuers immediately.

• Report the theft or loss to local police.

• Contact your bank or credit union’s fraud department.

• Report a missing driver’s license to the department of motor vehicles.

• If your car or house keys are missing, too, change the locks.

• Begin a written list of every item in the lost wallet or purse.

For those who a little extra security, there are identity theft protection services, which provide daily monitoring of personal information. Some of these include LifeLock, Identity Guard, TrustedID, ID Watchdog, and Guard Dog ID. The average price for these services is about $100/year.

After “losing” and then finding my wallet, I don’t think I will buy an identity theft service, but I have learned a few practical things to make identity theft less of a threat. Fortunately, my wallet wasn’t stolen, but it was a wake-up call.


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