We all know that pit in your stomach feeling when losing a wallet. The more you carry, the worse off you are. Your credit cards, debit cards, checkbooks, driver's license, and cash are all gone in an instant.
According to 62% of respondents on a MoneyTips Survey, 1 out of 3 had suffered from "wallet loss and theft." In addition, it's disheartening to know that research has found that only 20% of wallets are returned to their owner. And for the wallets returned, only 55% of those wallets had the same amount of money in them.
That being said, here are some key steps to take right away if you lose your wallet.
What to do if you've lost your wallet?
Your first thought could be, "I lost my wallet. What do I do?" Don't be too hard on yourself if you did lose your wallet. The average American spends 2.5 days a year searching for lost items! The key is to be diligent and take immediate action. Be sure to take the following key steps immediately if you've lost your wallet.
Call your bank to report your debit card & checkbook Lost
The first thing you need to do is call your bank and report your debit cards lost immediately. If someone were to have access to your cards and driver's license information, they could be used for online charges without using your PIN.
It's best to keep your checkbook at home for safekeeping. Losing a checkbook is more hassle than a card. The reason being is your checkbook has the bank's routing number and your account number.
Once someone has this information, you will have to have the account flagged and closed. With these two numbers, anyone can completely wipe out your account quickly. It's also best to keep more of your money in your savings account. This can prevent losing all your money if you would happen to lose your wallet. Be sure to check out our article on building an emergency fund for great tips for saving money.
A quick Google search will pull up the direct numbers to your bank. However, for convenience, below are the number some of the most used Financial Institutions to report your cards and checkbook lost or stolen:
- Wells Fargo Personal Accounts: 1-800-869-3557
- Wells Fargo Business Accounts: 1-800-225-5935
- Bank of America: 1-800-732-9194
- Suntrust: 1-800-447-8994
- Citigroup: 1-800-950-5114
- PNC Bank: 1-888-762-2265
- US Bank: 1-800-872-2657
Call your credit card companies to report your cards lost
It's best only to carry one or two cards in your wallet. By doing this, you will have fewer cards to report. It's also a good idea to have access to an emergency card at home if needed. This way, when you cancel your accounts and cards, you still have access to something. It can take time to get fraudulent charges refunded because it will be investigated to ensure it was actual fraud. You will be without cash flow for awhile-so always have a card stashed in a safe place at home.
Be sure to call and report your cards lost immediately. Here is a list of direct phone numbers to major credit card companies:
- Visa: 1-800-847-2911
- Mastercard: 1-800-424-7787
- Discover: 1-800-347-2683
- American Express: 1-800-528-4800
File a police report for your lost/stolen wallet
You should definitely file a police report if you lose your wallet. By filing a police report, you have evidence of losing your wallet. You will need to take this vital step if your identity is stolen, and you need to file an Identity Theft Affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission. This step is also necessary for getting a new social security card and driver's license issued.
Alert the credit bureaus
After calling to replace all of your lost cards and closing accounts, you'll also need to alert the credit bureaus about your lost wallet. With your information, someone could take out loans and credit lines in your name. By placing a fraud alert or freeze on your credit reports, you can prevent further identity theft. Be sure to check out our article on what to do if your identity is stolen for more specific information on identity theft.
Here are the phone numbers for the credit bureaus:
- Equifax: 1-800-349-9960
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872
You should get your credit report and check it for any potentially fraudulent accounts.
Make a report to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
You need to report your driver's license as lost or stolen to the DMV. You may have to pay for a replacement, but it is an essential step. Your driver's license has information that can be used for fraud. For instance, if someone has your credit card and your driver's license, they know your zip code and can make gas purchases at the pump with no PIN. They may also use it for further identity theft.
Notify the Social Security Administration (SSA)
The worst thing you can do is carry your social security card in your wallet. If someone gets this information, it makes it much harder to stop identity theft. Your social security number is the most common identifier for loans and banking. If you had it in on you at the time you lost your wallet, be sure to report it to the Social Security Administration as soon as possible.
Preventive steps for a lost wallet
There is a saying, "If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail." It is critical to take preventative steps for a lost or stolen wallet. Taking a few key steps can decrease fraud, theft, and make it a less stressful situation. By simplifying your wallet, you can decrease theft and fraud.
1. Get organized
Being organized can decrease the chances of losing your wallet and help you be proactive if you do. Have a spot you keep your wallet in your home. Create a Finance Binder, so you know where your phone list is if you need it. Get a safe and keep important documents, credit cards, and your checkbook in it.
2. Downsize your wallet
Why do we think we need to carry everything but the kitchen sink with us? Remember, when it comes to your wallet—less is more. You should only carry your essential cards with you. Only carry 1 to 2 credit cards and leave the rest at home in a secure spot. Leave your checkbook at home so, you don't have to worry about closing your account if it's lost. Do not carry your social security card.
3. Create a phone list
Having phone numbers handy will help you be more efficient and less stressed if you lose your wallet. By making a Finance Binder, you can add a Phone List of all the institutions and authorities you need in one place. This phone List should include:
- Your bank
- Your credit card companies
- Credit bureaus
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Your local police department
There's nothing fun about losing a wallet. If you do, by using the key steps and being proactive, you can make the process less damaging and frustrating. Be sure to carry only the essential cards and items in your wallet to decrease fraud and theft. Remember to take action quickly and apply the preventative steps recommended. The faster you take action, the better.