Do you know what to do when your wallet is stolen? We have all had that familiar feeling of dread at least once in our lives. You reach into your pocket or purse and…nothing’s there. Just air. Your chest gets tight, you feel heat slowly rising up in your cheeks, your heart begins to pound. You frantically turn your purse upside down, shaking out its contents; you desperately pull your pockets all the way out and still…nothing’s there. Anxiety now sets in as you realize that you have lost your wallet. Your mind is suddenly an inexplicably blank slate; you have no idea where, when, or how you lost it. And did you just lose it or has it been stolen? And now that you know it’s gone, what is the next step? You realize with increasing alarm that you have no idea where to start. All you really do know what to do is panic.
First things first: what you need to do is sit down some place quiet and comfortable, take a few deep breaths for composure, and then follow the steps below as best you can. If you are quick and thorough about each of them that are applicable to your situation, you’ll be back spending money in no time!
Your Wallet is Stolen Checklist
1) Double Check
Before you do anything else, double (and maybe even triple or quadruple) check that you have indeed lost your wallet. Look around your home, in your car. Make sure that you didn’t just misplace it somewhere. Think about the last place that you took it out and used it. Did you pay your friend back that money that you owed them and leave it on the counter in their kitchen? Was it raining out, so you wore a different jacket and stuffed it in the pocket? Did you wear a different pair of pants yesterday and stuck it in your back pocket? Did you throw it in your glove compartment after you went to bank?
If it’s not with any of your things, or in your car, or left at a friend’s house, think about the last place that you may have used it. If it was in a store or restaurant, call over there and see if anyone has handed it in to the manager. This might seem like an embarrassing thing to do, but the worst that can happen is that no one has seen it. And the best is that some good Samaritan found it wherever you dropped it and gave it to someone in charge. There might not be the same amount of cash in it that there was before you lost it, but think of everything else of value that you have in there. It’s not just about the money. And wouldn’t it be really great if you didn’t even have to take any of the following steps?
It is important to not give up and call your wallet or purse lost immediately because once you take a few of these more permanent steps below, there isn’t any going back without a big hassle.
2) Make a List
It may sound crazy to take out some of your previous time to start making a list, but it’s important to write things down before your mind gets preoccupied with other things. Create a list of everything that was in your wallet. Your identification, credit cards, and ATM card are a given, but don’t forget your store cards and gas cards. If someone has their hands on your wallet, they could go anywhere. And small purchases here and there at a gas station or convenience store are easy and won’t give off a red flag. And if it’s used in a place that is close to the area where you will, it will be hard to dispute that they were not your charges.
Many people also carry their checkbooks in their wallets or purses. And don’t forget things like any IDs that you need for work or you health insurance cards. Just because they can’t be used to directly purchase something, doesn’t mean that their potential use would not spell big problems for you.
And just as a heads up, if you do carry your social security card in your wallet like many people do for some reason, stop doing that right now. If your social security card gets stolen, you may be in for a world of hurt with trying to protect your identity from being stolen. Memorize the numbers (or write them down inconspicuously on a piece of paper in your wallet) and put the card is a safe place where no one can get their hands on it.
3) Lock It Up
If you’ve lost your entire purse or you tend to keep keys attached to or inside your wallet, one of the first things you should do is get the locks changed to your home. If someone has your wallet with your identification, they’ve got your address. And if they’ve got your keys to go along with that, you are leaving yourself wide open to potential theft. And even if your wallet is returned to you safe and sound, you should still err on the side of caution and get your locks changed. Who’s to say that the person who had it or even returned it to you didn’t take down your address and make a copy of the key? You don’t want to make yourself, your home, and your family vulnerable to potential burglaries.
If you have also lost your keys to your car, you are equally as susceptible to loss since the thief now knows where you live, but changing these locks will not be quite as easy as calling a trusted locksmith. You will have to get in contact directly with your dealership, and sometimes the fee for changing car locks gets pretty hefty. Keeping your keys with your wallet is never a smart idea.
4) Make Calls
Now that you know what you had in your wallet, pick up the phone and start making calls. The first one should be to your bank. Your bank accounts are the most vulnerable, as it’s not very difficult to make a withdrawal if someone has not only your card, but also all of your identification things. As it may be difficult to prove that it wasn’t you who actually made this withdrawal of money, the sooner that you act on notifying your bank of its loss, the better off you are. You need to make sure that your bank and all other card issuers freeze your accounts so that no transactions can be made, and also that they know what time you lost your things. The longer that you wait to report, the more you may be financially responsible for. Even if there is a part of you that thinks you just misplaced it and will eventually come upon it in a day or two, report everything. Better safe than sorry. A lot of damage can be done to your bank account in just a day or two.
