Stolen or Lost Wallet?

strategies to protect your identity

A lost wallet or purse is more than just a headache for the owner. It can give identity thieves all the information they need to open accounts in your name, withdraw cash from your checking account, and more. If your wallet or purse is lost or stolen, take the following steps to help protect your identity and prevent possible damage to your credit. As you take these steps, be sure to document everything (dates, names and phone numbers) for future reference.

Damage Control for a Lost Wallet

The most important thing to remember if your wallet comes up missing is to take immediate action. Don't put it off until later, because an ID thief can do a lot of damage in a short period of time. Write down everything that was in your lost wallet, including credit cards, checks, driver's license, cell phone, etc. Look up the contact information for all your credit and banking institutions, as well as account numbers.

Contact the Credit Card Companies

Cancel your credit, debit, and ATM cards immediately to prevent someone from using your cards. This is easy if you have a list of all the cards you carry with you, complete with card numbers, the issuer's name and phone number, stored in a safe place. For preventative measures to take in the future there is a really neat idea on how to document this information at the end of the article.

If you don't have the account numbers and contact information written down, you will need to go through your account statements to find this information. Once you cancel your cards, get new cards with new account numbers. It's also a good idea to follow up your phone calls with letters that include the date your cards were lost or stolen, the date that you called the card company, and any relevant account numbers.

Contact Your Bank

You will need to report the loss to the fraud department at your bank. If your checkbook was in your lost wallet, there are two different ways to handle this situation.

The first way is to place a stop payment order on the checks that are missing. There is usually a fee for placing a stop payment (which can include a range of check numbers). If someone other than an authorized account user writes any of the lost or stolen checks, those checks would be returned to the merchant or individual that accepted the checks.

The second way to handle the situation is to close the account and open a new one. Just be sure that any companies that make automatic drafts or deposits are notified of the new account number.

Contact the Credit Bureaus

Call the fraud departments of the major credit reporting agencies. Ask each agency to put a fraud alert on your accounts. The credit bureaus will ask for your social security number and other pertinent information to update your files. The fraud alert will insure that any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. Here is the contact information for the three main credit bureaus:

- TransUnion - 800-680-7289

- Equifax - 800-525-6285

- Experian - 888-397-3742

It is also important to review your credit reports regularly to verify that someone else isn't using your information. Thanks to the FACT Act, consumers can receive one free copy of their credit report annually from each of the three credit bureaus. If you need instant notification of changes to your credit report, you might consider a credit monitoring plan.

Contact the Motor Vehicle Department

Report your missing driver's license to your state's department of motor vehicles and request a replacement as soon as possible. You will probably need some form of information to verify your identity, and may have to pay a small fee. Each state varies in what they require for identification, so be sure to call before you go.

Contact the Social Security Administration

Contact the Social Security Administration fraud hotline at 1-800-772-1213 to report the possible theft of your social security number. You can replace your card for free if it is stolen, but you will need to fill out Form SS-5 and show documents proving your identity and that you are a US citizen (or have immigration status). You will then need to take your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office.

If an identity thief does end up using your social security number, the Social Security Administration may assign you a new number.

File a Police Report

Report your lost wallet to the police department immediately and keep a copy of the police statement. You will need to furnish as complete a listing of the contents as possible, including card numbers, checking account information including check numbers, keys, cell phone, etc. This helps proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is the first step toward an investigation if needed in the future.

Dealing With Other Lost Items

It's amazing how much stuff people carry in their wallets and purses, such as insurance cards, library cards, passports, membership cards, etc. Identity theft can affect more than just your credit. Contact all the above institutions to report the loss and request replacements (or possibly new accounts). Imagine being denied a medical procedure because your coverage limit has been reached (and you haven't even been to the doctor).

If your cell phone is also missing, inform your service provider immediately. Until you do, you will be responsible for any calls made from your cell phone. Ask them to suspend your account to limit the damage.

If your keys are missing, change the locks on your home and car. After all, someone in possession of your lost wallet has all the information needed to find out where you live.

Preventative Steps

Once you recover from your loss and get all new cards, checks, and other important documents, here's an easy way to record all the relevant information. Place all these documents on a copy machine and make copies of both sides of each item. Write down the phone numbers and addresses for each issuing company, and keep this copy in a safe place.

Prevention is the best insurance against identity theft. In the future, do not carry your extra credit cards, Social Security card, birth certificate, or passport in your wallet. This practice will help minimize the amount of information a thief can steal from a lost wallet. For more information on how to prevent identity theft, check out: