If you lose your wallet for whatever reason, you need to take quick action to protect yourself against the worst possible outcome. Below is a list of 10 actions you should take as soon as you notice your wallet missing. This will help protect your finances and ensure that you report the lost wallet promptly.
1. Make Sure the Wallet is Really Lost
Although you might freak out when you notice your wallet missing, do not automatically assume the worst just yet. In most scenarios, people just misplace their wallets by putting them down somewhere and later forgetting where they put them. Perhaps you left your wallet in a locker at the gym or inside the drawer of your desk at work. Therefore, what you need to do first is retrace your steps and figure out the last time you saw your wallet. From there, check each location that you went to since then and see if your wallet is there. You may also want to call places like stores or restaurants you may have been to see if anyone found a wallet on the floor or something. If you have checked absolutely everywhere it could possibly be and you still can’t find it, then you need to start making some calls to protect yourself. This leads us to number two on the list.
2. Cancel Your Bank Cards, Debit Cards, and Credit Cards
The common thing people will tell you is to cancel all the bank cards, debit cards, and credit cards that were in your wallet. However, if you do this then it will have an impact on your credit score. So, when you call the issuer(s) of your cards, just tell them your cards were stolen or lost. This is not the same as canceling the cards because the accounts for those cards will still be active. The only thing is the money linked to those cards will be frozen. Best of all, your credit score will not be affected.
If you have credit cards that were not issued by a bank, then you can just call the credit card company directly. Chances are it will be MasterCard, VISA, AMEX, and/or Discover. If you had debit and/or ATM cards in your wallet, then you need to call the financial institution which issued those cards to you, such as your credit union or bank. The same goes for any checks that may have been in your wallet too.
Once you have gone through this procedure, the issuer(s) will mail new cards to you which have newly-made account numbers on them. Everything else should be the same for the cards, such as the credit limits, APR and so on. Also, if your old cards were being automatically charged every month by some service provider of yours, like an electric company or internet service provider, then you need to call those companies and let them know what your new card number is. If you forget to do this, these companies won’t receive the money you owe them which could result in additional late fees that you’ll have to pay to them.
3. Contact the Three Big Credit Bureaus
In order to protect your credit from possible fraud, you need to contact the three biggest credit bureaus and let them know you lost your important financial cards. These credit reporting agencies are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Once you notify them about this, they will place a fraud alert on the credit file that they have on you. That way, any new credit account that is opened will require your identity to be verified by the creditor first. They verify your identity by simply calling the phone number that you attached to your fraud alert. This is usually a private cell phone number that only you have access to. As a result, the thief that took your wallet will never be able to open any new accounts with your information.
4. File a Report with your Local Police
Surprisingly, a lot of people don’t think they should file a police report in the event that they lose their wallet. After all, it doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal for the police to concern themselves with your missing wallet. However, in the event that someone steals your identity, it will be a lot easier to prove this if there is already a police report on file which verifies that your wallet and its contents went missing beforehand.
The police will ask you questions about where you think you lost your wallet and when you think you lost it. They will ask you to describe the wallet with as much detail as possible. Most importantly, the police will want to know what was in your wallet. If you had credit cards and a social security number in there, for example, then it will only help having this information on the police report if your identity becomes stolen.
Remember that a missing wallet doesn’t necessarily mean someone stole the wallet. Although if you think someone stole it, you should give a description of the person you think did it to the police. Otherwise, a lost wallet could still be found by anyone and then they can use it for fraudulent purposes too. That is why you want to file a report whether you think the wallet was stolen or just lost.
5. Inform the DMV About Your Lost Driver’s License
Most people keep their driver’s license in their wallet. This is the first thing a thief will use when they steal your identity. Therefore, you need to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state and report that your license is lost. You can call them on the phone but it might be better to go to your local DMV office and do it in person. Once you fill out the application they give you, they should give you a new license with a new number on it. The exact procedure is different in each state but this is basically the process you can expect.
6. Get New Locks If Your Key Went Missing
If you keep a key in your wallet, such as your house key, then you have the risk of someone unlocking the front door to your house and gaining easy entry. Since they likely have your driver’s license too, then they are going to know where you live. Therefore, as soon as the key goes missing along with your wallet, you need to have a locksmith add new locks to the doors in which the key went to. It doesn’t matter if someone returns your wallet to you or the police either because they, or someone else, could have made copies of your key while it was missing. That is why you must always change the locks when your key goes missing.
If you don’t want to hire a locksmith, you can easily purchase new locks at Wal-Mart or Home Depot and install them yourself. It is really not that hard because you just have to unscrew the old lock system and then install the new one. However, if you had a car key in your wallet and it goes missing, that will require you to contact your car dealership so they can make you a new one. Car keys have computer chips in them these days, so the dealer will probably have to program a new car key for you. That way, the one you lost won’t work anymore.
7. Report Your Missing Social Security Card
If you lose your social security card, you can contact the Social Security Administration and they will send you a new one. However, you cannot get a new social security number if the card is stolen. We are all stuck with the same social security number for the rest of our lives. That is why it is such a hassle when our social security number falls into the wrong hands. The best thing you can do in this situation is to contact the IRS Identity Protection Unit for advice on what to do. You should also let the Federal Trade Commission know about it as well as the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Taking these actions will make it harder for someone to steal your identity because all the proper agencies will already be informed that your social security card was stolen or missing.
8. Make a List of All the Wallet’s Contents
Whatever else was in your wallet,make a listof these items no matter how insignificant they may seem. This includes employee cards, website login information, library card, any type of access badge, car insurance card, medical insurance card, and so on.
9. Get Your Free Credit Report
Obtain a free copy of your credit report and make sure there is no unusual activity in your credit history that you don’t recognize. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, every consumer is legally entitled to receive one free copy of their credit report each year from any organization which keeps a record of their credit history. This means that you can request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three main credit reporting agencies; Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The easiest way to request these reports is to go to one of those credit report websites that lets you download your report instantly online.
10. Get a New Wallet
The last step is to purchase a new wallet and refill it with all the replacement cards that are sent to you. This may take a few weeks to get everything you need but it will come. Then, you can finally start getting your life back to normal. Don’t wait for your old wallet to show itself because it may never come. And even if it does, you still had to replace all the contents in it anyway. You surely don’t want it to happen again, so it is wise to invest and get a smart wallet that will basically guards itself.