If you look at the Fair Credit Billing Act, you will see that you are not responsible for any fraudulent charges made on your card as long as they occur after you have reported the card as lost or stolen to your bank and credit card companies. Reporting the stolen card within two days limits your liability to a max of $50 worth of purchases, if you are even charged for anything. Waiting longer than this (more than two days but less than 60), you’ll be responsible for up to $500. And waiting any longer than that? You could be responsible for everything. So don’t delay in reporting everything to the proper places.
Also put in a call to your health insurance company to let them know that you’ve lost that card. Just like a credit card, a thief can use this card too.
It’s very important to remember you don’t want to actually cancel your cards, you just want to report them as lost or stolen; cancelling a card can negatively impact your credit score.
5) Inform Automatic Debits and Deposits
Once you have taken care of all your cards and accounts, you are going to want to inform any companies that automatically debit out of your account of your new numbers, or at least let them know that you will be getting new numbers. You don’t want to get any fees from companies, like your car insurance provider, if funds are returned. Some companies may even cancel your service if they are not able to automatically bill you after a while. You don’t want to suddenly lose Netflix, do you?
And don’t forget about direct deposits too; inform your employer of your new account and submit your information to any money exchanging apps like PayPal or Venmo.
6) Call the Police
It might seem silly to call the police to report just a stolen wallet, as it’s not an emergency or a real high-item on the scale of stolen merchandise, but it’s a good idea if you want to preemptively protect your identity from being stolen as well. If you end up having to file a complaint for identity theft, having this police report will go a long way for proof and getting you justice. Make sure you can give them an as accurate as possible idea of when and where you may have lost your wallet, what it looks like, and what was in it. You never know, there might be a big break in the case and they actually stumble across it.
7) Head to the DMV
You can’t go very far or very long without a proper ID and/or driver’s license. And it’s also illegal to drive a car without one. Head to the closest DMV as soon as you can to order a new license and get yourself an interim license. You do not want to get pulled over and be without a license.
In order to apply for a new license, you’ll need to prove who you are and your residency in that particular state, so bring along any bill from your home that is under your name, your social security card, birth certificate, and/or passport. Failure to have the proper information to prove who you are and where you live can result in being rejected, and then you’ll need to make another trip back to the DMV with the proper information. Going there once is enough, be prepared for the first time.
8) Set Up Alerts
Just because you have reported your cards may not stop someone from being able to steal your sensitive information to open up new lines of credit, take out loans, or make large purchases. After all, they now have your driver’s license, which lists all the important things about you: full name, address, and date of birth. In order to stop this from happening, set up alerts with one of the three major credit reporting companies: Experian, Equifax, or Transunion. When just one of the companies has received your alert, they will pass along the information to the other two. This adds a special step of protection from anyone who is trying to take something out in your name; they will require more verification information than they usually would and will most likely put in a call to you to verify that it is actually you that is applying. Additionally, it’s free of charge to set up this alerts for the first 90 days. You would be foolish not to take this opportunity to protect yourself.
Another step that you can take would be to download your own credit reports to see if there has been any suspicious activity. This is also a free service once a year and will show any requests that have been made using your name and social security number. But remember, identity thieves aren’t stupid. They know that you will take these steps initially, and a lot of the time they will hold onto all your information for a while. Once they think that a sufficient enough amount of time has passed and you may have dropped your defenses on monitoring your credit, they will start trying to open up new accounts. It might be a good idea to continue to monitor your credit yourself, even if there is a cost. Because if someone does start taking out things in your name, those costs will far outpace the cost of monitoring your credit and preventing that.
9) Out with the Old
After you have taken care of all the nitty gritty stuff above, you’re going to need a new wallet to replace the one that you’ve lost. Maybe there is something that you have had your eye for a long time or maybe a friend has a style that you like. Now is your chance to make a new purchase. If you don’t already have a wallet in mind, check out our wallets and especially the Shadow!
While losing your wallet is a very unfortunate thing, it’s not uncommon, and following these steps can help ease the pain and nuisance of it. Knowing what to do when your wallet is stolen is extremely important since time is of the essence.
You can even prepare yourself beforehand by downloading a Lost Wallet app that keeps record of everything in your wallet just in case you lose it. Or you can even scan the contents onto your computer so that if you do ever lose it, you know exactly what needs to be replaced.