If your wallet is lost or stolen, your cash, your credit and your identity are at risk. We tend not to think about identity theft in connection with losing one’s wallet, but we should. Wallet contents can give a savvy thief enough information to commit ID theft. Take these steps to protect yourself:
- Report the loss of your debit card to your bank immediately. You can be held responsible for up to $50 of unauthorized charges provided you report the loss within two days. The amount for which you can be held responsible increases the longer you wait, so don’t delay.
- Carried any checks in your wallet? If so, close your bank account and get a new account with a different number and new checks. If you have any automatic bank account withdrawals or deposits, make sure to update the information with your new banking number.
- Cancel credit cards that were in your wallet. The issuers will suspend the numbers and send you new cards. If any fraudulent charges are made, they will be credited back to you. You can, however, expect a fraud investigation. It can take a few months before you receive a final clearance. If you have any cards set up with automated recurring payments, don’t overlook updating the payment information.
- Replace your driver’s license.
- Freeze your credit. With your driver’s license in hand, a thief has enough information to take out a loan in your name; you are also in jeopardy of identity theft. To protect yourself, freeze your credit with the three reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. There is no cost for this important, valuable service. For more information on the process, visit
- Report your Social Security Number as stolen. Your social security card belongs at home in a safe place BUT if you happened to have it in your wallet, report its loss right away. While you won’t get a new number the Social Security Administration can replace your card. There is a hassle factor involved, however. To prove your identity, you’ll need to show a U.S. driver’s license, a state issued non-driver identification card or a U.S. passport. If your documents aren’t original (say you’re doing this by mail), certification by the issuing agency is required.
For more information, visit https://blog.ssa.gov/so-youve-lost-your-social-security-card/
7. File a police report.
Although it seems like a waste of time (do you really think the police will assign someone to investigate your missing wallet?) filing a police report is important to protect your identity…and thus, your cash. If someone created a fake credit card in your name, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and fill out an Identity Theft Affidavit. This form provides you with one document that you can use to report to creditors and lenders – but to get this form, and to file with the FTC you must have a police report. (You might also need a police report for a new driver’s license or Social Security card.)
An ounce of prevention
Given the headaches involved in getting a new driver’s license and replacing credit cards (and possibly changing your bank account, if necessary), it’s best to “travel light” with wallet contents.
Carry just one credit card plus your driver’s license. Even your debit card can stay at home: Use it to take money out of your account; leave it at home the rest of the time.
Don’t carry any blank checks in your wallet.
Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
Travelling? Keep one credit card in your wallet and bring a second card but keep it in your suitcase. Should your wallet be lost or stolen, you’ll have the second card immediately available which may be needed while you’re far from home.
When travelling, include in your suitcase a copy of your driver’s license, Medicare card, and credit cards – including phone numbers to call if any of them are lost or stolen.
Let’s hear from you
Lost your wallet? Had your pocket picked? What happened? Let us know in the comments!
Nona Aguilar is an award-winning writer of numerous magazine articles and two books. She has also edited four specialty business newsletter publications. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Family Circle and Cosmopolitan, and in The Business Owner.