If you confirm that your wallet is indeed stolen or lost, first lock your debit and credit cards. You should then contact any institution with a card in your wallet, including your credit card issuers, car and health insurance companies, and all three credit bureaus. If you know your wallet was stolen, file a police report immediately.
Losing your wallet is scary, especially when you don’t realize it missing right away. Most of us rely on our wallets to carry not just our license and credit cards, but also our health insurance cards, cash, and even the occasional gift card. However, this loss doesn’t have to be the world-ending calamity it may feel like.
Fortunately, with the modern technology many of us have access to nowadays, you can protect yourself against identity theft and fraudulent charges as soon as you notice your wallet missing. We’ll go through each step to ensure that you have the happiest possible ending.
1. Determine whether your wallet is actually gone
It’s easy to get into panic mode when you notice that your wallet isn’t where you thought it was. Before you start calling companies up, take a look around for your wallet. Ask your friends (or a staff member at the venue you’re in) to help find it.
If you can’t find your wallet after 15 minutes of searching, it’s probably time to work on damage control.
2. Lock your cards
Once you determine your wallet is gone (whether lost or stolen), make sure to prevent anyone from making fraudulent purchases using the cards you had in your wallet. This means that you should contact every institution you have a credit card, debit card, or insurance card with and tell them what happened.
When financial institutions hear about a lost or stolen wallet, they go into identity theft protection mode. This means they will freeze your credit cards and debit cards so that the thief (or whoever finds the wallet) will not use them. Then, they’ll mail you replacement cards.
As an added level of protection, you can set up a fraud alert for each of your debit and credit card accounts. Most credit card companies now offer this option online or through mobile applications. However, if this isn’t an option, call your credit card issuer to set up a fraud alert.
Are you held liable for fraudulent charges made by thieves?
The U.S. law ensures that the maximum liability that a person can be held to for fraudulent credit card purchases is $50. For debit card purchases, it depends on how quickly you act. (source)
|If you report your debit card lost or stolen…||Your maximum loss is…|
|…before any unauthorized charges are made||$0|
|…within 2 business days after you learn about the loss or theft||$50|
|…more than 2 business days after you learn about the loss or theft, but within 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you||$500|
|…more than 60 calendar days after your statement is sent to you||All the money taken from your ATM/debit card account, and possibly more — for example, money in accounts linked to your debit account|
Unfortunately, health insurance claims typically aren’t protected under that act.
Depending on the type of purchase, you have 60 days to make a claim of fraud against a charge. The best thing that you can do is to flag your charge as soon as you can find it. This minimizes your liability and also helps encourage an investigation that could prevent further charges.
3. Call your car insurance and health insurance companies
Many people carry their car insurance cards in their wallets. If this is the case, you can call an insurance agent to get a temporary mobile version of your card so that you can drive. You can then ask them to print out or mail a paper insurance card too.
On a similar note, many people also carry their health insurance cards in their wallets. Most people don’t realize this, but having that insurance card can do just as much (if not more) damage to your bank account as a credit card theft.
While it’s less common, medical identity theft is a real concern that can not only raise your insurance premiums but also lead to serious credit damage. To prevent this from happening, call up your insurance company and explain the situation. They’ll send you a replacement health insurance card through the mail.
Keep an eye on your health insurance claims
Believe it or not, credit reports don’t always show identity fraud. In recent years, people have found out that thefts resulted in fraudulent claims on their health insurance. How does this happen? It’s simple.
Fraudsters who are in poor health often will steal a medical insurance card and claim that they “lost their wallet” at the ER. Then, while they get the healthcare they need, your insurance company is the one that gets billed. If you don’t pay for their care, it ends up on your credit history.
To prevent this from happening to you, it’s best to alert your health insurance company that your card may have gotten into the wrong hands. This way, you can avoid being held responsible for other people’s insurance claims.
4. Get a replacement driver’s license
If you kept your driver’s license in your wallet, you’ll need a new one of those, too. Even if you don’t drive, your license is a primary source of identification you’ll want to keep on you pretty much all the time.
Thankfully, your local Department of Motor Vehicles should make things easy. You can visit your county’s location to get a new driver’s license in person. Most DMVs now offer online options for replacing your driver’s license as well, making it easy to replace your license.
Replace any other documents
Though it’s not recommended, some people like to carry their social security card or birth certificate in their wallets. If that’s the case, then losing your wallet is an even bigger problem.
