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Lighten your wallet to prevent identity theft

Thursday - 9/6/2012, 7:32am  ET

wallet.jpg
This wallet wouldn't pass the test. (WTOP/Lacey Mason)

WASHINGTON - It might be time to lose some weight in the wallet.

Not only will it make sitting more comfortable, it could keep you and your identity safe.

Kiplinger has compiled its list of eight items you should keep from your wallet to help prevent identity theft. And, hopefully, it will create more room in your purse.

  1. Social Security card: Most people know if someone gets hold of your Social Security number, he could potentially steal your identity by opening up credit cards or even posing as you when signing contracts.

    For most daily uses, a photo ID is enough to confirm identity and state-issued IDs can't show a Social Security number as of December 2005.

    Also, make sure your Medicare card isn't there either. It shows your Social Security number.

  2. Passwords and pins: Don't write this information down and keep it in your wallet.

    Instead, if you don't think you can remember them all, keep them locked in a box or use a smartphone app to help you keep track.

    Here are a few: SplashID ($9.95; Android, Blackberry, iPad, iPhone), Password Safe Pro (free, Android only) or Pocket (free, Android only).

  3. Spare keys: Since there's likely to be something in your wallet with your address, it may be an invitation to a burglar. Leave the spare keys with family members or trusted friends.

  4. Checkbook: Since not everyone checks IDs when people write checks, a criminal could take the cash and run or even use the numbers to make electronic transfers. When you know you might need a check, bring only the number of checks you'll need rather than the entire book.

  5. Passport: Unless you're actively headed abroad, leave the passport at home. An identity thief could use this to travel, open bank accounts and even grab a new copy of your Social Security card. Think about keeping it a hotel lockbox when you're traveling.

  6. Too many credit cards: Only carry one credit card at a time or perhaps one extra rewards card for days you plan to buy gas or items at stores with which you specifically have a card. This way there will be fewer cards to cancel if the wallet is stolen, and fewer opportunities for a thief to take your money.

    Also, jot down all the cancellation numbers for the cards so you can quickly prevent someone from using them if they are stolen.

  7. Birth certificate: This document alone isn't enough to steal identity, but in combination with other documents it can be. Only take it with when you know it will be needed, like a mortgage closing or the start of a new job.

  8. Receipts: Shred old receipts or store them digitally. Even though receipts legally can't show the full card number, even a few digits might be a start for a crafty thief.

    Mobile apps, such as Lemon and Shoeboxed, can help organize your digital copies of receipts.

Read more finance news at Kiplinger.

WTOP's David Burd contributed to this report. Follow David and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)