Imagine you're due back home for the holidays, and your plane leaves in 3 hours. You're in your hotel room, packing up before you take off to the airport. All your clothes are packed and ready, files are stored safely in your bag, and your phone is in your hand.
Then you realize your wallet is gone.
A wallet is one of the most natural things to lose or misplace. According to Rob Douglas, Identity Theft Contributions Editor at ConsumerAffairs, the most common fraud complaints last year were Scams, Debt collection, and Identity Theft.
Credit card fraud was most prevalent in identity theft cases, with more than 167,000 people in the United States reporting a fraudulent credit card account was opened with their information.
Anyone can lose a wallet anywhere. That's why it's important to know what you should do if and when you find yourself in such a situation. Here is a complete guide of the steps you should take to protect yourself against frauds and misuse of personal information in case of a lost wallet.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity Theft is the crime of obtaining someone else's personal information to attain financial benefits or to assume the person's own identity.
Identity theft has been one of the most recurring crimes in the United States. A Survey Report on Identity Theft by Javeline in 2009 gives reputable claims to wallets being one of the top sources through which the crime occurs. The survey contained a simple question, "How was your Personal Information Obtained?"
The Department of Justice showcased through different scenarios that out of most petty crimes, almost 20% are done through stolen or found checkbooks and wallets.
How Is Identity Theft Committed?
The following are the different types of identity thefts:
Financial Identity theft
Medical Identity theft
Criminal Identity theft
Child Identity theft
Insurance Identity theft
So if your wallet is lost or stolen, these are the necessary steps you can take to safeguard your personal information and stop any fraudulent activities taking place on your account.
What to Do When You Lose Your Wallet?
Be it theft, or if you lost your wallet, it is essential to act quickly and decisively when it comes down to it. We generally carry the following common items in our wallet;
So here are some vital steps that you should take to limit the impact of you losing your wallet.
File a Police Report:
Filing a police report should be one of the first things on your list. The report provides officers with a starting point for an investigation.
It is a legal record for the incident and will help you in any inquiry down the road. The report also acts as a declaration of innocence on your part should your information be used in any illegal activity.
These reports are not open to the public and are mostly under police supervision to safeguard your personal information. A police report has to include as much detail as possible to help an investigation.
A police report is required in the following circumstances for identity theft cases.
Someone took financial advantage using your information
Debt collectors insist that you produce a police report in case of financial mismanagement.
According to the Federal Trade Commission of the United States (FTC), victims of identity theft should first file an Identity Theft Report before a police report.
The following information is necessary when filing a Police Report after completing the online Identity Theft report submission.
Government-approved Photo ID (if you have one)
Copy of the FTC report
Proof of your payment details (address, bills, mortgage, etc.)
Be as descriptive as possible
Evidence of the theft such as credit card statements
To file a comprehensive police report, all you have to do is visit the local police station in the area where the wallet was stolen from you. You may also be able to file police reports online in some countries and states.
We assume that you have placed your credit and debit cards in your wallets that's been stolen If your credit and debit cards were inside your stolen wallet, putting a fraud alert on your accounts is a great way to stop all kinds of financial fraud from taking place.
Amanda Christensen, a financial expert at Utah State University, explains that businesses must try to verify your identity before extending any new credit. Placing this alert can make it difficult for an identity thief to open an account in your name.
A typical fraud alert lasts for 90 days, which can be extended should you choose to do so. There are three different types of fraud alerts that you can place depending on your situation
Initial Fraud Alert: The initial fraud alert is placed on cases where you suspect you're a victim of identity theft. This initial report lasts for 90 days and is free of cost.
Extended Fraud Alert: This fraud alert can be placed when you have substantial proof that you've been a victim of identity theft or fraud. An identity theft report with a copy of a police report of the incident attached is some of the requirements. Doing this will allow you to extend your fraud alert for seven years.
Active Duty Fraud Alert: Although available only for active military service members and acts the same as an initial report.
You can place a free, one-year fraud alert through the following three credit bureaus.
Experian: Experian can be contacted through their helpline (888-397-3742)
Equifax: helpline (800-685-1111)
TransUnion: helpline (888-909-8872)
These fraud alerts can be placed online and through the helpline. These bureaus exchange relevant information once you've completed the process of placing the fraud alert. You will also get a letter confirming that your fraud alert is in place.
Each letter also comes with instructions to receive your free annual credit report. These reports detail all your transactional information or attempts from business to verify information so you can keep track of it.
Revoke Credit/Debit Cards:
Once you place a fraud alert on your lost cards, canceling them should be at the next step. Both credit and debit cards can be canceled in different ways.
Debit cards can be canceled by calling your bank's helpline and asking them to cancel your card. You may be charged if you wish to order a new one, but the cancellation process should be free.
After placing your fraud alert, you should now contact your credit card issuer with the following information to cancel your credit card;
The date on which you lost your wallet which contained your card
Account number (your social security number will provide the issuer with this confirmation )
Your last purchased amount
If you are too late with your fraud alert or card cancellation and the thief has already made some transactions, the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) protects your liability. Under this law, for any unauthorized charges made, you will only be liable for up to $50.
If you wait more than two days but less than 60 calendar days after you receive the account statement of the stolen card, you could be liable for up to $500 in un-authorized charges. Beyond that, you will be held liable for all fraudulent use.
Hence its extremely important to report your credit card as early as possible.
Social Security Number:
If your social security card was also in your stolen wallet, you can click here to get a replacement. You can also call the SSA toll free number 1-800-772-1213.
You can order your new social security card to your doorstep if you are a US citizen, have a mailing address, and are over the age of 18. For a stolen card, there are no charges, and the card is free.
Health Insurance Card:
If your health insurance card was in your lost or stolen wallet, then you should immediately notify your insurance company. Having an up to date health insurance card allows for valid claims for renewal, changes in mailing address., coverage options, and other information. Hence it's imperative to have your card with you always.
Reporting the card will cause the insurance company to deactivate your listed identification number listed. It will help stop any fraudulent use down the road.
Depending on the company, they will be able to provide you with adequate information about the issuance of a new card, the protection of your personal information, and much more.
After the approval of a new card, you will have to wait for around three to four weeks to get it delivered to you. When you receive it, it is better to let your doctors or health service provider know of your new identification number to help avoid any misinterpretation of information.
Are you worried about your appointments during the waiting period of the card's arrival? Simply let your doctors know of the incident, and they will probably ask you for your social security number and the name of the insurance company to keep your appointments going.
BONUS: Get a New Wallet
When you are done taking all the necessary steps to ensure your personal information is safe, its time to get a new wallet. A wallet is something you will be using for a long time so it is necessary that you choose your next wallet wisely.
A good wallet has the following features.
Design that suits your need
Made from good and long-lasting material (like leather)
Has accessible pockets for your daily used items.
Small in size and front pocket friendly
Slim & minimalist design
Good storage capacity
The RFID protection helps protect your EVM cards from RFID Skimming attempts. Putting your wallet in your front pocket not only helps lower back problems but gives you a better sense of security.
The slimmer, the better; bulkier wallets are just....well ugly. Better storage capacity helps you protect your items better.
We hope that after reading this article you will be capable of safeguarding your personal information in case your wallet is lost or stolen.
Until next time.