It happened to me. Yes, I lost my wallet. Again. So what should I do?
Usually, people have all their life in the wallet. ID’s, credit cards, ATM cards, check books, insurance card, employee badges, cash, and whatever else.
So did I. Fortunately, I have more than one wallet, so fortunately I didn’t lose everything, just part. But still, it’s annoying, and there are certain things to do to protect yourself in case that happens to you.
1. Cancel the credit/debit/ATM cards – don’t wait with that. Once your wallet is missing – make the calls and cancel all of them. Even if you find the wallet later or have it returned by someone (especially if you have it returned by someone…) – you never know who did what with the data in it, and copied the credit card numbers or swiped them somewhere. Just cancel them as fast as you can and get the new ones from your bank within a week or two. Some allow express replacement (for example American Express will send you a temporary card by FedEx, Wells Fargo can provide you a temporary ATM card replacement in a branch, etc). This in some cases may cost an additional fee, but the regular-by-mail replacement is usually free.
2. Report your ID missing – if you have your ID in the wallet (drivers’ license, military card, social security card, etc…) – report the missing item to the local police (if you know where it was lost or stolen – then in that jurisdiction, otherwise – where you live). Some police departments allow reporting online – check the web sites. Note – there’s no reason whatsoever for your social security card to be in your wallet. Also, some DMV’s require a police report to replace a lost or stolen license or state ID. Even if it is not required by law – do file a report. You never know who and when might use the stolen ID, and having a police report will help preventing identity theft.
3. Put a fraud alert on your credit report – the credit agencies allow putting fraud alert on your report for 90 days (with a possibility of extension). This is done when your ID is lost or stolen, but you don’t know if it is an actual identity theft because no-one has used it so far. You do want to put an alert on your credit so that if someone does use – the lenders would be notified about the problem. Fraud alert allows putting a contact number on the report asking a lender to call to verify identity of the person applying for credit. Use this option. In case someone does try to steal your identity and apply for credit in your name – the lenders will let you know. Usually setting the fraud alert in one agency is enough – the agencies pass the information about fraud alerts to all the others. It can be done over the internet and is free.
4. Cancel the checks – If you had checks in your wallet – make sure to cancel them at the bank. Also, since the checks include all the information necessary for pulling money by ACH from your account – take a close look at your statements from now on to make sure no-one is trying to steal money directly from your account.
5. Screen your credit report – It is an advisable thing to do always, but especially if you’ve lost your id or it was stolen. Subscriptions to various screening services are available through your banks, credit card issuers, warehouse clubs, directly through the credit agencies, or at least using the free annual report you’re entitled to by the federal law. Make sure you know exactly what accounts you have and applied for and notice all the activity that might suggest that someone else is trying to get credit in your name. The sooner you catch it the lesser the damage will be.
Your Little Advisor