My wallet was stolen!! When it’s someone we love, especially a vulnerable parent or grandparent, those words can send chills down the spine.
After we find out they weren’t hurt (hopefully), our thoughts turn to what was taken.
If we’re lucky, the loss is limited to cash, credit cards and maybe a nice purse and/or wallet.
For many people, unfortunately, a stolen purse or wallet can be a much greater loss.
What do your senior loved ones have in their wallets and purses – – and what could a criminal do with what they find there?
Carrying Identity Theft Material
How often do we have to sit down and clean out our pocket books or wallets? Sometimes when I haven’t done this in a while it may take me quite a long time to sift through all the ‘essential items’ that mysteriously find their way into my bag and wallet. Papers and cards seem to fall out in protest.
Sometimes our senior’s wallets get that way too and need a little attention whether we are women or men. It is important not to carry everything in wallets and purses in case they are lost and stolen.
I have had my purse stolen and it took a lot of time and energy not to mention fear of a loss of my identity to recover everything that went missing. You don’t want that to happen to your senior.
Many times older adults don’t realize how dangerous it will be to lose a social security card or bank PIN. Their nest egg could be gone in a minute. This was just not something they had to worry about before.
Essential Items to Carry
Here are the items that should be kept in your senior’s wallet or purse for every day exchanges. Naturally being able to show proof of identity is vital but they don’t need everything all the time. It would also be a good time to check the expiration dates on all the cards and update everything that needs to be updated including driver’s license, medications and emergency contacts.
- Driver’s License or Official ID – this is important to use for proof of identity even if you are not the driver
- Insurance Card if it does NOT have your Social Security number on it
- Emergency Contacts/Next of Kin information – the Red Cross provides a great one you can download for free here
- AARP card
- AAA card
- Library card
- Credit card/Gas card – not more that you need, carry one versatile card you use often and leave the rest home
- Cash – $20-100 (suggest you carry five $1 bills, one $5 bill, one $10 bill and one $20 bill)
- One or two reward cards – for stores you regularly visit like grocery and drugstore if you can’t get them into a smartphone (yes, there’s probably an app for that)
- Medication/Allergy list – we found one we like for carrying vital information here
Non-Essential and Could Be Dangerous to Carry
There are cards that we don’t even realize can be dangerous if our senior loved ones are carrying them around. Recently we found that one card that is routinely carried by our seniors can be one of the most important ones to stop carrying to protect their identity.
- Social Security Card
- Medicare Card – because your senior’s Healthcare Insurance Claim Number HICN is their social security number. (Most healthcare providers already have your number in their electronic system and don’t need the card. If you feel you must carry it in emergencies, it is recommended that you make a photocopy and scratch out all but the last four digits. Veteran’s Benefits cards no longer use your senior’s social security number on the benefit card but the government has decided it is too costly to change numbers and reissue cards due to the number of people who have Medicare cards. According to a GAO office report, CMS estimates it would cost $255 million to $317 million to change.)
- Checks – except for what you know you will need on the current outing
- Passwords – since their memory may be somewhat impaired, many seniors (and even some of us) carry around our PIN and other passwords on small pieces of paper. Avoid this at all costs because if you lose your wallet and have a check and PIN in it you can forget about your savings too as that can be wiped out in an instant.
- Too many credit cards – bring the one or two you use not every active card you might own
Smartphone May Be Secure Alternative
Here’s another tip if you want to keep even fewer things in your wallet or purse. Use your smartphone to store loyalty cards with the code that the store can easily scan. You can go paperless with many cards including grocery stores, drugstores and AAA. This can definitely lighten up the wallet without losing out on valuable discounts or rewards.
You may also want to photocopy all the things you currently carry in your wallet in case it is lost or stolen. It will make it easier to replace what is missing and remember everything that was there. The copies can be kept in safety at home.
What’s in your wallet?