Here’s a little quiz. Where is your Social Security card right now? What about your passport? Your birth certificate? Choose one:
- In the safe deposit box at my bank or in a locked file cabinet or fire-rated document chest at home
- I’m not sure, but they must be around here somewhere
- In my purse, wallet or briefcase
If you answered anything but Option 1, imagine your favorite television game show buzzer. Try again!
Passports, birth certificates and Social Security cards are “super IDs.” With these items in hand, a criminal can easily create bogus accounts in your name or hijack legitimate accounts you own. In fact, with these items, criminals can assume your identity and do just about anything they want, costing you money, reputation and your precious time to straighten everything out.
The best way to thwart criminals is to leave at home any documents you don’t immediately need. Lock them in a file cabinet, a home safe or a safe deposit box at a bank. Sure, when applying for a new job or in some other situation where you need proof of citizenship, you’ll need to carry primary identification with you. But lock these documents up when you get home.
Don’t make it easy for criminals. A purse or briefcase is a prime target.
Along those same lines, don’t leave purses, briefcases or backpacks unattended or visible in your car.
It is also a good idea to make photocopies, front and back, of all ID cards, credit cards and other items that you may carry in your purse or wallet. This information will be very helpful in the event the card is misplaced or stolen.
- A U.S. State Department travel checklist advises travelers to keep a photocopy of all important documents in a location separate from the originals in case of theft; it also recommends leaving a photocopied set at home with someone you trust.