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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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, 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.
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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