Lost handbags can lead to stolen identities

11 July 2008 / by Rachael Stiles
The contents of the average woman's handbag could put them at risk of having their identity stolen, according to a warning issued by Sheilas' Wheels home insurance.

Women are carrying around too much personal information with them which could leave them vulnerable to identity theft when they leave the house, research has found, with almost two thirds of women having at least one item in their handbags containing personal information.

The kind of every day items which women carry around with them and which could be used to steal an identity include a diary containing personal details, a cheque book, or utility bills – one of the most common things used by thieves as proof of identity. Seven per cent of women even admit to carrying around their passport on a regular basis.

The average contents of a handbag are worth as much as £290, including mobile phones, cosmetics, MP3 players and money. But the 'real' cost of losing it to fraudsters could be much higher – £1.7billion is now stolen through identity fraud.

Oversized handbags have grown in popularity with many celebrities stepping out with them, and one in three women admit to carrying around too many items containing personal information and never clearing out their handbag. But Sheilas' Wheels is warning women that this lack of 'decluttering' is leaving them at risk from opportunistic thieves.

Women should change their 'bag' habits, the insurer says, and only carry around what they need in a secure handbag, leaving confidential items at home where they are safer, because personal items are not always protected by home insurance outside of the home.

Shielas' Wheels home insurance also recommends that people keep an eye on their identity by getting a free credit report to ensure that no credit has been applied for in their name by another party.

"Losing a bag and its contents not only creates the obvious problem of loss of cash and credit cards, but can lead to identity theft." said Jacky Brown at Sheilas' Wheels home insurance. "With the size of fashionable handbags on the up, it's crucial to only carry around the bare essentials and declutter regularly. Ridding bags of items such as old utility bills, post and cheque books could reduce the risk of having your identity stolen if your handbag is snatched."

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