Theres nothing worse than that feeling of dread that washes over you as you realize that your wallet is missing. To know that all of your personal information is just sitting somewhere, ripe for the taking if it hasnt been taken already is the worst kind of uncertainty. Identity theft is becoming more and more common as technology evolves, and the damage that thieves can do to your finances when they have your drivers license, debit card, credit cards and possibly even your social security number at their disposal is staggering.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to stop this catastrophe before it begins, and all it takes is a phone and a few hours of your time. So get ready, because heres what you should do if your wallet ever goes missing.
1) Cancel all of your debit and credit cards. As soon as you conclude that your wallet is indeed lost, you should cancel all of your credit and debit cards immediately, as these are probably the first things a thief will try to use. Since your debit card links directly to your checking account, call your bank first and get that out of the way. Then get in touch with your credit card providers and alert them that your plastic has been compromised.
If some time has passed since your wallet has gone missing, make sure to call one of the three credit monitoring bureaus Experian, TransUnion or Equifax and have them put a credit freeze on your report. This will prevent any new charges from being made in your name in case the thief has created fake credit cards with your information.
2) File a police report. Even if you arent sure whether your wallet was actually stolen, it’s still a good idea to file a police report. With an official copy of the report in hand, youll be able to prove that fraudulent charges are actually fraudulent and not just your half-witted attempt to rip off your card company. Additionally, if the police have your information on file, they’ll be able to contact you if an honest citizen stumbles across your wallet and turns it in.
3) Replace your other cards. Replacing your peripheral pieces of plastic like your library card, your health insurance card and your Sams Club card isnt as urgent as replacing your credit and debit cards. But its still pretty important. After all, you dont want a thief to start checking out library books in your name, do you?
Once your police report is filed, make a list of every other card you kept in your wallet and call the issuers. Tell those companies what happened and ask for new cards to be mailed to you. Since this sort of thing happens all the time, many businesses have dedicated lines for calls about compromised cards. It should only take you about an hour to get all of your other cards canceled and reissued.
4) Replace your identification. When you lose your wallet, replacing your drivers license is usually the biggest hassle. Bring a copy of your police report to your local DMV and tell them that your license was lost. You’ll need a brand new license, with a new number and new expiration date. A duplicate license would simply mean that you’ve got two valid licenses floating around, and that is something that you definitely do not want.
If by some incredibly unfortunate circumstance your social security card was also taken, you’re in for some hard times. Your social security number is probably the single most compromising piece of information that a thief can obtain, so you’ll almost certainly want to apply for a new SSN. This process will take several months, and when your new number arrives youll have to contact your employer, your credit card issuer, your bank and lots of other places to get them to update your information.
Losing your wallet sucks. Dont make it suck even more by allowing your identity to be stolen by some two-bit crook or vagrant who happens to find it lying on the street. As soon as you can confirm that your wallet is missing, follow these steps to lock down your identity and replace all of your missing cards. It wont be fun, but your personal information will be secure and really, thats the only thing that matters.