A woman who thought her wallet was stolen eight years ago was stunned to get it back from the Boston Police this week — with her credit cards, social security card and $141 in cash still inside.
And in an incredible stroke of fortune, Courtney Connolly, a 30-year-old nursing student, told InsideEdition.com she desperately needed that $140 to pay for a spot in an important fitness competition this summer, and she had just three weeks to come up with the cash.
RELATED: Sensitive information you should never keep in your wallet:
5 things you should never keep in your wallet
5 things you should never keep in your wallet
1. Social Security Card
The No. 1 thing you should never carry in your wallet is your Social Security card.
"Your Social Security number is the most vital piece of information for identity thieves, and the damage resulting from identity theft can impact your finances for years to come," said Michael Bruemmer, vice president of consumer protection at credit reporting company, Experian.
If someone gets your number, he or she can use it to apply for credit in your name, file a tax return and claim a refund or get a job and earn income that's reported to the IRS — which will create problems for you at tax time, according to the Social Security Administration. For these reasons, Bruemmer says that losing a Social Security card can be devastating.
While you can get a new Social Security number, you must have evidence that someone is using your current one. However, some government agencies and businesses, such as banks, might still associate you with the old number — even after you make the switch.
When you go out, it's best to leave your birth certificate and passport at home.
"Like your Social Security number, these items contain some vital, personally identifiable information, and losing these will make it all too easy for thieves to steal your identity," Bruemmer said.
Unfortunately, more than half of travelers surveyed by Experian said they carry their passports in their wallets. If you're traveling overseas, opt to leave your passport locked in the hotel safe rather than keeping it with you while you're out on the town.
A 2015 survey by Experian's ProtectMyID identity service found that 47 percent of consumers don't remove unnecessary credit cards from their wallets before traveling. Carrying numerous cards doesn't just put you at risk on vacation, though. It's also a dangerous habit.
"If your wallet is stolen and you have eight credit cards in it, that means you will have to cancel eight credit cards, dispute with eight different card companies if fraud does occur, as well as reset any autopay you had for those eight cards," Bruemmer said. "The more cards you carry, the more opportunities you are giving a thief to steal your money or information, and the more work you are putting on yourself to reestablish accounts after a theft."
Bruemmer recommends carrying only your main credit card and perhaps a backup one. Only carry retailer cards in your wallet when you are headed to those specific stores, he said. And make sure you have a record of your credit card account numbers and contact information for each card issuer stored at home, in case a card is stolen.
Some people write down their debit card PIN and passwords for accounts in case they forget them and carry them in their wallets, Bruemmer said. However, this information should always be left at home in a secure place.
"If someone has access to your bank PIN or financial account passwords, they can easily steal money from your accounts or make purchases under your name," Bruemmer said.
If you prefer writing checks to using a debit card, avoid carrying your entire checkbook around with you, Bruemmer said. Otherwise, thieves have easy access to your money in the event that your purse or wallet is stolen.
Checking account fraud can be especially difficult to resolve, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. You should report your stolen checkbook to the police and keep a copy of the report to submit to any merchants or financial institutions at which your stolen checks were used.
Connolly was working as a production intern at the Harbour Actors Theater in Wellfleet, Massachusetts when the wallet vanished on July 25, 2009. That morning, she went to move her car and found the contents of her glove box strewn across the passenger's seat. "I think my window had been down," she said.
Her wallet was gone, and with it, the money she'd just cashed from her pay check. As a student on a fixed intern income, the loss hit her hard.
"You work so hard for that little bit of money," she said. "I was so furious. That was my money for food for the week. That was my money for gas for the week."
She contacted police, who said they would be in touch if there was any activity on her credit cards, but that never happened. So after being forced to borrow money from family — "I'm sure I was a little ashamed" — and getting new copies of her credit cards and identification, she says she soon forgot about the missing wallet.
Until last Monday.
Her sister-in-law, who now lives with Connolly's brother in the house where they grew up, texted her to say someone had found her wallet and given it to a police officer in west Roxbury.
At first, Connolly didn't understand. "I told her I had my wallet in my hand," she said.
But her sister-in-law insisted: "She says, "But I'm looking at your license.'"
"Then something from the depths of my memory made me think about that old wallet," she said. "I was convinced it was just going to be the wallet. Never in my wildest dreams did I think all my cards would be in there."
When Connolly picked up the wallet and discovered the untouched cash inside, she was floored. Not least because the wallet was found 100 miles from where it was taken back in 2009.
She said she's since learned that someone contacted police on Monday and told them the wallet had been thrown from another car into his car's open window. He then handed over the wallet to a police officer, who contacted the address on a pay stub inside.
"It immediately came into my mind that I really need this money," she said.
Connolly said she needed the cash to pay for a powerlifting competition this summer. The sport, which her boyfriend helped introduce her to a year ago, helps her deal with anxiety and depression, which she suffers following an assault years ago, she said.
"I pick up the bar and my mind goes quiet," she said. "It's just completely peaceful. I definitely see a difference, mentally and physically."
With the deadline to the competition fast approaching, one of the organizers agreed to hold open a spot for Connolly, provided she could come up with the cash — around $140 — within a month, she said. That deadline was about three weeks away when she got the call from her sister-in-law.
With the money, she can now take part.
"It's going to cover the cost of the competition," she said. "I still can't believe it."
And she still can't believe the kindness of the good Samaritan and police officer.
"You did the right thing," she wants to tell them. "It would've been so easy to say you've found an empty wallet. There really are truly, genuinely good people in the world."