(This is a guest article by David*)
There are few things that might churn your stomach and make you break into a sweat quicker than the loss of a wallet. The sad part about it is, in the overall scheme of things, it probably isn't the cash inside that you've lost that concerns you. It's likely the loss of all those little plastic cards with numbers printed across them that terrifies you the most -- that, and not knowing into whose hands they've fallen.
Recently I had my wallet stolen from the beach. The thieves didn't even get one dollar of cash and didn't manage to use any of my cards thanks to prompt canceling of cards. The police are never that hopeful of finding the thieves or recovering a wallet and so all they can do is give you an incident number to use with your banks, phone company etc.
If you've simply lost your wallet it could be a good samaritan who has discovered your wallet on the street. Unfortunately, you can't necessarily assume a well-intentioned citizen has hold of your wallet and is contacting the proper authorities. While in some cases you might luck out and have your personal affects returned to you, in most scenarios you'll have to assume the worst and get started on doing everything in your power to ensure the forces of evil aren't making the most of your misfortune. Here are a few tips to help you do so.
1. Make a Thorough Search
While you want to be quick about reporting a stolen wallet, you may not want to jump the gun before you've made a thorough search of the spots you visited last or at least make a quick phone call or two. Had you been eating at a restaurant, visiting a hotel, stopping in at a friend's, or frequenting another place at which you may have lost your wallet, it could be a long shot, but you might want to contact that business or person just to see if your wallet was turned in. However, even if someone did return your property, it doesn't mean that all its contents are there or weren't somehow compromised, so it might still be a good idea to consider or carry out the following steps.
2. Contact Authorities
Probably, one of the first things you'll want to do if your wallet has been stolen is contact the local authorities and file a report. This can be an important step, not only in the event that they can locate your wallet, but a police report can be important documentation should your personal or financial information be compromised and you must take action to recover your identity through various businesses or agencies.
3. Make a List
If you don't have one already, you should try to make a list of every item in your wallet. This may not be easy, but try to remember any and every item that could have been lost, especially those that had pertinent personal or financial information contained upon them.
4. Contact Credit Card Companies/Bank
Putting a halt to thieves using your credit or debit cards will likely be one of the first things on your to-do list after your wallet has been stolen. Hopefully, you have those numbers from the back of your cards to report them lost or stolen, but if not, you will probably have to contact the credit card company or bank and speak to a customer service representative who can guide you through the process of what to do. Take note, because it might have to be a process you have to repeat multiple times. If you had other pertinent information such as checking or savings account numbers in your wallet, you will want to notify your bank or financial institution of that as well.
5. Contact Credit Agencies
Beyond your credit and debit cards, you will probably want to contact each of the major credit agencies to place a fraud alert on your credit report. These three agencies consist of Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union, and it can be critical to the health and safety of your credit that you notify them as soon as possible after the theft of your wallet.
6. Notify Friends and Family
You may be carrying contact information of friends or family within your wallet. Phone numbers, email addresses, and similar information in the wrong hands could lead to those you care about being scammed by con artists or thieves. Therefore, it can be important to their safety to let them know what has occurred so they can take proper precautions.
7. Be on the Lookout
So now that your wallet is gone and you've notified the pertinent and proper businesses and persons, it's time to start keeping a good eye on your personal information and financial accounts. Even though you may have notified your financial institutions and placed fraud alerts on your accounts, it is still a good idea to be on the lookout for changes or odd activity related to your accounts. And if you had home and work information in your wallet as well, it may not only be the security of your accounts you have to watch out for, but work and home security as well.
8. Start the Rebuilding Process
The rebuilding process, replacing the things that you lost when your wallet was stolen, is probably going to be a royal pain in the neck, and there may be more items to replace than you initially realize. Besides contacting critical agencies like credit card companies and banks, you'll likely have other places to contact and you'll probably have to get a variety of new cards. Here are a few of the other cards you might have to replace or places you might have to notify regarding your loss:
- Driver's license
- Library card
- Auto insurance company
- Health insurance company
Time is often of the essence when you've had a wallet stolen. And it can be critical to the protection of your financial security, and possibly your personal security as well, to cover as many bases as you can think of after such a loss. Even if you don't see any activity on your accounts initially, it's important to remember to keep a watchful eye on such areas. Although much of the time such activity might occur almost immediately, it doesn't necessarily mean your information might not be used in ways that could come back to haunt you down the road.
*About the author: This is a guest article by David. David writes about personal finance for CreditCardCompare.com.au where you can find the best credit cards for Australians, including a range of low rate credit cards that help cut costs.
*Image Credit: Photograph by Andrman [via Flickr Creative Commons]