So, what’s in your wallet? My wife loves to tease me for my fat wallet. For some bizarre reason, it’s okay for her to have a purse that stores everything from two-year-old Halloween Snickers to Geiger counters. Heaven forbid I have a leftover receipt from Carl’s Jr. At least my wallet fits in my pocket. We’re lucky if we can get her purse to fit in the car without strapping one of the kids to the roof. Anyway, there is a point to this. We all carry “extra” stuff that we think is important. Usually it’s harmless junk, but sometimes it can be the key to our undoing…

I recently had my wallet stolen. I only had a few bucks, some ID and a couple of credit cards in it. When I reported it to the police, they made it sound like it was the end of the world. What’s the big deal?

Well, it all depends on who stole it. More often than not, the cash is taken and a thief will try charging gas or Internet porn to your credit cards. Then the wallet is chucked into the trash. However, a more enterprising thief can also take advantage of your personal information and begin using it to impersonate you. Very quickly they can create new credit card accounts, apply for loans in your name or use your ID to get into R-rated movies!

What can you do to stop this? If they have your wallet, maybe not much. But if you take some general precautions, you can minimize your risk. First of all, only carry a couple of credit cards you really need. Sure it looks cool to have the Best Buy Chase Manhattan “Three Stooges” memorial card, but if you never use it, why put it at risk? Some people seem to feel that having all 27 credit cards on them at once is a sign of power. Trust me, having all those cards does not turn you into the Pink Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger. Leave them at home.

Also, if you have any ID that has your Social Security number on it, leave it at home. Your Social Security number is like the teller window into your financial soul. With that and your driver license, an identity thief can weave a stolen identity web more confusing and tangled than the plot line from “Lost”. It could take years for you to prove the false past-due credit accounts don’t belong to you. Just remember. NEVER give out, or carry around, your Social Security number, unless it’s to a bank or institution you absolutely know and trust. Also, never do it by e-mail or on a website. I guarantee that any e-mail asking you to verify your info at their website is fake. Trust me. Just give me your Social Security card number and I’ll prove it…

My best advice to you is to put your wallet on a diet. Do a little Jenny Craig Jazzercise on it with a side of Richard Simmons and slim that sucker down. The less you carry, the less that can potentially be stolen or lost. Also, avoid writing down passwords or ATM codes and leaving them in the wallet. If you have to write it down, carry it separately so it won’t get taken with the ATM cards.

So, is it the end of the world if the thief gets your wallet? Probably not, but don’t make it easy for him if he does. With my luck, I’d get my wallet ripped off by MacGyver and next thing you know, he’s made a subatomic particle death beam out of a used receipt and a Tic Tac. My wife would never let me hear the end of it.