Your wallet is gone, now what! It’s a panic too many of us have had and it can be even worse if you don’t know what to do after you discover you wallet gone. Many times it is more than just a few calls.
Be proactive and consider the below advice while you still have your wallet in your pocket. There’s also advice in the event that you do lose your wallet or are a victim of theft.
Before Your Wallet is Lost or Stolen – Identity and Wallet Theft Prevention Steps
- Ideally you will never have your wallet stolen or lose it. Use a wallet with a security feature. Some styles of wallets will stay tethered to you. Below are few such popular styles.
See more about these styles and other anti-theft and anti-loss wallets, click here
The fewer pieces of information you carry in your wallet or purse, the less you have for a thief to steal.
- One simple way to protect yourself against identity theft is to limit the amount of confidential information you carry in your wallet. Experts recommend that you not carry around bank account numbers, personal identification numbers (PINs), passports, birth certificates, and most importantly, Social Security cards. (Although many states continue to use Social Security numbers on drivers’ licenses, this practice is changing.)
- Avoid carrying more blank checks than you really need. Not only can a thief cash checks or use them for purchases, but a crook also can make use of the sensitive information often pre-printed on your checks (your address, bank account number, even your telephone number). Many consumers even print their driver’s license number or Social Security number on their checks. That’s a definite no-no, because either number could help a thief apply for a loan, credit card or bank account in your name.
- Keep good backup information about your accounts, just in case your wallet is lost or stolen. You’ll want account numbers and phone numbers that can be used to report your losses or request new cards or emergency cash. Some people recommend photocopying your credit, debit, and ATM cards, as well as your driver’s license and passport information. Another approach is to simply list key numbers on a handy sheet of paper or computer document. Keep these numbers in safekeeping or else they can become tools for someone with criminal intent. You’ll also want ready access to these papers, too. That’s why a safe deposit box or other restricted area might not be a good storage place for these numbers in case you need immediate access at night or on a weekend or holiday. The following is a sample checklist of just a few items than many people keep in their wallet or purse to help you start with your checklist:
___ Driver’s license. Did it have your SSN on it? Yes No
___ Credit cards (itemize)
___ Vehicle registration papers
___ ATM/ Debit cards/ Bank cards
___ Check cashing card, bank checks (your own account)
___ Your Social Security card **
___ Social Security cards or numbers for any other family members (spouse, children)
___ AAA and/or auto insurance card
___ Library card
___ Video store card (i.e. Blockbuster)
___ Health insurance/prescription/dental benefit card. Did it have your SSN on it? Yes No
___ Employee or student ID card. Did it have your SSN on it? Yes No
___ Military ID card **
___ Medicare or MediCal card **
___ Green card or immigration papers
___ Health club card. Did it have your SSN on it? Yes No
___ Long distance calling card – pin number printed on card
___ Long distance calling card – pin number not printed on card
___ Prepaid phone cards – Nonrenewable
___ Prepaid phone cards – Renewable
___ Any bills/statements you may have been carrying (i.e., phone, credit card)
___ Birth certificate
___ Store club cards (supermarket, Sams, Costco)
___ Professional licenses (doctor, nurse, etc.)
___ Discount cards or passes (movie, amusement parks)
- If you’re going on vacation, take along a list of the toll-free telephone numbers for your banking and credit card companies, not your card numbers, and keeping the list in a safe place other than your wallet. If you lose your wallet while you’re away from home, having those phone numbers will help you quickly report the problem and get replacement cash or cards.
- Why not take a list of card numbers with you on your trip? “The card numbers alone can be just as valuable to a thief as the actual cards themselves, if not more valuable. If someone steals your wallet, you’ll probably notice that right away. But if someone steals a list of card numbers from your suitcase, you might not be so quick to realize that, and that just gives the thief more time to run up fraudulent charges.
- Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine or scanner, and copy/scan both sides of each license, credit card, etc, you will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel, then keep the information in a safe place.
- Keep a list of everything you carry in your purse or wallet along with the following information for each:
- Credit cards: numbers, expiration dates, institutions that issued them
- Identity cards: driver’s license, university ID, gym or health club membership card
- Blood donation card or insurance cards: these often have your SSN printed on them.
- Affinity and membership cards: Frequent flyer cards, Sam’s Club membership cards, etc.
- On the back of each credit card, write “REQUIRE PICTURE ID” in the signature block. As soon as you recognize how few clerks even look at the signature, you will see how this theft continues at such an uncontrollable pace.
- Have the toll free numbers of your credit card companies handy before you lose your wallet. The key is to have these numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them easily.
