What to Do if You Lose Your Wallet

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on June 21, 2012

lost walletWait, where is it? Back pocket? Nope. Purse? Not there either. Even a quick sweep of the house comes up empty. You’ve lost your wallet, and the panic is starting to set in. As your mind races through all of the places where you could have left it, you wonder what to do if you can’t find it. That’s a very good question, and one which we should all know the answer to (especially the ADD folks among us)!

When you lose your wallet, it’s not just a folded piece of leather that you’re missing, but also your IDs, debit card, credit card(s), gift cards, cash, health insurance information, family photos, and maybe even your Social Security card. The ramifications of your loss are therefore many, and to be safe you unfortunately have to operate under the assumption that it’s been stolen. That necessitates a sort of lost wallet triage.

Protect Your Social Security Number & Notify the Authorities

First, if you had your Social Security card in your wallet, it’s very important that you file reports with the Federal Trade Commission (1-877-438-4338), the Internet Crime Complaint Center, and the Internal Revenue Service Identity Protection Unit (1-800-908-4490) in order to avoid falling victim to identity theft. You can then apply for a new Social Security Card through the Social Security website.

You’ll also want to file a police report in order to establish a record of your missing property. This can help prevent fraud as well as result in the safe return of your wallet if someone turns it in. Remember to ask for the file number of your report in case you need to give it to anyone in dealing with the ramifications of your loss.

Cancel Your Cards

Once you’re sure that your wallet is either lost or stolen, you need to call your bank and cancel all of your cards (i.e. credit cards, debit cards and ATM cards). While credit and debit cards have $0 liability policies for unauthorized purchases, which means you shouldn’t ultimately be out any money even if a criminal decides to go on a spending spree, promptly canceling your cards before this happens will prevent any unnecessary hassle. Given that your account numbers will no longer be active, you should also make arrangements to pay any bills linked to your cards as well as update any automatic monthly payment information once replacement cards arrive.

Replace Your ID & Lock Your Mailbox

You’ll need to notify the DMV if your driver’s license is missing as well as get a new one (which you can hopefully do online and thereby avoid standing in line). This is important because if a fraudster has your name and address, it’s possible that he could apply for a lot of things under your name as well as steal your mail to keep you from finding out about it. In this same vein, if your keys are also missing, you should also change your locks.

Protect Your Credit Reports

Start by putting fraud alerts on your major credit reports (i.e. Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). You may also consider putting a security freeze on your accounts in order to password protect them and prevent anyone else from accessing your credit history. In addition, you may want to sign up for a credit monitoring service for at least a few months after your wallet goes missing so that you’ll be alerted to any changes to your credit reports.

Make a List

Finally, make a list of everything that you believe was in your wallet. You’re not going to forget about the big things (i.e. credit cards, IDs, etc.), but certain other things could easily slip your mind. It might seem insignificant, but it will be important to do things like request a new pass card from work or your gym or change certain passwords that you may have written on a slip of paper and stashed in your wallet.

Rebuild

After you tie up all the loose ends related to your lost wallet, it’s time for the rebuilding effort to begin. That obviously means filling a new wallet with replacement cards and forms of identification, but it also necessitates making changes to avoid hassle should you lose your wallet again in the future. For example, it might be a good idea to create a file at home where you can store important documents like your insurance information and Social Security card (there’s little reason to carry it with you anyway). You may also find a lost wallet app helpful, as it will allow you to save important information such as card numbers, passwords, etc. Maybe you can even get one of those chains that connects your wallet to your pants!

Ultimately, we all hope to never lose our wallets, but if we do, it’s important to know how to handle things in order to minimize complications and financial ramifications.

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