What To Do When You Lose Your Wallet

Have you ever wondered what to do when you lose your wallet? Losing your wallet can be a stressful situation. I know I can’t be the only one who goes into full panic mode when I can’t find my wallet, even if it’s just for a split second. Even though I always find it, there…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: April 6, 2022

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Have you ever wondered what to do when you lose your wallet? Losing your wallet can be a stressful situation.

Losing your wallet can be a stressful situation. Whether it's stolen or you lost it, here's what to do when you lose your wallet.I know I can’t be the only one who goes into full panic mode when I can’t find my wallet, even if it’s just for a split second. Even though I always find it, there have been times when something has gone missing such as a credit card. I also know of friends and family members who have lost their entire wallet or purse.

We’ve all experienced it or know someone who has.

It’s only normal to panic and wonder what to do when you lose your wallet, as our whole lives are sometimes in our wallet or purse. You may have your cell phone, driver’s license, credit cards, passport, ATM or debit cards, and other valuable items in there. This can make you feel very vulnerable, whether it’s all been stolen or if you’ve lost it.

After you’ve searched high and low for whatever has been lost or stolen, you’ll want to start taking action. After all, you don’t want to be the victim of identity theft if your belongings end up in the wrong person’s possession.

Whether you’ve lost your wallet or if something was stolen, you will want to take the same precautions.

What to do when you lose your wallet:

 

Don’t panic

“I lost my wallet and I’m freaking out!”

As I said earlier, the first thing that most people do is panic. While this can be understandable in many circumstances, it is not helpful and can cause even more problems such as stress and/or wasted time.

Instead, you should relax and try to stay as calm as possible.

If you want to know how to find your lost wallet, of course, first check your pockets in your current clothing and clothing that may be in your dirty laundry for your lost wallet. Then, go through your old purchases and see if maybe you left it somewhere, such as a store.

But, if you can’t find it, or if you know that it’s a stolen wallet, then you need to proceed on to the next steps.

 

File a police report

If your wallet was stolen, then you may want to file a police report.

You want to do this because if it does turn out that you are a victim of identity theft, then you have more evidence to show to the police, the courts, credit card companies, and so on.

 

If you lost your social security card

Your social security card should never be permanently stored in your wallet, but I still see this happening all the time. During high school and college I worked in retail, and I would see countless customers open their wallet and their social security card would be placed where their driver’s license was supposed to be. This meant that their social security number was just there for everyone to see!

No matter what the reason is for why you no longer have your social security card, there are things you will need to do.

You will want to contact one of the three major credit bureaus, either Experian (phone number: 1-888-397-3742), TransUnion (phone number: 1-800-916-8800), or Equifax (phone number: 1-800-685-1111). After you contact one of these three credit bureaus, they are required to contact the other two and inform them that your social security card went missing.

Then, you will want to also contact the Social Security Administration and get yourself a new social security card.

Even after you have contacted the credit bureaus, your new social security card will still contain the same social security number, so you do not want to lose it again. Your social security number may still be floating around in someone else’s hands, and reporting it to the credit bureaus doesn’t mean you are able to get a new number.

 

Possibly put a fraud alert or freeze on your accounts

You may want to contact the three major credit bureaus, see above for information, and either place a fraud alert or freeze on your credit accounts if you deem it necessary.

Fraud alerts ensure that your identity is verified before any credit is given.

A credit freeze is a little more intense, and it restricts access to your credit report so that no thieves can open a new account in your name.

The FTC explains the difference between a fraud alert and a credit freeze as:

“A credit freeze locks down your credit. A fraud alert allows creditors to get a copy of your credit report as long as they take steps to verify your identity. For example, if you provide a telephone number, the business must call you to verify whether you are the person making the credit request. Fraud alerts may be effective at stopping someone from opening new credit accounts in your name, but they may not prevent the misuse of your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.”

 

Contact your bank

If you lost your ATM card, debit card, or your checkbook, then you will want to contact your bank immediately. They will then be able to give you a new bank card, and possibly even change your bank account numbers in case a stranger has access to that as well.

You want to do this immediately because you have zero liability if you report the card lost or stolen before someone uses it. However, if you wait to report it lost or stolen, then your liability increases, and you may be liable for some or all of the funds that the thief has used.

Related: Phone Scams: The Best Tips To Avoid Becoming A Victim

 

Contact your credit card issuers

If you have any credit cards that were taken or lost, then you will want to report these immediately as well. Your liability is only limited to $50 if you forget to report it stolen right away, but it is something that you will still want to do.

