4 Things You Must Do After Your Wallet Is Stolen
It’s everybody’s nightmare: you reach into your pocket or purse to pay for a cup of coffee, but nothing’s there. Your wallet is gone. Maybe you dropped it while getting out of your car or perhaps a thief took it.
Either way, it’s gone. And the chances you ever see it again are slim.
Now is the time for action. You must act fast to protect your financial accounts. Follow these steps and you will hopefully suffer more from inconvenience than actual loss.
Call Your Banks, Cancel Your Cards
If you do end up finding your wallet, this step might seem like overkill. But any bank can now mail you a new card quickly — usually by the next day. So the small inconvenience of losing access to your plastic for a little while and having to change some of your online auto-pay settings is well worth the peace of mind that none of your bank accounts are currently being emptied. Cancel everything that might have been compromised.
Some victims have lost a ton in just the first few hours after their wallet went missing and were unable to ever recover those funds. Policies can vary depending on the financial institution, but you are generally increasingly liable for all losses the longer you wait to tell the company about the account becoming vulnerable. So be safe — not sorry.
File a Police Report
In addition to the bank, you need to tell the cops. Stolen wallets are rarely recovered, so it isn’t like they will put out an APB for a black leather billfold. But filing a police report is the only way to establish a record of the crime.
Both in a legal sense, and in terms of trying to recover any financial losses later, you will need to be able to show you took this official step. Just don’t dial 911. This isn’t a life-or-death emergency, so you can simply stop by the station or call their phone line directly.
Call Credit Monitoring Companies
In addition to your banks and credit card companies, you should reach out to the three major credit-rating organizations: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You want them to put a fraud alert on your profile so that it will be harder for anyone to use the personal information they find in your wallet to steal your identity in the future — something that could happen months, or even years, down the line.
You don’t want to find out what happens when your whole identity, not just your wallet, is taken. From data breaches and old-fashioned dumpster diving, identity thieves are a vicious, persistent bunch, and horror stories abound of people going to all lengths to get their sanity — and money — back after falling victim to identity theft.
While you’re on the line, have them send you a copy of your credit report. Legally, each is required to give you a copy once per year if you request it, and this will be a good way to make sure no new lines of credit have been opened in your name since the theft took place.
Learn from this Experience
Most people carry more money and credit cards than they need on any given day. While it may make some sense to tote around a second card in case of an emergency, there really is no reason to have your whole financial life in your pocket.
Downsize what your carry and leave unnecessary things — including identifying documents that too many people just slip in their wallet and forget about — at home.