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‘Carrying these things in your wallet is a big mistake,’ warns fraud expert and ex-con artist

Frank Abagnale
Published Tue, Nov 5 201910:57 AM EST
Updated Tue, Nov 5 201911:40 AM EST

To identify thieves, a recycling bin, a mailbox, a parked car or a lonely purse left behind on a church pew are like all-you-can-steal buffets.

Names, addresses and ID numbers are right there for the taking. I’ve seen it all, and believe me: They do get taken.

For more than 45 years, I’ve worked with the FBI, along with hundreds of financial institutions, corporations and government agencies to help fight fraud. But my expertise began more than 50 years ago, in an unusual way: I was one of the world’s most famous con artists.

I’m not proud of the things I did, but my story, which is depicted in my 1980 memoir, “Catch Me If You Can,” gave me the opportunity to educate people of all ages on how to prevent themselves from getting scammed.

It can happen to anyone, anywhere

The most common form of identity theft is when someone uses another person’s information for financial gain. Often, this happens when a purse or wallets get stolen.

Carole Crane, considered one of the most prolific identity thieves in the Portland, Oregon area, is known for rifling through handbags in churches, preschools and doctor’s offices — all places where people often let down their guard.

She took the information she found and created fake credit cards, driver’s licenses and bank accounts for herself and her associates. Crane’s gang victimized more than 50 people and 50 banks and stole nearly $200,000, according to an FBI press release.

Carrying these things in your wallet is a big mistake

The theft of a wallet is unnerving, to say the least, and it’s a huge burden for many: Victims must notify the police, banks, credit card companies, DMV, health insurance carrier, Social Security Administration and so on.

But there are measures you can take to limit those hassles. The first step is to avoid carrying these things in your wallet:
1. Too many credit and debit cards. 
2. Social Security card.
3. Checks. 
4. Bank deposit slips. 
5. Gas station and ATM receipts. 

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