Having your wallet get lost or stolen is certainly a distressing event. Following several precautions as a general rule in case of loss or theft can help to minimize the damages in case this unpleasant event happens to you. If you do lose your wallet, you should also take quick action so that you'll suffer fewer repercussions.
Cancel Your Credit Cards
To minimize thieves' opportunities to use your cards and rack up charges, you'll want to be particularly proactive when it comes to canceling your credit cards. Even though you may not be required to pay fraudulent charges that are made with your cards, you do have a responsibility to report the cards missing or stolen as soon as you realize that they're gone. Call the phone numbers for all of your credit card providers and report it to them. Remember to call the providers of your retail credit cards as well as your major credit card providers.
Report It to the Police
If you do find that fraudulent charges have been made on your card, you will definitely want to call the police immediately. Fraud is a criminal offense, and the police can take steps to intervene if someone is currently attempting to commit fraud with the use of your credit cards and personal information. Reporting the missing wallet to police is also wise in case your wallet happens to be turned in by an honest citizen. Be sure to get a copy of the police report as well. You may need the police file number when reporting the incident to other agencies.
Contact Your Bank and Insurance Companies
You definitely want to let any financial institutions and insurance companies you deal with know that your wallet's been stolen and that your personal information has been compromised. Your bank can note the incident on your account and help you to close any accounts that have been affected. You should monitor your bank accounts closely in the weeks and months that follow to ensure that your accounts are not being used without your knowledge. Also, you will need to change your PIN as soon as possible if the thief has somehow obtained it. Your insurance company may also provide some kind of protection against identity theft, so you should alert them to the incident as well.
Contact the Credit Bureaus
It is especially important to contact the credit bureaus if your credit information or your Social Security card was in your wallet, because you don't want to be the victim of identity theft. Thieves can use this information to obtain new credit cards in your name, thus damaging your credit rating in the process. The primary credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) can place restrictions on your credit record so that if anyone attempts to apply for credit using your information, the creditor will have to contact you first to verify that it is you who is making the application.
Replace Your Identification
Since most people tend to keep their driver's license, health insurance information and a variety of other forms of identification in their wallets, you'll need to obtain new copies of all these documents. Report the loss of your driver's license to the Department of Motor Vehicles and obtain a new card. If you have any other forms of identification that were present in your wallet you'll need to obtain new copies of these documents as well. Government documents typically require you to go through a formal application process where you will have to provide proof of identity. The type of identity required depends upon the type of document you'll be replacing, so you should check with your state's guidelines on this. For this reason, it's a good idea not to carry all forms of identification in your wallet at the same time.
Take Stock of the Contents
Write a list of everything that was in your wallet. You probably have a number of store loyalty cards, membership cards and rewards cards. You can contact these card providers and ask them to issue new cards or membership numbers so that whoever has your wallet can't use them. Keep in mind that some cards may operate similarly to a credit card - such as a library card. Someone who obtains your wallet illegally can use your library card to borrow items from the library under your name, which you'll later be responsible for.
Before You Ever Leave Home
There are a number of things you should do before you ever leave home in order to ensure that if your wallet is lost or stolen that the process will be much less of an inconvenience. First and foremost, remove all unnecessary identification and store it in a safe place. Don't carry your Social Security card with you. This card makes it far too easy for dishonest people to take advantage of you. Also, remove any store credit cards that you rarely use. This way you won't have to report as many missing cards. You should also make detailed lists of the items you typically carry in your wallet, including card numbers and phone numbers to call should your card go missing. Making photocopies of cards and identification can make quick work of this process. Just bear in mind that you'll need to store copies of this information somewhere secure as well.
The Bottom Line
Being the victim of theft, any kind of theft, is stressful. Be smart about what you carry around in your wallet so that you can avoid unnecessary stresses. You should also keep your records at home complete and up-to-date so that you won't have to search all over the house for the documents and information you need to make all your reports and to obtain replacement copies of your lost identification. Keep in mind that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The more you do to prevent theft, the less likely it is to occur. Carry your wallet in a safe place - a pocket or inside a purse that's not easily reached into. Close any zippers and buttons to ensure that your belongings are as well concealed as possible. It only takes a few extra moments to put things away carefully, and those few seconds of time could save you hours of heartache and inconvenience in the long run.