Keep in mind, you only want to report it lost or stolen, but you do not just want to cancel your credit cards. These two things have entirely different meanings. If you cancel the credit card, then you will be closing your account. That is probably not what you are meaning to do.

The credit card company will ask you simple questions such as when you think you lost it and to verify any recent credit card transactions. Then, they will send you new credit cards to replace them.

Here are the phone numbers you will want to call if you need to report a card lost or stolen:

  • Visa – If you are in the U.S. or Canada, you will want to call 1-800-847-2911. If you are outside of the U.S and Canada, then you will want to call 1-303-967-1096.
  • MasterCard – 1-636-722-7111
  • American Express – Online or call 1-800-528-4800
  • Capital One – 1-800-227-4825
  • Discover – 1-800-347-2683

You will want to check for fraudulent activity on your accounts, such as your bank accounts and credit cards.

 

Watch your credit report

You should already be regularly reading your credit report, but you will definitely want to make sure you start doing this regularly if your wallet has been lost or stolen.

You are allowed to receive one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus annually, so there is no reason not to do this. Just go to AnnualCreditReport.com (it’s the official site created by the Federal Trade Commission) in order to receive them. I recommend asking for one from a each credit bureau every 4 months so that you can space it out through the year.

 

Get a new driver’s license

You will want to contact the department where you get your driver’s license from, and you will need to report your old ID as stolen and get a replacement.

You definitely want to do this, as an identity thief can do a lot of things with your ID, especially if they look anything like you. They may be able to rent cars, rack up traffic tickets, and more with your ID.

This is usually a fairly easy process, but it may cost somewhere around $20 to do. Either way, it’s a must!

 

Obtain new insurance cards

If any of your insurance cards are missing, such as your health insurance card, you will want to get replacements for all of them. Simply call your insurance companies and request new ones, or print them online if you can.

 

Be safe from now on

Hopefully, losing your wallet or sadly having it stolen will teach you a good lesson. While no one deserves this to happen to them, there are things you can do so that it doesn’t sting as badly.

Here is what I recommend:

  • Never carry your social security card on you.
  • Don’t keep a list of your account numbers and/or pin numbers on you. Instead, keep this in a safe place at home if you must.
  • Only carry the credit and bank cards that you actually need. Even if you are an extreme travel hacker, there is probably no reason to carry 10 credit cards on you at all times.
  • Keep note of credit card and bank phone numbers so you can easily call and tell them which accounts you have lost. This will make reporting lost information a little easier.

 

What do thieves do with stolen wallets?

They may open new loans, steal your social security number, use your credit cards, and more. There are so many things that a thief can do with your personal information.

 

Can I track my wallet?

Yes, I have heard of people adding an Apple tracking device in their wallet. It is small and affordable.

You can find an Apple Tracking Tag here.

The downside to this is that if someone finds your wallet and they have an Apple device, they will be able to turn this tracking device off.

 

What to do when you lose your wallet?

As you can see, there are many things you should think about if you are wondering “what to do when you lose your wallet.”

While it may seem like the end of the world, there are things you can do to prevent any unwanted credit card charges or identity theft.

Have you ever lost your wallet? What did you do?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Losing a wallet can be super stressful. I lost mine when I was younger and thankfully I only had one credit card and my driver’s license in it which made it easy to replace. Banks have made it very easy to freeze the cards by the click of a button through their apps which definitely helps. I recommend always checking your pockets/purse before boarding a vehicle to make sure you have your wallet. That way it may be easier to find.

    1. Yes! I always make sure I have my wallet or purse. My husband makes fun of me and I’m sure he gets annoyed, but I’ve never lost mine ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. That’s great information – thanks!

    I feel that losing your wallet (or having it stolen) is one of those things that many people think only happens to others. I had my backpack stolen once, complete with my cell phone, camera, and wallet. It was a horrible experience and like you say, it taught me a lesson. I’m way more careful now with my belongings in public – not gonna happen again…

    The point on identity theft is actually even scarier than the loss of material belongings, so I fully agree with not taking your social security card with you. Much safer at home!

    1. Oh my, that really stinks about getting your backpack stolen.

  3. Lindsey

    I’ve never lost my wallet before. But I can only imagine how stressful that would be.

  4. I had my wallet stolen from my car when I was in high school. I grew up in a fairly small town, so this kind of thing never happened. The thief also absconded with the brand new stereo from my car. At the time, I was more upset about that than anything else, ironically. I wasn’t carrying my social security card, and the only items of importance in my wallet were my driver’s license and ATM card (no debit card at the time).

    I have seen more and more people shift toward mobile phone cases which allow you to carry a small amount of cash and a handful of cards, and personally, I find that practice to be pretty scary. I think we are all far more prone to lose our phones than our wallets, and keeping these items together seems to be asking for trouble, IMO.

    If you’re going to insist upon carrying around several credit cards at all times, it would be a good idea to have credit monitoring and identity theft protection in place.

    1. Getting stuff stolen stinks. ๐Ÿ™

  5. Eeesh, I’ve never lost my wallet, but I’ve always been scared of it happening! I definitely don’t keep my social security card in my wallet, but there are probably some things I should take out. Plus making a list of who to call for everything in my wallet just in case is a good idea.

    1. Yes, I’ve always been scared as well!

  6. I feel like you’re reading my mind. ๐Ÿ™‚ haha. I lost my wallet in the mall over the weekend. Luckily it was my travel wallet and didn’t have everything in it. But I did have to call and cancel/replace a debit card, credit card and business card. Plus this week I’ll need to get a replacement driver’s license. So stressful and it was hard not to panic for sure. Perfect timing on this post ๐Ÿ™‚

    Happy Monday!

  7. This is going to be SO helpful for your readers! I think my readers will love it, too. Who doesn’t need this info at some point?! Great tips.

  8. I had to chuckle a bit when I read your first tip, “Don’t Panic.” But really when you imagine yourself losing your wallet that includes credit cards, IDs, money, etc… it makes sense! Luckily I’ve never gone through this myself, but this is a great list of things to keep in mind.

    Along these same lines, have you ever put together a list of things to take care of prior to going on international travel? Things like calling your bank, what to expect for exchange rate, etc. That would be helpful and you put together some great lists!

    1. I should definitely make a list like that soon!

  9. Luckily I never lose it, but I must to say that some months ago I found a wallet on the road I saw documents and credit card inside and a address so I decided to return wallet to her owner, well this “lovely”woman didn’t say thanks and seemed almost I was a rubber…but I understood that if I’ll find a wallet again I’ll put directly into mailbox,then post office will thinks about everything!!!

    1. That stinks. Hopefully one day she realizes what you did for her!

  10. Even in today’s hyper connected age, I’d rather lose my phone than my wallet. There’s just SO much in there and each item is a PROCESS to replace.

  11. Norman

    I think just seeing your title “What to Do When You Lose Your Wallet” made my heart skip a beat! I lost my wallet once in college. Thankfully I didn’t have much money or plastic in there. I remember having to get a new drivers license and cancelling some cards and getting them reissued.

    The trickiest thing I dealt with was that I needed money to pay for some medical appointments, but thankfully I could use my passport to withdraw cash at the bank. I had a real scare when I thought I had lost my passport as well, but found it slipped in between my friend’s car seat and door.

  12. The time that I lost my wallet, I had just finished my last day of internship and going to the last day of classes.. My manager as a thank you gave me a $100 bill which I promptly stored in my wallet but my jeans made it hard for me to put the wallet in my pocket so I carried it in my backpack. I didn’t close my backpack well enough and the wallet slipped out.. I panicked and never got to finding it but thankfully I don’t believe my identity was stolen. The tips listed in this article is exactly the tips I implemented to make sure I have piece of mind.

  13. Amanda-LivingFullyandFree

    My husband lost his wallet in a visitor’s center as we were moving from Wisconsin back to where we live now. We froze all of his cards immediately and thankfully he already had identity protection. We got super lucky in this situation because someone mailed his wallet to his grandmother’s house. They included a note that said “Now you do something nice for someone else”. It was sent anonymously so we could never thank them, but it was such a relief knowing someone was as sweet as that.

    Thanks for sharing Michelle!

    Amanda

    1. That is an awesome ending to that story! ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I lost my wallet once. Now that I have multiple credit cards, I always keep one card at home in a drawer. So if I do need to make a purchase before new ones arrive, I can!

  15. Jacob Gates

    After losing my wallet, with credit cards and documents I stopped putting a lot of money in my wallet. Also, a good option would be to buy a wallet with a tracker.