When I went to college, my dad gave me my Social Security card and my Health Insurance card to hold on to for the first time. I’m grateful that I was privileged to have both of these items, and that my parents handled these things for me up until I was 18. But I didn’t exactly even know what they were or what they meant when I was 18.
Luckily, he explained what this important paperwork means and why and how I should keep it safe. Financial wellness includes understanding relevant financial paperwork!
Here are a few tips to keep YOUR valuable paperwork safe:
- Slim down your wallet. What you don’t carry in your wallet is just as important as what you do carry. For preemptive protection, only carry what you need on a daily basis. Don’t carry around important paperwork, like a passport or Social Security card, on your person. If you are an international student and don’t have a state-issued ID card, get one so that you can leave your passport at home. Regularly clean out your wallet and remove unnecessary receipts or anything with identifying information.
- Don’t share information, such as medical or insurance information, by phone or email unless you initiated the contact and know who you’re dealing with.
- Keep a record. Make copies of paperwork you DO carry on your person – IDs (license, passport, student ID), memberships, insurance, credit cards –and store them in a secure, locked drawer or safe. If your wallet and everything in it were suddenly missing, you’d need to know what you had lost. In a personal notebook you keep in a secure place at home, write down all of the information from the front and back of your credit, debit, driver’s license, medical insurance and other important cards. Be sure to update the list as needed.
- Protect valuables. If possible, get a small, waterproof and fireproof safe to put original or copies of paperwork inside. Even though a small safe could be stolen, it is still useful to protect it from damage and from other people. If you need your Social Security card or other info to confirm your identity (i.e., when you are being hired for a new job), be sure to return it to its safe storage place as soon as you can.
- Keep the key or code to the safe in a secure place where no one can find it and make it complicated so that someone cannot easily guess it.
- Report any concerns. Contact the police if you think someone is using your identity. If you suspect someone is using your Social Security number, either on purpose or by accident, you need to contact the Social Security Administration. If your Social Security card is lost or stolen and you need a replacement, you will need to show certain required documents, complete the application for a Social Security card, and take or mail your application and documents to your local Social Security office.
For more information on crime prevention, check out the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Public Safety. Thanks to Crime Prevention Officer Megan Howard for some of these tips above!
For more information about identity theft, check out the US Department of Justice.