Your wallet contains a plethora of information about you, from your cards and license, to your cash. Losing it means losing all that it contained, and that puts you in grave danger, because you run the risk of identity theft. You need to be aware what needs to be done in such a case to protect yourself from things like credit car fraud, identity theft, etc. Once you get over the initial shock of losing a wallet, it's time to think clearly. Do not panic (easier said than done, I agree). Think of ways to amend the situation. Here's how.
Dealing with the Loss of Your Wallet
- Once you are sure the wallet is not on you, hunt for it. Try to remember where you last used it, where you were when you last used it, what did you use it for, etc. Rake your brains and see if you recall where you put it back once you finished using it. Then look for it again in those places.
- If you are sure you have lost it, call the place you last visited with your wallet. Most public places like shopping malls have a lost-and-found center, so chances are if they have come across the wallet, it might have been deposited at some such center. You will need to identify yourself on the phone with some sort of ID.
- If you own a debit card, call your bank and report the loss immediately. A debit card in the hands of strangers is an extremely risky proposition. You must report the loss within two business days, this ensures that you will not be charged anything more than $50 for unauthorized use. If you delay it further, the liability goes up to $500. Contact the bank's fraud department and report that the debit card has been stolen/lost.
- Call the credit card company without further delay to minimize the chances of credit card fraud. Cancel all credit cards. The maximum liability you will face is $50, even if the card is used before you have even reported that it's stolen or missing. Bear in mind though, if you have an outstanding balance on your credit card, canceling it is not a very good idea, as it can hamper your credit score. In such a case, specifically inform the credit card company that the card is lost. Most card companies have rules and regulations in place to deal with such a scenario. You can instead request for a new account number.
- The next step you must do is file a stolen wallet report with the police. Be prepared to answer a multitude of questions. You will need to let them in on all details, from where you were at the time of loss, description of the wallet and all the items it contained, and any suspects. This step is important, it can help you in the long run, especially with identity theft and insurance claims.
- Call all the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). Report that you have lost all your cards and ask them to issue a fraud alert on your account.
- Contact the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and report the loss of your license. The rules for reissuing of a driver's license depend on which state you reside in. Find out the exact procedures you need to follow while applying for a replacement license.
- If your wallet contained any set of house or car keys, get the locks changed without any delay. You may eventually get back your stolen keys, but you do not want to face any risk in case they have been duplicated during that time.
- Companies like Debix, LifeLock, and TrustedID offer protection and insurance against identity theft. These companies offer services at less than $10 per month, and in case you become a victim of identity theft, you can be assured your credit and identity will be restored.
- If your wallet contained blank checks, notify your bank. If you have anyway requested for a new checking account, your account will have become inoperative. But to be on the safer side, the Federal Trade Commission advises that anyone who has lost a blank check should call and confirm with the three major check verification services, namely TeleCheck, Certegy, and International Check Services, whether the check is being used to pay at any store anywhere.
- You should also cancel any department-store issued credit cards, library cards or any other membership cards your wallet contained, especially if they have your Social Security Number printed on them.
- Every now and then, go through your bank statements and report any unauthorized transfers and withdrawals to the card issuing company.
To minimize the dangers associated with losing your wallet, keep a few tips in mind. Carry only the bare essentials you need. Do not carry any sensitive information like passwords, account numbers, information related to your children in your wallet. Limit the number of credit and debit cards you keep with you. Never ever carry your Social Security card in your wallet! And at all times, know what all items your wallet contains, so if you misplace it, you know what all you have lost. As bad as it may be, remember, that losing a wallet is not the end of the world. Knowing what needs to be done and following the steps above will reduce your stress, if at all you realize your personal information is in peril and you could be a potential victim of identity theft.