Where to keep key documents…and where NOT to

lost-walletHere’s a little quiz. Where is your Social Security card right now? What about your passport? Your birth certificate? Choose one:

  1. In the safe deposit box at my bank or in a locked file cabinet or fire-rated document chest at home
  2. I’m not sure, but they must be around here somewhere
  3. 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 and keep the copies in a safe place. This information will be very helpful in the event the card is misplaced or stolen.

More Information
  • 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.
  • If you become a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission maintains a one-stop resource at identitytheft.gov.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and loss control services.

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10 Responses to “Where to keep key documents…and where NOT to”

  1. Marylyn deGonzague

    We are told to carry our Medicare card, but it has our social security number on it.
    I photocopied the Medicare card, cut out the SSN, and carry that.
    Do you have a better suggestion? I am sure other Medicare participants would like to know.

    • Cincinnati Insurance

      Marylyn, what you are currently doing is a great idea! That protects your private information and is just what we would suggest.

      • William F. Powers

        Friends, I understand and support the need to be careful with our information, but I always thought my Medicare Claim Number is my Social Security number with (in my case) the letter “A” tagged to the end. How can a medical service provider process my claim without knowing my Social Security number? I’m not being contentions, just inquisitive.

  2. Sarah Raynes

    A safe at home is all well and good until someone breaks into your home. Thieves have gotten a little wiser and aren’t just walking out with the electronics anymore. Now they are picking up your safe and carting it away as well. They are portable and ridiculously easy to break open. So unless you have a safe too heavy to move, keep your documents in safe deposit box. I learned this lesson the hard way and will now spend the next few decades vigilantly monitoring the credit reports of every member of my family.

    • Eb

      Small safes that are easy to move are not good places for sensitive documents or firearms. I keep a “heavy” gun safe that I then place some of the smaller safes in for added protection. Not that a thief can’t figure out how to get a heavy safe out but by the time they do I expect the wireless alarm to have the local police there to greet them long before they figure out how to get out the door. Bank lock boxes are much better choice as long as it’s with a good long standing bank.

      • O Bob

        Agree, EB, a heavy gun safe will definitely slow the bastards and then hopefully the alarm systems will generate the proper response.

    • Mike R.

      My safe is bolted to the concrete floor.

  3. Astrotrucker

    I ran out of space for my gun safes…

  4. Bill Conroy

    We have had all of our important documents scanned & digitized and stored on several USB drives as PDF files. Trying to find a reliable bank that isn’t going to be swallowed up by some other entity has been kind of tricky since the crash.

  5. Jeffrey Aston

    I drilled holes thru the bottom of my gun safe, inside it, and used wedge anchors to bolt it to the cement floor in a closet in my foyer. With the safe door locked , there is no way to move it.

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