To replace your social security card, visit the Social Security Administration, where you can generally ask for a replacement card online. It’s a fairly quick and easy process. As for your birth certificate, you may need to write your state’s records department.
With this in mind, know that keeping your social security card or birth certificate in your wallet is a big risk. While your birth certificate couldn’t get a thief that far, your social security card makes identity theft easy. This is one of the biggest reasons why you should never, ever try to keep documents this important in your wallet.
5. File a police report
In most cases, filing a report will help police officers if there is a serial theft issue out there. However, your local police department probably won’t go on the hunt for your wallet. Rather, it’s all about damage control.
Having it on file that your wallet was stolen can help with an identity theft affidavit and also helps reduce legal liability in the case of a fraudulent charge.
6. Notify all three major credit bureaus
Alert Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion when you lose your wallet. This can help bureaus recognize any fraudulent activity and notify your financial institutions of such actions. You can reach out to each bureau through a series of phone calls or their respective websites.
Even though your card issuers will likely be on the lookout for fraudulent activity, it never hurts to have another set of eyes monitoring your credit for suspicious purchases.
Monitor your credit report
Most people have at least one financial institution that offers free credit monitoring and soft credit report pulls. Now is the time to use those services. For the next six to eight months, make a point of reviewing your credit report and each account’s transactions once a week.
The best thing you can do is sign up for an identity theft protection service, ideally one that’s free for customers. Here’s what to watch for:
- Alerts for new accounts. If you notice that you received a report alert regarding an application for new credit, watch out! This could be a sign that the wallet thief decided to try their hand at identity theft. Contact that credit issuer, lender, or credit bureau to flag it for fraud immediately.
- Small purchases on your credit cards, checking accounts, or debit cards. Most cards have default settings that will automatically reject purchases that are unusually large. So, some fraudsters will just use your credit cards to buy things you might buy — like groceries or gas. These small sums add up and can still dent your credit score.
- Purchases or wire transfers to a foreign country. If your information was sold, then you might have someone from a different country try to transfer over funds from your credit account numbers. This also can happen with your checking account.
- Unauthorized purchases on one or more cards. If you have an alert set on your credit or debit card for a large purchase, be on the lookout for any reports of unauthorized transactions. You’ll also likely receive a report if your account becomes overdrawn, at which point you’ll need to report the fraudulent activity right away.
- Any alert from the three credit bureaus regarding a hard pull. A hard pull on your credit reports means that someone was trying to pull up your credit file for a loan. If you receive such an alert, contact the reporting bureau to confirm that the activity is fraudulent.
How can I find my lost wallet?
A missing wallet can be pretty hard to find, especially if you’re in a crowded or new space. The best way to start searching is by looking in places you typically keep it, like your jacket or pants pocket. Try retracing your steps to remember what you wore and where you were when your wallet may have gone missing.
You can also enlist the help of others. If you lost it in a Lyft or Uber, contact your driver. They (hopefully) can confirm the missing wallet and might be able to help you out.
Can I track my wallet?
Tracking your wallet is possible, thanks to the use of mobile phone-based trackers. To make it possible to track a wallet, slip a tracking device that’s connected to your phone inside the folds of the wallet. If your wallet goes missing, you can follow it.
What do thieves do with stolen wallets?
Thieves have a wide range of ways they can take advantage of a stolen wallet. They might use credit cards to buy goods with your money, take the cash inside, sell your ID and information online, or just try to open up accounts in your name.
- Search for your wallet before you panic. If you can’t find your wallet within 15 minutes or so, it may be best to assume your wallet is lost.
- If you determine your wallet was stolen, talk to a police officer immediately and file a report.
- Call all your credit card companies, financial institutions, and insurers and tell them that you’ve lost your wallet.
- Make sure to monitor your card activity and health insurance claims weekly for at least six months after the wallet was lost.
- Report any and all unauthorized charges immediately to your card issuers.
- You are not held legally liable for fraudulent charges if they are reported in a timely manner.
View Article Sources
- Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards — Federal Trade Commission
- Identity Theft — USA.gov
- Am I responsible for unauthorized charges if my credit cards are lost or stolen? — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Can a Refund Be Made to a Canceled Debit Card? — SuperMoney
- How To Find My Debit Card Number Online — SuperMoney
- Where Is The Security Code On A Debit Card — SuperMoney
- Can You Track a Debit Card? — SuperMoney
- How to Open a Checking Account — SuperMoney
- Best Checking Accounts | May 2022 — SuperMoney