The first time I lost my wallet was a summer during college. A friend and I were running some errands before a night out. We stopped at a gas station to fill up my truck and then we decided to go in the convenience store for a few treats. I grabbed just my wallet and we ran in. Unfortunately, after paying for our goodies, I left the gas station, but my wallet did not. I only realized a short while later I had left it on the gas station counter. We went home and called the gas station but the clerk didn’t see anything and told me it would be hours before they could check the video cameras. It was very frustrating. In the meantime, I began the process of canceling all my cards and trying to get a new ID card. Finally, my friend suggested calling the police. It was a small town with little crime so an officer went over to the gas station and was able to view the tape immediately. It turns out I left the wallet on the counter and the next customer, a local homeless lady grabbed it. By the time the police picked her up, my wallet and everything in it was gone. I may not have been taking any classes that summer, but I definitely learned a few lessons. Here is what you should do before and after your wallet is lost or stolen to protect yourself.
Steps To Take Before Losing Your Wallet
1. Know What You Have
Are you familiar with the Capital One ad where they ask “What’s in Your Wallet”? It’s actually a really great question all of us should ask ourselves. It’s the same reason you should make an inventory or take a video of the contents of your house before a fire or theft happens. This is because after the fact it is much more difficult to remember what you had. The added stress of having a lost or stolen wallet will fluster you more. Get your information organized before the worst happens.
Items You May Have In Your Wallet
This list will help jog your memory for things you may have in your wallet. When I lost my wallet I did a really good job of recalling what was in there except for one item, my library card. I didn’t think about it until a week later when I went to return some books and I found out the thief had checked out 10 videos in my name! That was a huge and expensive pain to fix. So here is a list of common items found in your wallet that you may need to remember should your wallet be lost or stolen.
- Driver’s License or ID Card
- Credit/Debit Cards
- Health Insurance Cards
- Reward Cards for the Grocery Store, Movie Theater, Etc
- Library Card
- Membership Card for the Gym, Warehouse clubs, etc
- Gift Cards
- Spare Keys
2. Create A Wallet Inventory
There are several ways you can do this.
- Make a copy of the front and back of everything in your wallet (and your spouses wallet) and keep it in a safe place.
- Type up a list of items in your wallet and store them in a file on your computer or in a service like Evernote or Dropbox. I would avoid storing credit card numbers in the cloud.
- Take a picture of the items in your wallet and transfer the pictures to your computer or a service like Evernote. I would delete the pictures from my phone as soon as possible so if you lose your phone your information does not fall into the wrong hands.
- Take out a sheet of paper and write a list of items in your wallet. Write down your Driver’s License number, and credit card numbers with the phone number from the back side. Keep this in a safe place.
- Update this inventory once a year. It will do you no good to have a wallet inventory that is 5 years old.
3. Keep These Items Out of Your Wallet
- One of a kind photos-If you don’t have copies of a photo, they shouldn’t be in your wallet.
- Spare Keys-I remember when my wallet was stolen. I had a spare key for my truck in it. So that meant the woman who stole it had my address from my driver’s license and a spare key to my car. My truck could have been stolen so easily.
- Social Security Card-Never, ever, ever store this in your wallet.
- Password List-You should never carry a list of your passwords around for any reason. If you have trouble remembering them, use an app such as Last Pass or One Pass.
- Blank Check or Checkbook
- Big wad of cash-I think it is great if you are using a cash system, but be careful how much you carry around.
- Passport-This should only be with you when traveling or for identification purposes when necessary.
- Phone-Wallets that can hold your phone are a great idea, but wouldn’t it be awful to lose your phone and your wallet on the same day?
What to Do After Your Wallet Is Lost or Stolen
1. File a Police Report immediately
Even if you live in a big city and the police will not respond if you call them, go to your local police station and file a report. Get a copy of the report so you can send it to your bank, insurance company and the credit reporting bureaus.
2. Report all credit cards as lost or stolen to the issuer
Contact all your credit card issuers and let them know that your card was lost or stolen. Do not just say you want to cancel your card.
Visa 1-800-947-2911 Outside US/Canada 1-303-967-1096
Mastercard 1-800-627-8372 Outside US 1-636-722–7111
American Express 1-800-528-4800
3. Contact Your Bank and Debit Card Issuer
Contact your bank to replace your debit card and get a new pin. Get a new checking account if your checkbook was lost or stolen.
4. Contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
You will need to get a new Driver’s License or State ID as soon as possible. Check and see if your state’s DMV allows you to put a lost/stolen ID alert on your file.
5. Monitor Your Credit
You can place a fraud alert or security freeze with the three credit reporting bureaus. Fraud alerts are free, but they must be renewed every 90 days. Credit Freezes are indefinite, but they may require a fee.
Check your credit report within two to four weeks after the loss. Remember to check your credit report at least every 4 months after that. It is a good habit to get into and you can get a free report one time a year from each bureau at annualcreditreport.com
I also recommend signing up with Credit Karma. It is a free service that gives you an updated credit score regularly and they also alert you when there are major changes in your score. This could give you a heads up that something is wrong before you have a chance to check your credit scores.
6. Change Your Locks
If you had a spare house key in your wallet, be sure to get the locks to your home changed. If it was a car key, make sure your car is secured or has an alarm on it.
7. Report Your Social Security Card if it lost or stolen.
- Contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to order another one.
- Call the IRS Identity Protection Unit at 1-800-908-4490
- File the loss with the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID-THEFT
- Report the loss to the Internet Crime Complaint Center
8. Call Your Insurance Companies
Request a replacement card from your health insurance company. Contact Medicare if you use it. It also never hurts to find out if your homeowners insurance has ID theft protection.
9. Follow Up
Make sure you pay close attention to your bank and credit card statements. Look for withdrawals or charges that you did not make. If you acted quickly after the loss, you should not see anything unusual. Report any unrecognized transactions immediately.