- NEVER carry your Social Security Card unless you are going to need it that day for completing paperwork for a new job. As soon as you are finished with it, keep it in a secure place within your home. If any of your credit, identity, or affinity cards have your social security number on them, request new cards from those companies.
- Clean your purse or wallet on a regular basis. Remove credit card receipts as soon as possible, as these carry a record of your signature on them.
- Assign passwords to your credit card, bank, phone, and brokerage accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, birth date, etc.
- Consider canceling any credit cards you don’t really need or use. Among the reasons: A thief can dust off a “dormant” card and use card numbers and other personal information to make purchases or get a new card. You’ll only find out about the problem when the collection notices arrive at your address.
- Consider subscribing to a credit security service offered by some banks and credit card issuers. This service will register all your credit cards and important documents. If your cards are ever lost or stolen, this service will notify your credit card issuer, cancel them and order you new ones.
Things to Do After You Lose Your Wallet
Identity thieves can use information found in your wallet or purse-from credit cards, checks, your Social Security card, even health insurance cards-to establish new accounts in your name. That could create an identity crisis that can take months to detect, and even longer to unravel. Here is a listing of things to consider:
- If you find that your wallet is missing in a retail store, contact the store manager or security personnel immediately so employees can be alerted. It is not uncommon for a thief to remain in the same store and make charges on your credit card.
- Contact each credit card issuer and cancel each card immediately and request that new cards with new account numbers be issued. You should also add a password on all new accounts. Even if your wallet is discovered, it may be a good idea to close your accounts. This will prevent any future fraudulent activity should the thief have access to your account numbers and identification while the wallet was missing. General policy is that you are responsible for the first $50.00 of unauthorized charges on a credit card. In many instances, a consumer is not charged this first $50.00 if the theft is reported quickly.
- Contact your bank immediately. Provide them with as much information as possible, even if you think it’s slight or irrelevant.. It sometimes helps to go directly to the local branch and speak face-to-face with a bank administrator or fraud investigator. Do not waste time explaining your case to a teller.
- If you lose your ATM card, get a new one with a different password and account number. For security purposes, it is encouraged that you commit your password to memory and never write it down in your wallet or purse. Passwords or personal identification numbers (PIN) with your birthday, last four digits of your social security number, middle name or anything else that a criminal could discover should be avoided.
- File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen in order to establish a record of your missing property. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one) and can also help in your wallet’s safe return if someone turns it in. Remember to ask for the file number of your report in case you need to give it to anyone in dealing with the ramifications of your loss. Make sure to get a copy of the report in case your bank, credit card company or insurance company needs proof of the crime.
- You’ll need to notify the DMV if your driver’s license is missing as well as get a new one (which you can hopefully do online and thereby avoid standing in line). This is important because if a fraudster has your name and address, it’s possible that the thief, or someone that they are working with could apply for a lot of things under your name as well as steal your mail to keep you from finding out about it – which is why you should make sure your mail is now delivered into a secured mail box. In this same vein, if your keys are also missing, you should also change your locks.
- If your checkbook is missing, contact your bank and cancel your checking account immediately. It is recommended that a new account be established rather than canceling check numbers or a booklet series. It is not uncommon for the criminal to use the checks months after the theft to make unauthorized withdrawals or print additional checks using your information. Recall the last check you wrote and have the bank stop payment on any checks after that number.
- If you had your Social Security card in your wallet, it’s very important that you place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. It’s very important that you file reports with the Federal Trade Commission (1-877-438-4338), the Internet Crime Complaint Center, and the Internal Revenue Service Identity Protection Unit (1-800-908-4490) in order to avoid falling victim to identity theft. You can then apply for a new Social Security Card through the Social Security website.
- Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately and ask them to put a “fraud alert” on your account. Additionally, ask them to add a “victim’s statement” to your file requesting that creditors contact you before opening new accounts in your name. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.
- Once you have notified the credit reporting bureaus, ask them for copies of your credit reports. Review your reports carefully to make sure no additional fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or unauthorized changes made to your existing accounts. In a few months, order new copies of your reports to check to see if someone has applied for any credit under your name.
- Finally, make a list of everything that you believe was in your wallet. You’re not going to forget about the big things (i.e. credit cards, IDs, etc.), but certain other things could easily slip your mind. It might seem insignificant, but it will be important to do things like request a new pass card from work or your gym or change certain passwords that you may have written on a slip of paper and stashed in your wallet.The numbers to the credit reporting bureaus are as follows:
Credit Reporting Bureaus
Equifax: P.O. Box 105069, Atlanta, GA 30348.
Report fraud: Call (800) 525-6285, and write to address above.
