Our wallet is probably the most versatile item in our pocket. It carries everything from cash to ID cards, credit & debit cards, our apartment keys, and maybe some important receipts and documents.
It might be someone's worst day if they lose their wallet and to be honest, it happens to the best of us. The question is, what to do if you lose your wallet?
Bonus read: How to return a lost wallet?
Because, the worst part of losing your wallet is not the wallet itself. It is what comes next in form of identity theft, misuse of credit cards, and much more.
According to Rob Douglas, Identity Theft Contributions editor at ConsumerAffairs, the most common fraud complaints last year were scams, debt collection, and Identity Theft. The last one, identity theft, is one of the most common aftereffects of a lost wallet.
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 comprehensive guide on what to do if you lose your wallet either at home or while traveling and how to find your lost wallet.
What's In Your Wallet?
We normally carry the following items in our wallet on day to day basis.
- Identity Cards: We all carry our identity papers or cards in some form. For most, it's the driving license or other government-issued identity cards. If you are traveling, you might also be carrying your passport in your travel wallet as a form of your identity on foreign land.
- Social Security Card: Although it is highly recommended to store your SSN card in a secure place rather than carrying it in your pocket, some people do carry it.
- Bank Cards: We also carry multiple bank cards including ATM cards and credit cards.
- Driver's License: If you have a driver's license and occasionally or regularly drive, chances are you are carrying the driver's license in your wallet as well.
- Membership Cards: Although less important than the above items, you might also carry more than a few membership cards that can go with your lost wallet.
- Insurance Card: Most people carry their health or other insurance cards in their pocket as well.
- Other items: Apart from these standard items, you might also carry some cash, your apartment key, some coins, and some old but important receipts in your wallet.
What to do if you lose your wallet?
Let's now explore the things you should do in an unlikely event of losing your wallet.
1. Make a list of lost items
Before you do anything, get a pen & paper or open up a google docs and start listing down all the items you were carrying at the time you lost your wallet. This will help you be organized in your action plan that follows below.
Once you make that list, go through the below action items and cross out the ones that doesn't apply to your case (for example, if you weren't carrying credit cards, you don't have to call your bank)
2. File a Police Report
After making the list of lost items, filing a police report should be your next step. 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 and you filed a claim
- 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.
3. Put a fraud alert on your credit cards
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.
4. 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.
Most banks have 24/7 dedicated line to report lost or stolen card and you can find the number on your respective bank's website (usually at the bottom of the page or on 'contact us' page)
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.
4. Replace your Social Security Card
If your social security card was also in your stolen wallet, you can go to the Social Security Administration website 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.
5. 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
How to find a lost wallet?
If you lose your wallet, that's not the end of the world. With sufficient effort and a little bit of luck, there is a pretty good chance you will find it. Its one of the times you have to believe in the goodness of other humans and in my experience, they usually come through.
To find your lost wallet, here a few steps you can take.
#1 Try to remember the last time you use your wallet
First, you need to relax, take deep breaths, and then start looking for your wallet. This exercise will help in lowering your heart rate and stress level, enabling you to focus more when searching for your wallet.
Now recall the last time you saw your wallet, paint a picture in your mind, and think of as many details as you can. Did you go for dinner? or maybe cleaned up your room? You need to think deeply and go through all the details to find something of help.
#2 Check the most likely places
You need to check for all the places where you normally keep your wallet, it can be the top of your dressing table, your gym bag, or it could be the centre console of your car or your friend’s car. Check all such places. There is a possibility that it might be in your office or your office desk drawer.
#3 Search your place (without turning everything upside down)
If you still couldn’t find you wallet then probably you are taking things up a notch. In case you suspect that your wallet is lost in the house, start from one room. Use a systematic search strategy and don’t miss any possible spot.
All you need is to keep your eyes wide open but at the same time avoid creating any mess. Turning things upside down during your search will make finding your lost items even more challenging.
#4 Call the shop or restaurant
It is likely that you might have forgotten your wallet on a restaurant table while paying the tip or at the supermarket billing counter. In such cases, immediately make a call to the suspected spots which you have visited in recent times with your wallet. Trust me, it’s worth the shot.
#5 Track your phone
This is applicable if you have your phone inside the wallet (like some long wallets do). In this case, you can try tracking your phone and automatically you will get to know the location of your wallet.
Just make sure you respond promptly before your phone battery drains. If you have lost your android phone with the wallet, access Android Device Manager for locating your phone. For Apple users, log in to your iCloud account and use FindMyiPhone feature.
#6 File a police report
If you suspect that your wallet is stolen, you should consider filing a report to the local police department. You will be asked some general questions regarding your wallet, its content and where you have lost it. Don’t forget to ask for the report’s copy.
#7 Get a new wallet
When you are done taking all the necessary steps to ensure your personal information is safe but still couldn't find your wallet it's 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.
- Design that suits your need
- Made from good and long-lasting material (like leather)
- Has accessible pockets for your daily used items.
- RFID Protection
- Small in size and front pocket friendly
- Slim & minimalist design
- Good storage capacity
- Don't damage your cards
An RFID wallet helps protect your EVM cards from RFID Skimming attempts. A smaller wallet can also be used as a front pocket wallet. 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.