12 Items You Shouldn’t Carry in Your Purse

If you’ve been dragging these items around, it might be time to clean out your handbag.

Passwords

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If you have trouble remembering passwords, you might be tempted to carry them with you in your bag. “Some people feel passwords are safer in their bag than at home because it’s always on them, but nothing could be further from the truth,” says Eva Velasquez, CEO and president of Identity Theft Resource Center. “You’re much more apt to lose your purse or wallet than have a break-in.” Memorizing all your login information is the safest, but if that’s not practical, she recommends storing your passwords in a passcode-protected smartphone app. These are signs your password is weak.

Debit card

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Without the same protections as credit cards, debit cards put you at higher risk when making purchases. “I’m not a huge fan of always having a debit card with you, because the cash disappears from your account and you have to prove it was you before you get it back, unlike a credit card, where you can stop the charges and the money never leaves your account,” says John Sileo, CEO of cybersecurity group Sileo Group. Swipe a credit card for most purchases, and use an ATM-only card with a PIN to get cash, he recommends.

Laptop

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A computer is probably the heaviest thing in your bag. The weight of a laptop can strain your shoulder, causing imbalanced posture, or even neck, spine, and shoulder injuries, says Steven Shoshany, MD, of NYC Chiropractic. If you need to have your laptop on hand, use a messenger bag or a backpack, which will distribute the weight more evenly, Shoshany suggests. These may be other reasons your neck suddenly hurts.

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Receipts

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A crook won’t be able to steal your identity with receipts alone, but pairing them with other documents could make it easier to pretend to be you. “It’s giving a thief a great picture of who you are and where you shop,” Velasquez says. “All fraud analytics look for anomalies in behavior, and your receipts show where you shop.” With your old receipts, a thief might be able to make more purchases before you can cancel the card, so empty them from your bag once you’re home. Are you shredding these surprising documents?

Unprotected phone

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“A lot of Americans think of their smartphone as a phone instead of a mobile computer that happens to make calls,” Sileo says. Leaving your phone unprotected makes it easy for strangers to access any information you have stored in your apps. Even a four-digit password can be easy for thieves to crack, so use a longer code, or log in using fingerprint, face, or voice recognition, Sileo says.

Umbrella

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You might be prepared for that 30 percent chance of rain, but a bulky umbrella adds unnecessary weight. “Keep an umbrella in your car, or keep one at work and one at home,” Shoshany says.

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Checkbook

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Depending on your bank, getting your money back from check fraud could take anywhere from a day to four months, Sileo says. He recommends finding an alternative way to pay because checks are so easy to steal. If you can’t bear to give up check writing, keep just a couple checks in your bag, not the whole book.

Full-size beauty products

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Don’t weigh down your back by lugging around big bottles of hairspray. Over time, the repetitive strain of that added weight could start pulling your shoulder out, Shoshany says. “Downsize from full sizes to travel sizes to lighten the load,” he says.

Work badges

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Giving a stranger access to your workplace could cause major problems in your job, Sileo says. Have a separate bag for the weekend or take your work ID out when you leave the office.

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Gift cards

iStock/AnthonyRosenberg

Like cash, you won’t get gift cards back if you lose them, so keep them with you only if you plan to use them in the store, Sileo says. If you’re afraid you’ll forget them when you do get around to shopping there, leave gift cards in your car in a disguised container like an Altoids tin, he says.

Social security number

Claire Benoist for Reader's Digest

“Your social security number is the critical piece of information a thief needs to carry out identity theft,” Velasquez says. Unless you need a copy for a new employer, leave your social security card at home in a secure place.

Passport

iStock/SbytovaMN

Because passports are hard to forge, a real one will be accepted more easily than other stolen documents, Velasquez says. Only carry it if it’s your primary identifier—though Velasquez recommends getting a state ID instead.

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