What's in YOUR Wallet? I see those commercials on TV and have to giggle, but identity theft truly isn't anything to giggle about.

Seriously, do you have everything in your wallet that a thief needs to steal your identity? You can protect yourself. Here are some suggestions:

Stay safe

Do not carry in your purse or wallet your social security card, any document that has your Social Security number on it, any more credit cards that you absolutely have to, any more ATM card than you absolutely have to, a list of passwords/PIN #'s, or your passport.

It is recommended to copy the front and back of everything in your wallet and keep the copies in a locked place. If your wallet is lost or stolen, use this to start the recovery process.

You will have copies of all your card numbers and phone numbers to call if lost or stolen.

It is also recommended to practice safe checking. Do not have your SSN or Driver's License number on your check.

Have your first initial rather than your first name on the check.

Have your work number put on your checks rather than your home number. Make sure your checks are securely produced; look for lock icon indicating two or more security features.

The less information a thief has about you, the better!

If you’re a victim

If you are victimized by identity theft, call the three major Credit Bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed on your accounts. These include Equifax at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-EXPERIAN, and TransUnion at 900-680-7289.

File a report with the local law enforcement agency and insist that they take a report. A copy of the police report will help you state your case to creditors and financial institutions.

Contact your creditors, utilities and financial institutions. Ask to talk with the Fraud Department and follow-up in writing.

Close all compromised accounts (but not unaffected accounts).

Get a copy of your credit report and read it carefully.

Contact Credit Card companies: Visa, MasterCard, American Express.

Contact your local DMV to put a fraud alert on your driver's license.

To replace your Social Security Card, call 888-722-1213. If someone is using your Social Security Number, contact the Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline at 800-269-0271.

To help resolve damaged credit, complete an Identity Theft Affidavit and use it in stating your card to creditors. It is available at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/affidavit.pdf

Contact these check approval companies to find out if your driver's license/ID has been used to write bad checks and place alerts on those records: TeleCheck 800-0710-9898; Scan 843-571-2143; National Check Fraud Service 843-571-2143; CrossCheck 707-586-0551; Equifax Check Systems 800-437-5120; and International Check Services 800-526-5380.

File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at 877-ID-THEFT.

Stay organized, be persistent and use certified mail, return receipt requested, when communicating in writing.

A Fact Sheet with this information is available at K-State Research and Extension, McPherson County at 600 W. Woodside St. in McPherson.

This information is all common sense, but in times of crisis, sometimes common sense takes a back seat to panic. Think seriously about what is in your wallet.

Jana McKinney is a McPherson County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.