Order credit report: (800) 685‑1111. Web: www.equifax.com
Experian (formerly TRW): P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013.
Report fraud: Call (888) EXPERIAN (888-397-3742), and write to address above.
Fax: (800) 301-7196.
Order credit report: (888) EXPERIAN. Web: www.experian.com
Trans Union: P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834.
Report fraud: (800) 680‑7289, and write to address above.
Order credit report: (800) 888-4213. Web: www.transunion.com
In 2 to 3 months you will need to order additional copies of your reports from the three credit bureaus to verify your corrections and changes, and to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred. There may be a small charge for these reports if you are not yet a victim of identity theft. Again, keep records of these charges in the event of restitution. It is recommended that credit reports be ordered every 3-4 months the first year. If no criminal activity has occurred by then, you can go back to checking your credit reports on a yearly basis.
Please be aware that fraud alerts are advisory in nature only and that credit issuers are not required to honor them. There are laws pending in several states and at the federal level that would make them mandatory (current as of July 2002). Fraud alerts are usually in place for 60 or 90 days. You will want to extend the time period to seven years; the CRAs require you do so in writing. You can cancel fraud alerts at any time.
- Depending on the circumstances of your wallet’s loss or theft, you may want to sign up for a credit monitoring service for at least a few months after your wallet goes missing so that you’ll be alerted to any changes to your credit reports.
- Call your auto insurance company /AAA: Notify the insurance company immediately. You don’t want someone using your information in the event of an accident. Request a replacement policy number.
- If your keys have been lost or stolen, it is recommended that you change the locks on your car or house immediately. Don’t give an identity thief access to even more personal property and information.
Social Security Administration
- Report fraud: (800) 269‑0271. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.ssa.gov
- Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235.
- Additional phone calls:
- Call the Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Hotline (877) 438-4338
- If your passport was stolen, report the loss to your government
Lost or Stolen Wallet Documentation
- Start a journal, making notes of the date and time of every trip to the post office, bank, and police station, every phone call to a store or credit card company, with whom you spoke, and a couple of notes about the conversation. Regardless of the memory you have, if the perpetrator is apprehended and goes on trial in two years, you will be very thankful for these notes.
- Keep copies of EVERYTHING: affidavits, notes, and receipts. These will be valuable to collect reimbursement from the criminal and in proving timeliness and innocence in case you encounter problems with your credit history.
The Legal Aspect: Affidavits
Some banks will file affidavits for you; others require you to do it. Either way, include the following information to include on an affidavit: State and county of residence.
1.) Your name, along with a sworn statement
2.) Current residential and mailing addresses, social security number, home and work phone numbers.
3.) A description of the credit card transaction or information about the check: number, to whom it was made payable, and the amount. Indicate that this was a fraudulent or unauthorized transaction.
4.) A statement that neither you, nor anyone with consent, expects to benefit from this transaction.
5.) The date and location of the theft. Also indicate information on the police report that has been filed: the date filed, the jurisdiction or precinct, and the case number, case worker, and phone number.
6.) The name on the account.
7.) A statement regarding the possible perpetrator, if known.
8.) A sample of your signature
9.) A statement that you understand an investigation will ensue and that you agree to cooperate with prosecution. Follow this information with your signature and date and provide the standard information for having the form notarized.
- If you are responsible for preparing the affidavits, make multiple copies, to be distributed as follows:
- Bank or credit union,
- Police Department,
- Merchant or card issuer,
- Copy for collection agency, if necessary,
- and finally, make sure you have your own personal copy.
- To the last copy, attach all information pertinent to that affidavit. In my file, attachments to each affidavit include: receipts for certified mail, return receipts, notes from conversations with store managers, collection notices, and copies of letters I have sent to the respective company. In a few instances, you might want to meter your envelopes instead of using stamps (useful when the letter is dated May 1 but not postmarked until May 15, but the company is asking for a reply by May 12).
Time to Rebuild
After you tie up all the loose ends related to your lost wallet, it’s time for the rebuilding effort to begin. That obviously means filling a new wallet with replacement cards and forms of identification, but it also necessitates making changes to avoid hassle should you lose your wallet again in the future. For example, it might be a good idea to create a file at home where you can store important documents like your insurance information and Social Security card (there’s little reason to carry it with you anyway). You may also find a lost wallet app helpful, as it will allow you to save important information such as card numbers, passwords, etc. Maybe you can even get one of those chains that connects your wallet to your pants!
For more information:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a toll free number (877-ID-THEFT) for victims to report the crime and get advice from trained counselors. They also provide a 21-page booklet available at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
For information on finding a wallet with anti-theft or anti-loss features click here